Dean's Blog: Open Mic Reflections

Exciting news: this week we’ll be hosting open mics in all our high school program sites!

Even after working with Podium for four years, there is almost nothing I enjoy more about this job than the moment you actually get to watch youth stand to perform their work. Open Mics provide such a unique outlet for youth to engage with and learn from one another. Sometimes we will have the privilege of watching an 18-year-old who has had significant time, both in and out of Podium programs, to hone their craft; they’ve worked out the precision of every movement, the inflection of every word, the exact spot at which they are aiming their death blow. Other moments symbolize the first time an individual has come out of their shell to share their thoughts and voices to a public audience. Regardless of the experience of level, however, each instance of our young adults choosing to share their work with their peers as a huge step in creative development.

Here’s the thing about performing: it can be really, really scary. Don’t quote me on this, but I think I read one time that more people rank standing up and making a presentation in front of a crowd as a greater fear than their fear of dying. Think about that. The average person would literally rather die than talk about themselves in front of others. If anything, this idea just helps to illustrate how important it is that each of these teens not only presents their writing (which I would argue can be the most vulnerable form of art or expression), but also that they do so voluntarily. After all, in standing up to share their thoughts with an audience, one is essentially offering up an open invitation for judgment that is inherent to saying, “Hey, listen to what I have to say!”

But our youth never judge. At least not in a malicious way. Rather, every time I am lucky enough to hear one of my pupils share their writing with their peers, they are greeted overwhelmingly by cheers and supportive comments. And after working with Podium for four years, watching youth graduate and move on to their bright futures, the same proud feeling still resides in me regarding being able to work with such an honest, kind-hearted group of young adults and colleagues alike.