Open mic event gives valley youth a voice

Katie Hankinson
Glenwood Springs Post Independent contributor

The Ignite Coffee House is looking for valley youth to perform covers or original music, poetry, rap and showcase original short films during an open mic every First Friday at Bonfire Coffee in Carbondale.

The coffee house, co-sponsored and hosted by the True Media Foundation, Teen GEMS Coaching and Versatile Productions, debuted June 3 at Bonfire Coffee during Carbondale’s First Friday event. The open mic featured a diverse group of performances, from original rap to four original short films.

On July 1, Ignite Coffee House presented the opportunity to youth again, this time attracting performers ages 8 to 18.

“Last time I came up to see my cousin Zach perform, and I didn’t see many other people signed up, so I thought ‘Why not?’” said Oliver Priest, 16, of Carbondale.

Priest was one of the few open-mic participants who chose to perform an original rap piece, and has done so for both Ignite Coffee Houses so far. His pieces explain his battle with hard drugs and how he came to be sober again.

“I decided to perform tonight because I have been working on this piece since January and I finished it about a month ago,” Priest said. “It’s about everything I went through in my freshman year of high school. There’s a lot of kids like me who are on the street just trying to get high. They’re destroying their lives and I’m trying to put it out there, ‘You know what, if you’re going to get high, don’t mess with the heavy stuff.’

“These kids are too young and they already have enough they need to go through. They’re too young, and I wanted to make sure they know they’re not alone.”

Carrieann Asani of Teen GEMS Coaching helped to bring the Ignite Coffee into existence so children like Priest can speak their minds and reach out to other youth.

“I had partnered with True Media back in December,” Asani said of the open mic’s origins. “We did a film workshop together that was well-received and discovered youth in this valley have a voice and have stories they need to tell. We got together and developed an idea for a summer workshop, but what materialized instead was an open mic where we give a platform for youth to share their voice. We want this to be the scene of greater idea and inspiration, and really provide a home for valley youth to share their art and their voice.”

Esly Reyes of Basalt, 18, performed original poetry at the Coffee House, saying she enjoys it because “it’s a chance for people to hear what I have to say and feel that adrenaline rush of knowing they hear me.”

“My favorite part,” Reyes said, “is watching people’s talents, hearing what they have to say and knowing they have something just as important to say as I do.”

Sponsors hope that the open mic can continue in the future, and encourage other youth performers to share their art, stories and voices.

“We hope to continue in the fall, and we’re looking for a home. We would love to move about or go downvalley and get more youth involved,” Asani said. “Feeling individual artists share their truth and inspire other youth, that’s the best part of this. There’s been many audience members that didn’t share anything but came to listen, and I think it was really inspiration to them. That’s been my favorite part, and we hope to see more of that in the future.”

Ignite Coffee House performances are available for viewing on YouTube. For any youth interested, the Ignite Coffee House takes place every First Friday at Bonfire Coffee in Carbondale from 6 to 8 p.m. Arrive the day of the event to sign up for a performance slot or visit www.truemedia​ Youth from all over the valley and of all ages are invited to participate.