The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 28, 2013

Open mic night at GRA allows students to express their talents

For the Star Beacon

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — At Grand River Academy, students hear announcements every day. They range from reminders about study groups to the times of sporting events, with different teachers and administrators telling the student body when or what is taking place around campus. On Thursdays, though, there is an announcement that’s different from all others: Multimedia teacher Mark Kaschak stands up to say, “So you guys know the drill. Tonight at the Student Center, we’re having TNL.”

TNL, or Thursday Night Live, is a café-style open mic event in which students and teachers can share their musical and poetic talents with all those in attendance. Personally written songs, normally played on guitar, are among the most common performances, but acts have also included spoken-word poetry, rap verses, stand-up comedy, covers of popular songs and even a clarinet recital.

“My favorite part of TNL is seeing the progression of performers and performances,” said Kaschak.

Held at the Bud Field Student Center, the show takes place in the center of the main room, which is surrounded by chairs and tables and located in front of the fireplace. The student center was built in 2008 to serve as a hangout place for students to use from the end of the school day until closing time (10:15 p.m.). It features pool, ping pong and air hockey tables, a snack bar, a multimedia room with a wall projector, a lecture center, and its newest addition – a music room equipped with guitars, drums, keyboards, bass guitars, microphones and amplifiers, among other things.

Run by Grand River’s two multimedia teachers, Sean and Mark Kaschak, TNL has been part of the weekly routine at school since last fall. The Kaschak brothers have been teaching at Grand River for about 18 months. Together, they run the multimedia classes, which include graphic design, music theory, web design, photography and computer programming. Outside of school, The Brothers Kaschak, their band, performs at various venues throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. The two Upstate New York natives write all of their own music and are developing a following in the Greater Cleveland Area.

Thursday Night Live originated at the University of Dayton, Sean’s alma mater. Started in 2006, TNL took place as part of Artstreet, an art-focused event held on Thursday nights in Dayton. Sean performed in some of the first TNLs at the University of Dayton and continued to do so throughout his studies there. Upon becoming director of residential life at Grand River, he wanted to transplant the event to his new community. At first, there were few performers at TNL, other than the Kashchaks. But Sean quickly garnered enthusiasm among student performers, who eventually became the main entertainers at the weekly event.

Asked about the future of TNL, Sean eagerly responded, “We hope to have outdoor TNL in the spring. We’re focusing on full-band TNL now that we have the music room.”