by ALEXA SCHMIDT, Features Editor
The first Coffee House of the semester took place on Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Jasper Hall lounge. It lasted about two hours, with multiple performances by a variety of singers who shared their talent with the Manhattan College community.
The program is run by senior Alex Constantine, who, with fellow senior Erin Plitt, took over the event during their freshman year of college.
“Ever since we got it the end of our freshman year, Erin Plitt and I really wanted it to be a thing because MC is more like an art background; it doesn’t really have an art scene,” Constantine said. “We were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if people could come to a coffee house?’ When the two alumni did it, a lot of people came, there was good chemistry, there were some regulars, there were friends that would go to it, and we wanted something like that too when we took over,” he said.
However, there were challenges for Constantine and Plitt to get the Coffee House started.
“We were so young, so we were like, ‘How do we start this?’ So we did it as often as possible to make it a thing. We would always stall, perform, and literally since the beginning, Kevin [Donald]’s been going, and I became close with him,” Constantine said.
Eventually people’s friends started going, and friends of friends attended, so much so that regulars would show up to perform, or just listen to others.
“We had really good friends that would just keep going, and musically involved friends, so we would just sit up there and begin a jam session, and we always planned to set up early,” Constantine said. “Set up early, jam around, get people to want to come, and have a strong crowd. As we kept having it, as we kept forming and getting better music, we started to draw more of a crowd, and since then, there’s been a huge increase in attendance in coffee house,” he said.
The venue of the Coffee Houses also have a direct impact on the attendance and student exposure. Previous Coffee Houses have taken place in Hayden 100, which offers a more theater-type feel.
“We had one in Smith Auditorium, last year we had one on the quad for hurricane donations for Puerto Rico, and we just had a bunch of people sitting on the quad, playing. I don’t think we’ve had an empty setlist for coffee house,” Constantine said.
“When we have Smith Auditorium we get the whole stage, so we have a drum set, mics, guitar, bass and it’s like a band-feel. There was a ton of people in Smith, and we had a ton of people performing,” he said.
Senior Kevin Donald, has attended most Coffee Houses, and supports its popularity among students.
“There’s really not a lot here at MC for people that might not be in the jazz band, or Singers or something more formal,” Donald said. “There’s not a lot of places to perform if you’re not one of those more classical or traditional groups, and so it’s really great as someone plays music outside of these groups to have an opportunity to workshop songs, to meet other people doing that kind of stuff, and I’ve met people that have ended up playing on my gigs from playing at coffee house. Alex and Erin are fostering a sense of community that really, there’s a vacuum for at MC,” he said.
“We like to be a very inclusive art scene at MC. That’s the whole point of coffee house. So everyone feels like they have a place to go, to play. There’s not a lot of places on campus where you can just play guitar and sing, or play piano and sing,” Constantine added.
However, due to an internship, Plitt could not continue her Coffee House endeavors this semester. Instead, junior Erin McWilliams has filled her place, and is enjoying the ride.
“It’s been a lot of set-up, and it’s been kind of intimidating especially since Alex is so used to filling in the gaps when people don’t want to perform right away so, it’s an adjustment. But we’re rolling with it,” McWilliams said. “I like how it’s very casual and people who don’t typically get the platform to perform have the ability to showcase their talents and to feel included in the music community when they’re not necessarily part of a club or organization,” she said.
Although the Coffee House on Tuesday started off a little rocky, the event picked up momentum as people felt more confident enough to put their name on the list and perform.
“The thing is, people always come here and they’re always nervous because they think you have to have something great. But since it’s we’re trying to start a scene at MC, we just want people to have fun. We just want people to come, sing if they want, do whatever they want. There’s no stress,” Constantine said.