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Acoustic Kitchen provides space for Columbia musicians of all levels

First year Asher Rigler performs to crowd during Acoustic Kitchen in the Haus Performance Space on Sept. 26, 2023. Despite being called Acoustic Kitchen, performers ranged from playing acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles and pianos. (Christalyn Barker )

With tea light candles, Acoustic Kitchen hosted its first event Tuesday, Sept. 26 in HAUS at 623 S. Wabash Ave. The monthly open mic night has been ongoing since 2002 and seeks to give students the opportunity to improve their live performance and stage presence skills.

David Dolak, professor in the Science and Mathematics Department, began hosting Acoustic Kitchen events with now-retired English Professor George Bailey nearly 22 years ago. Dolak said they came up with the idea at a faculty retreat in Wisconsin.

“We were playing guitar one night with some people from South Africa, who were guests, and they were playing music with us and we thought, ‘We [do] not have an event like this…live music events where anyone from Columbia can come and play,” he said.

Dolak and Bailey designed the events to encourage students, and sometimes faculty, to build confidence in performing live. Sophomore audio arts major, Tammer Ali said he first started going to Acoustic Kitchen his first year. He performed Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” and another cover by The Backseat Lovers.

“I was freaked out, but I got on stage and just performed my heart out and it was really fun so I just kept coming back,” Ali said. “It’s super, super casual so if you mess up no one’s gonna judge. It’s a good place to mess up so you can perform better next time,” Ali said.

Acoustic Kitchen typically features guitar or piano music of covers or original music. Anything from Simon and Garfunkel to Boygenius to Foo Fighters is played. However, Dolak said students play a wide variety of instruments and styles.

“Over the years we’ve had lots of instruments. We’ve had cellos, we’ve had some horns, but as you can see it’s sort of like a folk music thing,” he said.

Regardless of skill level, the open mic is a “really comfortable” place to share music, transfer audio arts major Q Cockfield said. They sang two original songs titled “Ankle Bone” and “Runner’s High” at their second ever live performance.

“I feel like Acoustic Kitchen’s a good space for people who don’t have a lot of performing experience or just to perform for any reason because it’s a really intimate environment of other singers and songwriters so they understand your struggles,” Cockfield said.

Cockfield attended the previous Acoustic Kitchen last spring for their first ever performance, which is common for many attendees, Dolak said.

“Over the years, a lot of students were already playing out, but for some, this is the first time they’ve ever played in front of people,” he said.

Sophomore music business major Sofia Giunta had her first Acoustic Kitchen experience supporting her girlfriend as she performed. Even if you are not a singer or instrumentalist, Acoustic Kitchen is still a fun event, they said.

“It’s really exciting because I don’t play music personally, so to see talent like this come from school from people playing a handful of times, it’s cool to see people get up and do that,” Giunta said.

Acoustic Kitchen hosts a stage at Manifest each year, highlighting the best open mic acts of the year, specially selected. Dolak said they will also be holding a special Acoustic Kitchen in October during Columbia Weekend, which will take place Oct. 20 and 21.

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About the Contributors
Izzie Rutledge
Izzie Rutledge, Former Reporter
irutledge@columbiachronicle.com   Izzie Rutledge is a senior journalism major, minoring in music business. She has covered Chicago's music scene, Columbia's student population and metro events, like NASCAR. She worked for the Chronicle from May 2023 through December 2023.   Hometown: St. Louis, Miss.    
Christalyn Barker
Christalyn Barker, Former Photojournalist
cbarker@columbiachronicle.com   Christalyn Barker is a senior photojournalism major, minoring in music business. Barker has covered campus events such as Convocation, Acoustic Kitchen performances, and metro events. She worked for the Chronicle from August 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: Dearborn, Michigan