Open Mic promotes community spirit in wallingford

By Patrick McArdle

WALLINGFORD — Music and performance is helping to bring a sense of community to Wallingford with the monthly Open Mic night on the second Tuesday of the month at Town Hall.

Wallingford Town Administrator Sandi Switzer said she created the event, with the support of the Select Board, to encourage more community events on the stage on the Town Hall’s second floor.

“I thought Open Mic night would be an easy undertaking. It’s free. It’s just a nice way to draw the community and folks together,” she said.

Switzer said she brought the idea to the Select Board in March, and it was up and running by April.

Many of the performers are musicians who play popular music but others read poetry, tell humorous stories or play the violin. Switzer said she has reached out to Mill River High School and Rutland High School to invite students from their choral or instrumental groups to perform.

Performers come from Wallingford or beyond. Switzer said there had been people from Tinmouth, Danby, Clarendon, Chittenden, Pittsford and Rutland.

Peter Huntoon, a Rutland artist who has played bass with Switzer’s husband, Scott Switzer, at an Open Mic event, said it was a great experience.

“At this point in my life, I paint full time. I’m an artist and (I have) very little time for anything else so Scott was generous enough to ask that I come and join him for a couple songs. It kinda pulled me out of my studio for a little bit and it’s not always easy for me to get away,” he said.

Huntoon called Open Mic a “good excuse to blow the dust off” his music skills.

The first Open Mic night had four or five acts and about 30 audience members, Switzer estimated. At its peak in July, there were about 10 acts and about 80 people in the audience.

In true community fashion, the event uses audio equipment lent by Switzer’s husband or other Wallingford residents and borrowed space, one month when the Town Hall’s floors were being refinished, from one of the town’s fire districts.

Switzer said residents have helped set up the second floor for the performances.

People who want to perform can sign up in advance or on the Tuesday night of the event. During the two hours of the show, a performer will have 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the night’s lineup.

Switzer said they limit the number of performances to 10 a night.

Local nonprofits, like the local high school’s Key Club and cheerleading team, have provided baked goods while asking for donations in return. Switzer said the baked good sale has raised up to $110 for the organizations.

Bruce Duchesne, a Wallingford resident, plays guitar for a band that plays what he called a “little bit of everything.” He said he had played with local bands in the 1970s and 1980s, but now it was more of a hobby.

“I enjoy it. I was nervous the first couple of songs, but I’ve been that way my whole life. It’s just an outlet to perform,” he said.

Switzer said watching one of the acts from Danby, whose musicians use a mandolin, a fiddle, guitars and harmonica. “It struck me sitting there, in that setting, watching that specific group that was playing some old-time country music, that this event could have taken place easily 50, 60 years ago,” she said.

Switzer said this timeless setting was something she was hoping to achieve. It’s supported by the displays on the second floor of the town offices from the Wallingford Historical Society and Wallingford Alumni Association.

While it has been popular, Switzer said, she didn’t anticipate adding other days or making the Tuesday nights longer.

People interested in signing up for the next Second Tuesday Open Mic in November can call Switzer at 446-2872 or email Drop-ins can usually be accommodated as well.