The initial idea for my Three Songs to Start photo essay on open mics in the greater Lehigh Valley came from a very self-serving place. Having always had a love of music and after teaching myself to play the guitar and write songs, my life goal early on was to become a famous rock star and play in front of an ocean of fans every night as they go crazy over each tune.

I wanted to explore the opportunities in an open setting without the pressures of performing for pay or being able to draw an audience. In the process, I hoped the series would create a resource for others who felt the same way. 

Often given "three songs" to share what they have to offer, the open mic is the perfect setting for any musician or performance artist to initiate or cultivate their own abilities and to get comfortable communicating their skills to others. Along with people who are trying to shape their stage presence and fine-tune original compositions, there are also those who have full-time jobs and families to support that just want to come out and keep that musical part of themselves active. 

Playing an open mic doesn't promise riches or fame. The successful ones promise a community-centric environment to share and learn, which is exactly what I hoped to find though this series.