Lyrical Sanctuary: This mic has been open for 10 years

Video by Mary Rinzel and Brandon Smith

In this Video: Get a taste of the eclectic talent taking the Lyrical Sanctuary stage on any given night, including spring 2012 featured performer, Melissa Czarnik (’05 BA History) who is now recording her third album, “Non Merci,” while on an artist’s residency in France. (View full size on YouTube)

Got something to say? Share? Express? Perform? Welcome to the stage!

That’s the mantra behind Lyrical Sanctuary, a monthly open mic at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UWM Union Sociocultural Programming recently celebrated 10 years of hosting the open mic for aspiring and accomplished poets, singers, standup comics and performers. (See video for a sampling!)

“It’s really important for students to cultivate their talent.”

Lyrical Sanctuary’s roots date back to 1998 when Donte McFadden, then an undergraduate film student, helped get a student-run open mic series started at the 8th Note Coffee House.

“It’s really important for students to cultivate their talent, knowing they have a reliable and supportive audience to share their work with,” McFadden says.

McFadden (’99 BFA Film Production) didn’t take the stage too often himself, as he was busy handling behind-the-scenes coordination of the event in its early years. Today, his life remains equally full at UWM; he’s currently a doctoral candidate in the English Department, writing his dissertation while also serving as the interim director of Graduate Opportunity Programs in the UWM Graduate School. He still attends Lyrical Sanctuary as often as his schedule allows.

“I’m most proud that Lyrical Sanctuary’s mission has been kept intact and how it’s evolved over the years with Sociocultural Programming’s mission,” McFadden says.

“The people who attend it regularly have really found a way to make it their own. Everyone ties it to their own identity and I think it collectively comes together as a safe, nurturing and, most importantly, an exciting space.”

Looking back over the past decade, he says it’s the quality of performers and hosts that make Lyrical Sanctuary one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets.

For more information:

Lyrical Sanctuary hosts: Where are they now?

Derrick Harriell, ’03 BA English
Lyrical Sanctuary Host: Fall 2002

Derrick Harriell (Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Derrick Harriell is a published poet known for his bluesy style of writing and speaking. Harriell’s first collection of poems, “Cotton” was published in 2010.He remains a familiar face around UWM, but not for long. Currently a dissertator and instructor in UWM’s English Department, Harriell soon departs Milwaukee for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) where he accepted an assistant professor of English and Afro American Studies position ahead of his May 2012 graduation.

Host: Spring 2003 – spring 2004

Blax (Photo by Charles "Chuck" Johnson)

BLAX (formally referred to as Adebisi Agoro) packed his bags and left Milwaukee two years ago on a whim. Headed for New York City with a couple hundred bucks, he wanted to see how he could fare against other up and coming hip-hop artists. Within a year, BLAX (Black Life And Xperience) was named one of’s “Top 25 Underground Artists of 2011.” The website says, “It’s obvious through his Midwestern style and flow that [BLAX] is genuinely bridging the gap between Middle America where he’s from and New York where his dreams have carried him.” BLAX released “BLAX x LIFE x FILES” in February. He plans to one day finish his UWM degree.

Naima Adedapo, ’07 BFA Dance
Host: Fall 2004 – spring 2007

Naima Adedapo (Photo by Jerry Lexion)

Four years after graduating from UWM, Naima Adedapo found herself singing for millions on the stage of “American Idol.” She completed the national “Idol” tour in summer 2011, and now calls the show “an amazing stepping stone to continue my artistry and what I had been working for prior to Idol.” Adedapo, who fronts the reggae band R.A.S. Movement, recently signed a solo contract, her first single dropped in March (and is available on iTunes), and a full album is due in June.  She describes it as “a combination of neosoul/R&B and reggae with hints of jazz.”

Videographer, UWM University Communications & Media Relations