In the present day, we enjoy the accessibility of mass-produced art. We navigate through Spotify, playlist after playlist, to create our musical autobiography, our sonic landscapes. These landscapes can be a mosaic of two-tone reggae, K-pop, rap, the doo-wop — whatever rocks your boat. After all, music is not uniform but ubiquitous.
The Hart House Student Music Committee (HHSMC) celebrates this diversity by setting the stage — quite literally — for professional and amateur musicians from the U of T and Toronto communities to participate in special events, like Jazz at Oscars and U of T Idol.
The committee has also announced via its official Instagram page that they will be bringing back fan favourites Open Mic Night and Listening Parties for the 2022–2023 academic year.
The Varsity spoke with HHSMC Student Chair Nicole Fung and Nicholas Leiper, co-editor-in-chief for DEMO Magazine — a student-run publication featuring album reviews, opinion pieces, and interviews — about the return of open mics and listening parties.
Open Mic Nights are live shows where students from all three U of T campuses can sign up and perform a cover or original song. This fall, the committee plans on bringing back the food and decorations that they had to go without during their virtual events last year.
These events will help students make the connections they struggled to make during the pandemic. Over the past two years, it has been difficult for the committee to maintain the traction that it had gained. The past co-chairs did their best to foster a vibrant online community where they could collaborate and chat about all things music.
But there is something special about a live show, and intimately, honestly, and socially engaging with music, not as a secondhand story or distanced through a computer screen. Such a connection must be formed in the then and there.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing our open mics in person, because for me, I didn’t get that experience,” said Fung, who joined the committee last summer, after the COVID-19 pandemic had already struck.
As for what a listening party would look like, Leiper shared his own unique experience as a participant in one. “We got basically a bunch of people in the room just to listen to [Mustafa’s] album When Smoke Rises,” Leiper said. “I don’t know, it was really almost like a meditative experience, being in Hart House with these big chapel ceilings, and then just listening to this haunting music.”
On the horizon
The committee also disclosed the launch of two new events it is adding to its catalogue.
Fung revealed that, having heard the demand for a space where students can convene and play music together, the HHSMC is introducing jam sessions. And to highlight Toronto musicians, it is planning local artist spotlights where members of the U of T music scene will perform their open mic and chat with other students at various Toronto locations.
When asked about what the committee aims to accomplish by adding these new events, Fung spoke about providing a stepping stone for people that are getting into music production or are looking to build a support group within the music community. No matter the skill level or genre of music, any student can register as a performer in events like open mic.
“We’re really opposed to the snobby jazz bro mentality… We want to be as explicitly and openly inclusionary as we can be,” Leiper added. From the DEMO Magazine side of things, he said that they always welcome new contributors.
Students can get involved by reaching out via Instagram, Discord, and, most importantly, by coming out to the HHSMC’s in-person events. More information is also available on the Hart House site. The committee welcomes all to create melodious discourse with one another and foster a music scene that includes, shelters, cultivates, and flourishes — so dust off your guitars, start squeaking on your clarinets, and get ready to play!