Soul Sounds Open Mic

  • Soul Sounds Open Mic offers a platform for building long-term literary assets within the Saint Paul community through leadership, mentoring, and relationship building. Unlike actors and many musicians, writers typically work in isolation, so building and supporting a literary community can be a challenge. This open mic format with a featured performer is designed to foster leadership, encourage connecting opportunities between established, emerging, and amateur writers, and help to build, strengthen, and leverage other opportunities for the Saint Paul literary community. The featured performers are recognized as leaders in the literary arts community and are offered an opportunity to build their audience. It also provides a space to connect writers who are spoken-word based and writers who are written-word based within the context of being literary artists practicing their craft in Saint Paul.

    Tish Jones organizes and implements the project. Tish is a spoken word artist, writer, educator, organizer, and activist in the Twin Cities. She has worked as a teaching artist with Pillsbury House Theater, Intermedia Arts, Plymouth Christian Youth Center, MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis Public Schools (Arts for Academic Achievement), Kulture Klub, and many other arts organizations. She received the Artist of the Year Award by City Pages in 2009 and was Female Spoken word Artist of the Year in 2009 at the Minnesota Spoken word Association Urban Griots Awards.

    Quality and Merit of the Project

    Soul Sounds runs Thursdays, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tish Jones hosts and curates each open mic. When she is unavailable, she provides a replacement artist from the spoken word community. At each open mic anyone can perform. There is a sign-up process and name and contact info is collected. Each performer has five minutes on stage and performances are uncensored, yet mindful of underage audiences. High quality microphone, soundboard (provided by Golden Thyme), and speakers are provided.

    Additionally, a featured performer is invited every week and has twelve minutes to perform. These selected performers are chosen by Tish Jones from her long list of colleagues, including Ibé Kaba, Ed Bok Lee, Jake Virden, Desdamona, J. Otis Powell! Carnage, Crystal Ruiz, Marisa Carr, and more. 

    On the first Thursday of each month, Tish conducts a writing workshop an hour before the open mic begins for writers who want to improve their work for the stage and for possible publication in the Saint Paul Almanac or other publications. The workshops explore specific poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, metaphor, or specific forms of poetry to investigate when developing a piece. The workshops may include Hip Hop music as an exemplar and/or writing prompt, or physical activity that teaches a device. Workshop attendees are encouraged to share the work created in the workshop at the open mic that follows. Facilitator Tish Jones asks questions, encourages sharing, and helps grow dendrites of new connections within this new writing community.

    If open-mic artists are interested in feedback after they perform, they have the opportunity to have their work evaluated using an abbreviated version of Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process. Choreographer Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process is a widely used method for responding to artists’ work. The process engages participants in three roles:

    The artist (spoken word performer, writer) offers a work-in-progress for review and feels prepared to question that work in a dialogue with other people; Responders (the audience), committed to the artist’s intent to make excellent work, offer reactions to the work in a dialogue with the artist; and the facilitator (Tish jones) initiates each step, keeps the process on track, and works to help the artist and responders use the process to frame useful questions and responses.

    The Critical Response Process takes place after a presentation of artistic work. Work can be short or long, large or small, and at any stage in its development. The facilitator then leads the artist and responders through these steps:

    1. Statements of Meaning: Responders state what was meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, striking in the work they have just witnessed.
    2. Artist as Questioner: The artist asks questions about the work. After each question, the responders answer. Responders may express opinions if they are in direct response to the question asked and do not contain suggestions for changes.
    3. Neutral Questions: Responders ask neutral questions about the work. The artist responds. Questions are neutral when they do not have an opinion couched in them. For example, if you are discussing the lighting of a scene, “Why was it so dark?” is not a neutral question. “What ideas guided your choices about lighting?” is.

    Artist Jake Virden writes:

    I am writing to give testimony to the value of Soul Sounds Open Mic. I have been a regular attendee of the open mic and a featured artist. The platform this mic provides for young artists to share there work is incredibly beneficial, both for individual artists and for the community of poets in the Twin Cities. I have found that the atmosphere of open exchange and critical feedback that has developed at Soul Sounds to be the most impactful aspect of the mic. I have brought students and friends to the mic and without exception they commented on the engaging, exciting, and educational charge in the room provided by the feedback sessions. Soul Sounds open mic is a valuable and necessary space for our community.

    Shaunté “Dr3amCh8sr” Douglas writes:

    As an attendee of the Soul Sounds Open Mic since late August 2012, I have enjoyed every Thursday night since. It is the absolute highlight of my week. With the intimacy of the Golden Thyme Coffee Shop, located in historic exclusivity; the almost unheard of practice of the performers and audience to give and receive critical feedback; and the silent promise of a safe, free, and truly open environment. My experiences there are different every time as I actively participate as an audience member and a consistent performer. But with every experience I have grown both personally and professionally. Soul Sounds Open Mic is one of, if not the best and most innovative spaces for writers of all kinds, whether they are developing their writing skills, wanting a platform to perform and test out new pieces, or simply just in need of a place to listen and heal. As a writer and spoken word artist, I believe that Soul Sounds is a major factor in my own development. There have been countless times where I have witnessed the most beautiful and inspiring performances, whether they be poetry, music, dance, or simply conversational dialogue between performers and their attentive audience. Shy performers have left that space more courageous. Uninspired writers have left that space with ideas. Creativity has been sparked in all of us that attend. Something may be created to compete with Soul Sounds, but never will it be quite as wonderful. A lot of this has to do with its host, Tish Jones. She is phenomenal in every sense of the word. A great teacher, her brilliance and eloquence captivates everyone in her presence. Her motivation and leadership is key to its success and imperative to its future. I am just one of the many that is In love with Soul Sounds and everything it has to offer on every level. 

    15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
    9, 10, 11, 12
    Time of day:
    Program scholarships:
    How do families register?:

    Free. Open to the public. 


Program Coordinator(s)