According to Andra Stefanoni, co-owner of Root Coffeehouse, the establishment is a gathering place. Now it’s become a gathering place for musicians.
On Friday, Feb. 18, Root Coffeehouse hosted an open mic night for members of the Pittsburg community to play music, read poetry, do stand-up comedy, or offer other performance-related activities. Patrons of the event signed up before taking to the makeshift stage at the back of the establishment and were allowed to play three songs or were given 15 minutes at the microphone. Patrons of the event included former professor of communication Joey Pogue, retired music teacher James Harris, music producer and recording artist David Loving, and members of the Pittsburg-based J3 Band, under the name “J2.”
“We grew up in Pittsburg and Frontenac, and the concept of helping to build community has been very important to us ever since,” Stefanoni said. “Open Mic Nights are definitely part of that. They draw performers from many walks of life and give them a chance to share their talents.”
Stefanoni and her husband Brad purchased the local business two months ago and, according to Stefanoni, one change they want to make is turning Root Coffeehouse into a” community gathering space.”
“We’ve been so happy in recent years to see Pittsburg gain some really wonderful venues for the performing arts, and we have been patrons and performers in them,” Stefanoni said. “Each one provides something special and unique for a specific kind of performance, from the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State to Memorial Auditorium downtown, to the newly renovated spaces at Pittsburg High School, to the bars and the breweries… Soon, the Colonial Fox Theatre and Pittsburg Community Middle School will get renovations of their own. We’re glad to able to add one more type of space to that mix, one that is geared more towards smaller, acoustic performances with a pretty laid-back vibe in an historic building.”
Stefanoni had assistance coordinating the technological aspects of the event with local musician Jamie Ortolani, also a member of the J3 band.
“Jamie Ortolani… helped us acquire some gently used sound equipment and helped set it up and we hope in the coming weeks to add some lightning appropriate for performances,” she said. “We’re also taking over the promotional aspect of the event so we can reach a wider audience… We’re also in discussions about starting an open mic night specifically for youth participants.”
Stefanoni also commented on the spontaneity of open mic nights, given that acts are slated at the event rather than signing up well in advance.
“With open mic nights, you get something new and different each time,” Stefanoni said. “It’s totally unscripted. They’re eclectic because the line-up changes depending on who shows up. They’re a way to support up-and-coming performers who dream of becoming pro, as well as community members with talents to share who want a place to share them. It’s a welcoming and encouraging environment.”
In addition to more opportunities for open mic, Root Coffeehouse is in discussions to host more events, such as monthly featured artist concerts, poetry slams, workshops, as well as periodic nights dedicated to jazz music featuring the Pittsburg High School Jazz Combo.