A do-it-yourself music scene


It can be difficult for a band to score a gig on a Saturday night, even for well-established groups. Bands with few fans, then, may totally be left out in the cold.

Since the fall of 2001, some students have known where to turn. Aspiring musicians, stand-up comedians and actors have gained experience and built up a fan base through “Up On Stage,” the Penn Collective’s free Saturday night open mike.

Now, the open mike’s promoters are trying to get faculty and staff in on the act.

Nick Gonedes W’67,Hon’78 is a professor of accounting and finance at Wharton and stresses that the Collective welcomes anyone with a PennCard.

That means poets, comedy troupes and aspiring guitar gods who are part of any Penn community can simply show up to perform.

Professors, administrators and staff—this means you.

Anything goes

On Saturday nights at 9 p.m., the Rathskellar in Harnwell College House is a place where the style of music is hardly restricted to folk or rock. Diversity is truly the name of the game. According to the Collective’s website, penncollective.com, performers as diverse as opera singers, martial arts groups and ballroom dancers have taken the stage at previous open mikes.

In short, anything goes.

“We’re trying to get other people involved,” said Gonedes.

Kusha Tavakoli EAS’06, has taken the responsibility for spreading the word around Penn and encouraging greater participation. He admits that at times, the attendance has been uneven.

“The audience has been off and on,” he said. But at last year’s Penn Collective CD release party, no one would have suspected that, as the Rathskellar was packed with upwards of 150 to 200 people.

Gonedes said that much of the success of the open mike depends on word-of-mouth buzz.

“It depends what else is going on on campus,” he said.

Sign up online or just drop by

Performers can actually lock in a specific performance time for themselves by registering on the Collective’s website. Or folks can just show up to play when the stage is free, after the scheduled performers finish.

Some open mikes have lasted as late (or early) as 1 a.m., said Gonedes.

Good thing there’s free coffee on hand then—as much as performers can slurp down.

The Collective, which was started in 2001 by faculty and students, is a comfortable venue where people feel secure enough to share equipment and where the performance—not the work associated with landing a gig—takes center stage

“We avoid all the hassles,” said Gonedes. “We just tell [people], just come and play.”

Make connections online too

An advantage with the Collective is that it’s centrally located for students, faculty and staff.

As if that weren’t enough incentive, open mikes are always free for performers and audience members.

Except during the winter holiday, they are held on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

And The Collective has another function—it helps musicians get connected through the Penn Music Database. Like the open mike, anyone associated with Penn can add themselves to the list through the Collective’s website, specifying what instruments they play, which music styles they prefer and contact information.

So far, there are more than 90 people, both current students, faculty and staff as well as alumni, who have taken advantage of the music database.

The next open mike will be held on Oct. 4 (see “What’s On”). To sign up for a scheduled performance or for more information, visit their web site, www.penncollective.com.

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Originally published on October 2, 2003