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Open mic night provides artistic environment for Antietam Academy students

October 24, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- By day, the space is a typical classroom with a white board, American flag and fluorescent lighting. But Thursday night, the overhead lights went off, candles and soft lamps went on, and students took the floor for Antietam Academy's second annual open mic night.

"The idea was to make it like a coffee house environment," said teacher Michael Maginnis, who helped organize the event.

More than 30 students, staff members and relatives packed the room, snacking on chips and sandwiches and cheering for the students and staff who, sometimes a bit reluctantly, took turns at the mic sharing poetry and singing.

Some of the performances were humorous, like one student's rendition of Weird Al's "Amish Paradise," while others were heartbreaking, like a staff member's poem about a relative's death. One student, introduced by Maginnis as "one of the smartest kids that I've had," remained in her seat to read a poem about a childhood of violence and substance abuse, optimistically titled "I Will Not Break."

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Maginnis said he hoped the experience would have a positive impact on the high school students.

"This is an alternative school, and I feel as if our kids are rarely, rarely, rarely going to get an opportunity to put themselves in an artistic environment," Maginnis said.

Former Antietam Academy student Corey Mentzer, 17, of Hagerstown, said that when Maginnis organized the school's first open mic night last March, he was skeptical.

"I remember telling him, if someone comes to this open mic night then consider me amazed," Mentzer said. "Well, look at the crowd."

Mentzer, who shared two of his own poems Thursday night, said writing poetry helps him get his feelings out, and sharing it with others gives him a sense of accomplishment.

"People used to tell me that I would never amount to anything, and I just want to prove them wrong," he said.

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