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EYE ON EDUCATION: Lake Placid Middle-High School hosts open mic night

January 18, 2019
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Anders Stanton plucked his Carlo Robelli guitar to the tune of Aerosmith's "Dream On" in front of John Feinstein and F. Scott Fitzgerald novels at the Lake Placid Middle-High School library during open-mic night Monday, Jan. 14.

Stanton has a deep and low-singing voice, but as he reached the climax of the 1973 classic rock hit, he turned up the falsetto, trying to match Steven Tyler.

The event was full of music, poetry and drag commentary. It was orchestrated by art teacher Alan Robinson and school librarian Kaitlin Patenaude, and both performed as well.

Article Photos

Lake Placid High School sophomores Anders Stanton and John Brownell play guitar and sing at the school’s open mic event Monday night, Jan. 14.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Robinson said open mics are a laid-back coffeehouse setting that create an informal way to bring people up to the mic and perform, but sometimes it can be intimidating.

"Right now, it's a little scary, so it's hard to get people to commit to it and sign up on the list," he said. "I think as we do it and as we have a few more and people start stopping, they'll see that it is a safe place to perform and get some positive feedback from the community."

Robinson held a pilot open-mic night last year, too, with the help of Stanton and John Brownell, both sophomores. The two are guitarist and singer-songwriters who have performed at Green Goddess Natural Foods and the Big Green Shin Dig, an annual school event that promotes environmentalism. Monday night, the two performed songs such as "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons, "Leila" by Eric Clapton and "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Robinson holds a 10th-period music class where Stanton, Brownell and others can work on their guitar skills.

"Well, they're not learning too much from me at this point," Robinson said. "It's more of just an informal chance for them to get together and jam a little bit. We talk about playing songs and different tactics and strategies for nailing the tunes that you want to get down. The guys that I've been working with have enough experience where they don't really need any lessons."

Stanton and Brownell played covers Monday, but they said they're in the process of writing their own material.

"It's a big process, really," Stanton said. "It's never done. In your own eyes, a song is never going to be done. You always want to change something or add something or cut it off completely. But, it's a lot of fun, and it's good expressing your feelings on paper and letting it out with music."

"It can be pretty stressful," Brownell added. "To be honest, there's sort of a methodical way of writing music, and it's kind of like you write what first comes to your mind and then you take a break because you don't really want to overthink it. You probably go eat some Goldfish or maybe some Pop-Tarts. Then you come back to it, work on it, and change a little bit every now and then."

One of the more original acts Monday came from Lea O'Brien, who was in character as Jack Lea, a drag king persona. Jack wears a backward baseball hat, a leather vest and a drawn-on beard and mustache combo.

"If you've ever seen a king or queen performance, it's generally lip-dub or dancing, but I can't dance and I didn't prepare a song, so I'm just sticking with good old comedy," O'Brien said. "I've been back and forth on my sexuality for, like, a long time. When I was younger, I used to be a big tomboy. I had long hair back then. I'd used to wear really baggy clothes and go out and get dirty. I'd play soccer, and king of the hill, and extreme tag and dodge ball. Now I dress up at random times as a boy. It's fun. It's fun to dress up as the other sex and draw a beard."

This was the first night O'Brien performed for an audience, telling a story about a dangerous yet exhilarating Mexican water park where teenagers get drunk and ride the tidal wave ride into the lazy river. By the end of it, O'Brien said, "I probably didn't have to be in drag to tell that story, but it was fun anyway."

Throughout the year, the middle-high school host multiple plays and musicals. Stanton and Brownell actively participate in the theater events. However, there is a difference between getting up on stage in an auditorium and performing for a few people in the library.

"They're both equally nerve-wracking when it comes down to it," Stanton said. "It is a different perspective, though. Depending on your part (in a play or musical), the attention could all be on you. It could be in the background. It's separated attention and all spread out. But when you're up there all by yourself or with a buddy, you feel a little more pressure. There's also a little more multitasking with the instrument as well as the vocals."

Brownell likes the open-mic environment but said it can be a little tougher than a stage show.

"I personally feel more relaxed on a stage because the lights are blinding and you can't really see your audience," Brownell said. "You feel level with your audience when you're doing (open mic night). There is no stage, and the attention is centered on you."

The event didn't have a lot of acts or audience members, but Robinson his hoping that it will grow.

"At the last school district I was at, we used to do one in the fall and one in the spring, Robinson said. "It started off small, but by the time I left there, they were bringing in about 200 people to each event. It grew pretty fast and became quite a heart of the performing arts there."



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