Open mic provides safe place for self-expression

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi’ Bureau

CHINLE, July 31, 2014

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(Times photo — Cindy Yurth)

TOP: Hansen Dempsey performs an original song at the weekly Chinle Open Mic in the hogan at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. The event draws people of all talents, ages and abilities.

BOTTOM: Kristina Jacobsen-Bia, founder of the the Chinle Open Mic, plays guitar for vocalist Melanie Calabaca, who performed for the first time at the open mic last Thursday. (Times photo — Cindy Yurth)



Hansen Dempsey is a big guy, about six feet tall, square jaw, shoulders like a linebacker. His physique was an asset in his former job as a youth corrections officer. But it doesn’t match his personality.

“I know I look intimidating,” he said before performing at the Chinle Open Mic last Thursday. “But I’m the kind of guy who goes to mushy movies by himself.”

He’s also the kind of guy who wants to fill the world with silly love songs. Last Thursday he got his chance, exemplifying what Kristina Jacobsen-Bia, the singer/songwriter/University of New Mexico music professor who founded the open mic this summer, wanted the venue to be: a safe, supportive space where people can express who they really are.

“I wanted to create a safe, family-friendly environment for beginning performers where they can experience what it’s like using a microphone and having a supportive audience,” Jacobsen-Bia wrote in an email to the Times.

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