‘Poetry in the park’: Open Mic celebrates two years

Jazz saxophonist DK Morris performs during Open Mic Night on Thursday, July 2 at The Huss Project’s Front Porch Pavilion in Three Rivers. (Deborah Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

Three Rivers Open Mic Night celebrated its two-year anniversary Thursday night at the Huss Project’s Front Porch Pavilion in Three Rivers. 

The event opened with a raffle for gift certificates sponsored by World Fare and Lowry’s Books. Four poets and two musicians performed during the open-mic portion of the evening before the featured act, jazz saxophonist DK Morris, performed a set, which brought a total of 26 attendees. 

“It’s a cool little cultural thing,” said Jeff Torano, an AmeriCorps VISTA member for *culture is not optional (*cino). Torano has been in Three Rivers for nine months but grew up in Kalamazoo. Another intern introduced him to *cino, which operates The Huss Project. He has been performing a variety of tasks during his internship and has been a regular Open Mic attendee since his arrival.

Torano performed poetry at Thursday’s event, and won one of the raffles. He wrote poetry previously, and has performed poetry at other Three Rivers Open Mics. 

“This is the first place I started performing poetry,” Torano said. “The community was just so nice, and kind of free, that I felt comfortable enough to perform poetry for the first time. I’ve been in band, I play trombone, so (I performed) in a group setting for a while but never on my own, of my own creation, which is really cool. It’s a different experience.”

Following his performance Thursday, Morris said the celebration was “a beautiful event. The sound was gorgeous.” Morris performed six songs. “It was such a great opportunity to be able to come out and just (experience) fellowship with everybody. I appreciate the opportunity.” Open Mic Host Aundrea Sayrie invited Morris to Three Rivers after meeting him at other events in Kalamazoo. “He comes from a very talented family, in my opinion,” Sayrie said. “He puts his soul into his music, and you can feel it.

“Every time I extend an invitation to a feature, (people) normally ask me, ‘well, what do you want me to do?’ and I just invite them to share with us a piece of their spirit. Show us why they love doing what they do, and it always comes across, and it does. When they take the mic, you can feel it.”

Mitchell Moore, who identifies on stage as DJ Mitchie Moore, has been the standing DJ for the Open Mic events since the series first started. Sayrie, who is Moore’s aunt, recruited him to help. “I really enjoy it. It’s always nice to get together, and people express themselves openly. It feels free, you know, so it’s always enjoyable. It’s always a good time,” Moore said.

In addition to organizing both the series and Thursday’s event, Sayrie also performed poetry as she often does. This evening, she recited part of a piece she is working on that speaks to racial justice issues. “I’ve never done that, just the middle piece of the sandwich. Normally I have a full piece, but there’s been a lot going on for quite a while, so it’s just staying on top of everything. It was still a lot, once I got what I was able to get out, I just want to continue adding to it.”

After the event drew to a close, Sayrie said she was pleased with how the evening went. “One feeling is indescribable, because this is a two-year buildup. It’s a baby,” Sayrie said. “Every month, I hope people come. Every month, I hope it’s good, you know, I hope it’s everything that can be expected. But it was a really beautiful moment, out here, open air, you know, the breeze, the music, it was special.” 

In introducing her for a poetry recital, Sayrie thanked Becca Sonday, who joined Sayrie in hosting the series at its one-year anniversary in 2019. “I don’t want to call her co-host. She’s my fellow host,” Sayrie said. Sonday requested a moment of silence to memorialize a friend of one of the organizers who passed away, as well as the victims of COVID-19, after thanking Sayrie and Moore for their work, as well as *cino’s Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma “so we can all be out of our houses in a safe way.” 

In comments to Watershed Voice, Sayrie echoed Sonday’s appreciation for both Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma. “They are such staples to this. They may not have titles like host or DJ, but anything we need, they’re always in the audience, they’re always sharing. They’ve shown up from the very beginning. They’re a very integral part of this being successful from the very beginning. I really appreciate the both of them,” Sayrie said.

After Morris’ performance, Sayrie expressed thanks to him and the guests who came out to watch, celebrate, and perform. Sayrie also thanked Tom Lowry, Three Rivers mayor and owner of Lowry’s Books, for hosting the Open Mic series since its beginning. Because of the pandemic shutdown and social distancing concerns, recent Open Mics have taken place through Zoom. 

“I really hope this is something we will be able to continue doing,” Sayrie said. Amidst the pandemic, Sayrie is not sure what format next month’s Open Mic will take, but says she liked the format at the pavilion. “Even after COVID I can see this being a summer setup. This is beautiful,” Sayrie said. “Poetry in the park, you know, music under the pavilion, it’s a perfect situation.”

The Open Mic series takes place on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. Persons wishing to attend can find the latest information on location, format, times, and any featured performers by visiting and following the series’ Facebook page

Dave Vago is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.


Gallery composed and curated by Deborah Haak-Frost.

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