TRAVERSE CITY — It’s music that’s live, local and free — and it’s happening at Horizon Books in Traverse City most weekends.
Musicians have frequented the laid-back venue to perform their original work or cover tunes, depending on the night, in an intimate setting since the Horizon Shine Café opened in the lower level of the bookstore 16 years ago.
It started when local musician Adair Correll approached Horizon owners Vic Herman and Amy Reynolds about playing in the café once a month.
He and a group of other musicians had performed open mic nights at bars but were looking for a different setting.
“We wanted a listening audience instead of the bar atmosphere,” said Correll of Traverse City. “Vic and Amy were very supportive so we met, had a good time and started to add songwriters that we knew,” said Correll, the group’s organizer and administrator.
Since those first five musicians gathered in June of 1997, Songwriters in the Round has grown to include some 50 to 60 musicians and they’ve put together several compilation CDs, underwritten by Horizon.
Correll calls the monthly event a loosely knit consortium and said anyone is welcome to play. They meet the third Friday of the month.
“We don’t have any rules or regulations except that the music has to be original,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s kind of united most of the musicians in Northern Michigan.”
Typically three performers take turns in a round-robin format.
“Everyone has a different style so that’s why we alternate. We try to mix it up,” said Correll.
Two new outlets have been added to the musical roster at the café, including Open Mic Night on the second Saturday of the month and Songwriters on the Horizon, which isn’t a regular event yet, but tries to meet on the first weekend of the month.
Open mic night is hosted by guitarist Matt Mansfield. The musician, also a local DJ, welcomes “anyone and everyone” to perform.
“We get all kinds of people who come, from Interlochen students to seasoned veterans from Chicago,” said Mansfield who opens the night and then invites participants up who usually play three or four songs.
“From audience to musicians, the turnout has been great,” said Mansfield. “I’m very happy with it.”
Songwriters on the Horizon is hosted by teen musicians Savannah Buist, 17, and Katie Larson, 16.
There are no age limits, but their evening appeals to a younger set, with participants usually between 15 and 25 years-old.
The pair starts out the night with a couple of their songs and then begins the rotation.
“We often get to jump in with our songwriter friends and just add strings or harmonies,” said Buist. “There are lots of times during the night when singer/songwriters who are also pretty good musicians will jump in and help each other out and that is what it is really about: Collaborating, learning, listening, and growing.”
The musicians are quick to give kudos to Horizon Books for being so supportive.
“We are lucky to have a place like Horizon that has always believed in us and supported local music,” said Buist. “They were one of the first venues to book Katie and I when we could barely play an hour’s worth of material and they have supported us, given us goals, and helped us grow.”
Reynolds said they are happy to do it.
Their relationship with Songwriters on the Round has been nothing but positive as has the latest addition of younger songwriter/singers, she said.
“Songwriters has been a really great addition and it’s been a long-term and easy relationship,” said Reynolds.
“The café is a really nice place for musicians to start,” she said, adding that the audiences are also very accepting.
Since there is no alcohol, the café is also a great place to bring the family to hear music.
“It’s a family event and very welcoming,” said Reynolds.
For further information contact the bookstore at 231-946-7290.