On a busy Friday afternoon in October, a librarian set up a pair of speakers in the buzzing atrium of the Loussac Library, switched on the mic and handed it over to a rotating cast of teen performers.
They performed for passing library patrons, gathered family members and customers waiting in line at the library cafe. One recited poetry; one sang along with Bruno Mars. Nikita Idleman, 15, brought her ukulele and covered Vance Joy and Twenty One Pilots. The afternoon teen open mic was the chance she’d been looking for, she said.
“I’ve been wanting to share my singing and music for a while, and this was an opportunity, so I took it,” Idleman said after the show.
Organized through the Anchorage Public Library, the mostly monthly teen open mic sessions are a way for young musicians and poets to practice performing in front of a live audience, said Teen Services Librarian Jon Ebron. There aren’t enough venues for that around town, he said.
Sometimes the library sessions draw several performers. Sometimes nobody comes. The key is to provide the platform, Ebron said.
“For me, what I think is really important is just making it available and possible for those who choose to come and experience it,” Ebron said.
Gloria Arnett, 18, was the last performer to take the stage at the October open mic session. It wasn’t the first time she’d performed there, she said. She said she dreamed about getting discovered and starting her own record label and representing Alaska. The library open mic was a step along the way.
It’s also a place to feel safe, Arnett said. For nearly as long as she can remember, she said, music has been an escape — a way to cope with everything from homelessness to bullying in school.
“It makes me forget all the mean things that the kids would say about me,” Arnett said, waiting for her turn to take the mic. “(Music) will put me in my own little world of like, ‘Hey, you don’t need those people, you don’t need to listen to them, you’re confident, you’re beautiful, you’re not who they say that you are, they only look at the outside, not the inside.’”
When Arnett ended her October performance with acapella Beyoncé, the atrium filled with applause.