By Amanada Creech
Every Thursday night, 66 Water Street Arts Cafe holds an Open Mic Night for the Franklin community. The cafe encourages Franklin College students and staff, as well as members of the Franklin community, to participate in the weekly jam sessions.
Lisa Fears, vice president of planning, plant and technology, who helps to manage the cafe, began bringing instruments from her home to the cafe. She has accumulated 11 instruments, from the harmonica to the guitar.
She said the weekly jam sessions began about a month ago, and Thursdays became the declared night that students came out to play.
Sophomore Austin Netherton spotted the cafe the weekend after it opened. He, among a few others, are the core of what Netherton calls the “Makeshift 66 Water Street Band.”
Fears said Netherton asked to learn how to play the banjo in exchange for a job. Although she originally thought he was joking, Fears still agreed.
“She walked out of the back with a banjo, and the rest is history,” Netherton said.
He also knows how to play the harmonica and is learning to play the piano at the cafe.
“It was a tumbling effect of awesomeness,” Netherton said of the jam sessions that followed.
Netherton invited sophomore Alec Gray to join him at the cafe to play guitar during J-Term. Gray said during the jam sessions, everyone is invited to pick up whatever and play.
“We kind of help each other out,” Netherton said.
The students, Fears said, “clearly needed an outlet for playing together.”
The café advertises the jam sessions on its Facebook page. Fears said it is a good environment for students to practice their musical talents.
“I’m just the encourager,” Fears said.
Her role, she explained, is to ensure that everyone has access to instruments. She said she wants to model inclusiveness. The students are able to enter a respectful environment and play with others.
The 66 Water Street Arts Cafe opened its doors on Dec. 1 to correspond with the Christmas lighting in downtown Franklin. The official opening, though, was on Jan. 7. Fears said the cafe is a “cultural connection point” where both students and the community can meet.
“It’s kind of an organic thing that’s grown,” Fears said.
Her goal for the cafe is to showcase different kinds of arts, not just music. There is a wall in the cafe dedicated to art from both the students and professionals.
Fears said she looks forward to finishing the music studio that the cafe will open in the near future. She said the studio will encourage more students and members of the community to participate in the jam sessions and help them show their talents.