When walking through Baker University Center on a normal afternoon, students, faculty and members of the community are often met with monotonous escalator rides getting them from one place to another. Take a walk through Baker Center on Wednesday afternoons, however, and people are serenaded by music of the region.
The Wednesday Acoustic shows, sponsored by Campus Involvement Center and OHIO Live and curated by Bruce Dalzell, feature local artists performing acoustic sets entirely free to anyone who wants to come and watch every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.
The event started as an idea from Corbin Marsh, assistant director of programming, and Andrew Holzaepfel, senior associate director for student activities, when they were brainstorming how to improve some of the previous, smaller Baker Center shows that were lacking in attendance.
“We thought that this would be a different approach to it … a fun way to add color to Baker Center,” Marsh said.
Rather than having people RSVP or sit in assigned seats, the Wednesday Acoustic shows feature an open audience plan. People can sit down in the chairs if they want to, whether to watch the show or study while listening to the music, or they can hear the musicians throughout the building while walking to their next destination.
Marsh’s first thought was that, because the show takes places during lunchtime, people can enjoy their lunch while watching the show and just take a break from work or class.
In that same vein, though not affiliated, Wednesday Acoustic shows happen around the same time as the University Program Council’s “Flavor of the Week” event, where the group chooses a cooking style of a particular region and provides free food for anyone interested. Marsh encourages people to grab a plate and relax while watching the show.
Apart from the lunchtime convenience, the other appeal to the shows is the break from the monotony of walking through Baker Center every day and seeing the same scenery.
“It adds some color and life to the building, and (it’s) a fun thing to add to the building where people are either just passing through or working in their offices,” Marsh said.
Those who plan these shows not only get creative for audience members but also provide a space for local artists to play their own music or covers they like.
One such artist is Megan Bee, a singer/songwriter in the Americana folk genre, who has performed at several of OU’s shows, including the Wednesday Acoustic.
“It’s just a unique opportunity to perform in the Baker Center in the middle of the day when people aren’t necessarily expecting there to be music,” Bee said. “It’s just nice — breaks up the regular week a little bit.”
Bee got involved with these shows through Dalzell, with whom she’s in a songwriters group. They connected through the group, and she had recorded a few songs at his studio, so he encouraged her to perform at the Wednesday Acoustic shows.
Though she takes every performance as an opportunity for connecting with the audience, Bee thinks there’s something special about the Wednesday Acoustic shows.
“I think part of the fun of the Wednesday show is — some people come because they know it's happening, and other people are just passing by and don't know what's happening — to witness the surprise on their face as they're passing by on the escalator or stopping on their way somewhere else,” Bee said.
One of the groups that performed at the show was the Corndoggers, a duo playing folk music. Two of the audience members felt a very particular connection to the music performed by the duo.
“I was just going to go buy a sweatshirt for my mom, and I heard the sound of Appalachia here and just thought I'd stop by and sit and watch it,” Logan Neal, a freshman studying aviation, said.
Neal sent a video of the performance to Ethan Scott, one of his friends at OU with whom he also went to high school, and Scott decided to stop by and watch.
“We’re both from the outskirts of Athens,” Scott, a freshman studying integrated social studies, said. “We grew up with this. This is familiar stuff. It’s cool that it’s being brought to OU.”
Marsh, Bee, Neal and Scott all encourage people to come to the Wednesday Acoustic shows to get a taste of Appalachian music and support local artists.
“Hearing songs like this with a lot of soul makes you think you’re at a cookout with your whole family having a beer, dancing, eating some pulled pork sandwiches or something. It just makes you feel good,” Neal said.