Steel Trappings

What is the Open Stage?

What is the Open Stage?

October 24, 2018 • Addison ChingFestivals and Conventions

All outer island Hawaiian steel guitar festivals produced by HIMELE feature Open Stage programs. But what exactly is the Open Stage?

The Open Stage is similar to the Open Mic—providing performance opportunities for anyone desiring to share their talents with an audience. In the case of the steel guitar festivals, the Open Stage provides a performance venue to steel guitarists to showcase their talents with an audience that appreciates the sounds of the Hawaiian steel guitar. Each program is about 30 minutes in length, sufficient for several songs and "talk story" between songs if the performer is so inclined. Many performers also include vocal selections in their presentation.

The Open Stage also provides an opportunity for performers to overcome their performance anxieties, perfect their stage persona in front of a performance-friendly audience, and build performing confidence. The entire Open Stage production team—the emcees and the backup musicians—comprises seasoned steel guitarists who have all experienced performance anxieties and have developed their own performance comforts through the Open Stage.

But who signs up for the Open Stage?

Anyone who is willing to share their music and talent with a live audience can sign up. Anyone who is looking for a performance venue that otherwise doesn't exist can sign up. Anyone wanting a chance to develop their public performance confidence can sign up. Or simply, anyone wanting to play for no other reason other than to have fun can sign up.

Hideki Hattori and Los Hawaiianos at the 2019 Hawai'i Island festival
Japan's Hideki Hattori and Los Hawaiianos at the 2019 Hawai'i Island festival
Photo by Don Touchi
Jess Montgomery and Dennis Chun at the 2019 Kaua'i festival
Jess Montgomery and Dennis Chun from Kaua'i at the 2019 Kaua'i festival
Photo by Don Touchi

Open Stage performers can reserve a performance slot by filling out the online form on the festival's website. Performers are responsible for developing their own programs to fill approximately 20 minutes of performance time and can chose to either use their own pre-recorded backing tracks or request assistance from live backup musicians. The second option can produce some surprises at performance time since master steel guitarists and musicians have been known to join in the performance as members of the backup band. At a recent Open Stage performance at the Maui Steel Guitar Festival, Open Stage performer Troy Brenningmeyer was surprised to have steel guitar masters Greg Sardinha on guitar and Bobby Ingano on steel guitar among his backup musicians.

Troy Brenningmeyer at the 2019 Maui festival
Troy Brenningmeyer and backup musicians at the 2019 Maui festival
Photo by Don Touchi

"I'm afraid to sign up because I'll probably make mistakes." Treat the Open Stage experience as a learning experience. If you happen to make a mistake, perhaps you can do a little extra practicing so you won't make the same mistake the next time. However, the audience is there to enjoy your performance and your willingness to share your talents with them, mistakes and all. Treat the Open Stage as an experience that will help you gain confidence in your playing.

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About HIMELE
HIMELE is a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.