Ninth Square Jams Out

A haphazard group of friends who met through Musical Intervention had settled well into their last Tuesday Open Mic jam of the summer when they got a welcome surprise: 18-month-old Noah Suggs toddled into the frame.

Suggs was eyeing the guitars at center stage, steadying himself as he made it over an orange-and-black nest of cables to the center of a tent where the band was gathered. On guitar, Adam Christoferson grinned as Noah came closer. Instinctively, he lowered a mic, and then unhooked it, passing it from its stand into Noah’s outstretched, willing hands.

“Baaaaaaahhhhh!” the pint-sized singer wailed. “Waaaahhh!” he scatted.

The band hadn’t expected those vocals, several members laughing as they continued to play. A group that had gathered on the sidewalk clapped with glee, whooping for more.

Lucy Gellman PhotoThat kind of interaction, however unplanned, was the idea behind the Ninth Square’s last summer open mic of the season, which Ninth Square Residences Property Manager Romulo E. Samaniego piloted this year. After placing an old, unused piano in the open space at 81 Elm Street — it’s still there whenever it doesn’t rain, and will be until it gets too cold this year — Samaniego had expressed an interest in finding something that mixed the Residences’ worlds of affordable- and market-rate housing that brought people together to socialize organically in the Ninth Square.

Working with him on another project, curator and Arts Interstices’ founder Elinor Slomba connected Samaniego with Christoferson, the force behind Musical Intervention. The two clicked immediately when Samaniego suggested that they try a Tuesday night open mic outside — low risk, high reward — in addition to the open mic nights that Christoferson had been hosting at Musical Intervention‘s 23 Temple St. headquarters each Thursday. The opportunity came as Musical Intervention neared its first birthday. Christoferson was delighted.

“These have been an opportunity for participants who come to Musical Intervention to become increasingly involved in the community and meet new people in a safe environment,” he said as musicians Jeremiah Brown and Caprice (Shakita Boyd) launched into a duet closer to the street. “It’s been an incredible way to get people together.”

That was clear Tuesday night, as musicians amateur and professional, New Havener, Ninth Square resident, and transplant alike, came out of the woodwork to play for two hours. Boyd, 24, sees it as an opportunity to bring her singing career, on which she has been working for eight years, a little more into the open. In earlier weeks, Samaniego has seen opera singers who live in the residences come down to hear musicians play, and offer constructive criticism or well-warranted praise. And there have been participants like Noah — young Elm Citizens who want to experience the community through music.

“He’s a natural,” both Christoferson and Samaniego agreed close to the end of the event. Participants like Noah, Christoferson added, made it a joy that Samaniego is already looking at bringing it back next summer. By then, both of them hope, these kinds of events will have expanded into new neighborhoods in the city, and New Haven will be that much more musical.

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