College Grind needs local performers

Danny Cozzi

NIU needs a more integrated community. Let’s start with student musicians.

The College Grind, a new coffee shop in the Holmes Student Center, hosts Live Music Mondays every week. Since its grand opening, I’ve considered the College Grind a place where student engagement can flourish. But that will only happen if organizers take the right steps for attracting students.

Upon the shop’s grand opening Feb. 10, I saw the potential the College Grind, as well as the Holmes Student Center, has to offer NIU under the thriving communities pillar, one of NIU President Doug Baker’s four pillars for university success. The other three are student career success, ethically inspired leadership and financial and program viability.

Aside from endless caffeine and a mini-computer lab, the College Grind offers Live Music Mondays, where student musicians perform from 8 to 10 p.m. The best part is at 9:15 p.m.: The band frees up the performance to an open jam.

“I think [the chances of more live music] are great,” Baker said. “I think we’ve got a lot of talent in the music school, but we’ve got a lot of talent from students that aren’t music majors that would have a blast coming and jamming. I think we can create a whole culture around that.”

But with The House Café and Otto’s appearing to be entirely out of commission for now, only one night a week of NIU music and culture isn’t enough. So, we should have frequent artistic performances at the College Grind as well as areas all over campus, like in residence halls and in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commons — assuming this apparent ice age ends.

“I don’t think that there’s really anything that can keep us from moving forward with those initiatives,” said Eric Weldy, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “There’s probably, like, spaces that we have not utilized before or even thought in terms of utilizing for those things.”

In that case, let’s talk about what areas we can take advantage of. The College Grind is where we should start. Then, we should target the Student Center in its entirety.

“Think about Holmes right now. What if there was something going on in the [College] Grind?” said Ron Walters, a consultant for Baker. “What if [at] the same there’s something going on just a hundred feet away up in the Ellington [Ballroom]? What if there was something going on around the corner in the gallery?”

So, what if there was? Let’s make it happen. We should open up as many venues and open spaces as possible to student-centered performances — and not strictly NIU groups and organizations. Let the student play.

“I think it would be good if we had other than campus groups [performing],” said Ninette Weaver, administrator of Holmes Student Center food service. “I think we should open it up to public groups, as well.”

Weaver also mentioned talks of opening up Wednesday nights at the College Grind to open mic nights after spring break.

Stage fright be damned, let’s get local and student musicians on campus, bringing the community together. We don’t just need jazz bands; we need gritty folk singers, local poets and visual artists showing off their talents.

With the College Grind, we can start putting together more performances and events that draw students out of their residence halls and apartments and get them involved.

The Holmes Student Center should live up to its name and be more student-centered.