Off Square Music ... This Is Our Story

Off Square Music ... This Is Our Story

Off Square Music is the heart and soul of the Woodstock music scene and the center of musical energy in McHenry County, Illinois. From all of its year-round indoor live music venues to outdoor special events and the award winning Woodstock Farmers Market, musicians and non-musicians alike travel to Woodstock to learn, hear and play music of many genres. Read more about our history in "About."

December 10 Stage Left Open Mic Spots Filling Quickly

Beginning in January 2022, Stage Left Open Mics meet second Wednesday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.

Our December 10 Stage Left Open Mic is coming right up, and the performance spots are nearly filled! Check out the performance list below. Then be sure to get in touch with us right away if you’d like to perform. Contact Keith Johnson at offsquaremusic@gmail.com.

Pssst…If by chance there is an open spot on December 10, Rich Prezioso is spreading the rumor that Keith Johnson will sing something!

About Stage Left Open Mics – & Important Info About An Upcoming Change!

Off Square Music invites musicians, singers, poets and other performers to participate in these Stage Left Open Mic Nights. Whether you’re just starting out as a performer or are a seasoned veteran, Open Mic Nights offer a supportive atmosphere with an exceptional performance space and sound system.

Stage Left Open Mics are 7 – 11 pm at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square.

You don’t have to perform to enjoy Open Mic Nights. Just come on out for the live music and Woodstock’s charming atmosphere. Off Square requests a $5.00/pp donation to support our many music activities, including Open Mic Nights.

Friday, December 10 is our last Stage Left Open Mic on a Friday, tho! After many years of gathering at Stage Left on Friday evenings, starting in January 2022, our monthly open mic moves to the second Wednesday of the month.

Remember…

Starting in January 2022, our monthly open mic will move to the second Wednesday of the month.

Be sure you’re on our mailing list for our monthly newsletter where you will receive more information about this and other important upcoming changes!

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL PERFORMERS AND ATTENDEES: Please review new COVID-19 Guidlines provided by the Opera House for Off Square Music events held at Stage Left Cafe. Proof of vaccination is required for everyone, and masks are required except when eating, drinking or performing. 

Would You Like to Perform?

Performing slots are 15 minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. To sign up to perform, email Keith Johnson at offsquare@gmail.com. If you stop by an Open Mic Night early in the evening, there might even be an available slot that same night.

December 10 Performance Schedule

17:00 pmMike Eckert99:00 pmRich Prezioso
27:15 pmOpen109:15 pmKent Fishburn & Deb Firak
37:30 pmJade Strong119:30 pmNorm Siegel
47:45 pmSpencer129:45 pmLaurel Palma
58:00 pmPat Leinen1310:00 pmNorthwest Highway
68:15 pmJim Gary1410:15 pmMike Maxa
78:30 pmAngela Donato1510:30 pmJim Fine
88:45 pmCheryl Niemo & Pete1610:45 pmOpen

Upcoming Dates

Off Square Music Stage Left Open Mics are moving to second Wednesdays. Upcoming Open Mic nights are:

  • Friday, December 10, 2021
  • Wednesdays! January 12, February 9, and March 9, 2022

Donations

If you would like to contribute to Off Square Music, then please use the Donate Button in the left column of any page on our site, https://offsquaremusic.org/. We look forward to seeing you at this month’s Stage Left Open Mic.

Hybrid Events Brought To You By Off Square Music!

Hybrid Events are on the way to Off Square Music. What are they? These are live events you can attend in real time or via Zoom.

Hybrid Events are on the way to Off Square Music. What are they? These are live events you can attend in real time or via Zoom. Another way to describe these events is that they allow in-person and online participation at the same time.

Hybrid events allow greater flexibility for those who may not feel comfortable being in a crowded space or who don’t live close enough to attend in person. They make our music community and experience richer and more inclusive. We look forward to welcoming old friends and new from near and far, in person and online.

Who would have imagined this opportunity to connect just a couple of short years ago? But now Hybrid Events are here to stay. Off Square Music is proud to host our first Hybrid Event to start off 2022 on New Year’s Eve.

And that’s only a start to our year. We look forward to many more of these events, and we’re working on a number of other exciting improvements to bring even more people into our Woodstock music community.

Our First Hybrid Event — New Years Eve Open Mic at Stage Left

"Happy New Year 2022" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Happy New Year 2022” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Save the date! This New Years Eve, Off Square Music will host the usual New Years Open Mic at Stage Left, with pizza and champagne for our guests who come in person.

But if you’re willing to provide your own pizza and champagne, you’ll also have the option of joining the event via Zoom this year!

All performers play live at Stage Left, but anyone can attend remotely to enjoy the music and chat with others.

This is the first test of what we hope to do a lot more of in the year to come. As we work to give our community’s artists the exposure they so well deserve, Hybrid Events will help us (and our performers) reach a larger audience.

Watch this website, your email and social media for more news about this exciting first-time Hybrid Event.

Here Are Some Other Ways To Keep Up With Off Square Music

Be sure you’re on our mailing list so you can receive regular news about all the exciting things we have coming up. You’ll find a mailing list subscription form in the left column of every page of our Off Square Music website.

Consider a donation to Off Square Music. You can use the Donate button in the left column of every page of our Off Square Music website.

Have ideas about other programs you’d like to see from Off Square Music? Send us an email!

Every Saturday Virtual Open Mic – Here To Stay!

Every Saturday Virtual Open Mic - Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the music starts at 7:00 pm, usually running until 8:15 or 8:30 pm. People are welcome to hang out and chat after the music.

Every Saturday Virtual Open Mic started when we couldn’t get together for live music and stayed when we went back to live performances. They bring together long time friends and expand our music world and friendships way beyond the boundaries of Woodstock.

Want to hear some great music (or share your own) without having to leave the comfort of your home? Then our Every Saturday Virtual Open Mic is the answer!


Every Saturday Open Mic — What Is It?

Every Saturday, Off Square Music hosts a virtual open mic featuring the great artists in our community. We typically feature six-eight people every week. Each person performs two songs or a ten-minute set (whichever is less). Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the music starts at 7:00 pm, usually running until 8:15 or 8:30 pm. People are welcome to hang out and chat after the music.

How to Participate 

If you are already on the Off Square Music mailing list, you don’t have to do a thing. If you would like to join our mailing list then visit our website and sign yourself up with the short form in the left column of every page of the site. You will receive a weekly reminder email with the link to join “Every Saturday.” We record these sessions, so you will also receive a followup email with a link to the recording so you can enjoy the evening all over again!

How to Perform

If you’d like to perform at one of our virtual open mics or any of our other music events, please get in touch with Andy Andrick at aandrick28@yahoo.com.

We love our performers and want to promote and support you in the best way possible in all our venues. We now have a form to gather information about each performer — how to contact you, some background, type of music, sound needs (for live events), and sources for promotional material (website, YouTube, etc). Please take this next step, and fill in and submit this form:

We will connect with you as soon as possible to coordinate the details of your performance. While you’re waiting to hear back from us, be sure to read the instructions below so we can see and hear you clearly.

Performers: How to Ensure Good Audio and Video

There are three key factors to get better audio/video quality for Zoom…

  1. Hardware (a USB microphone and a decent webcam)
  2. Zoom audio/video settings (Original sound, etc.)
  3. Internet connection (a good, strong wireless signal, or a hardwired ethernet connection)

Let’s take a look at each of these in detail…

Hardware Recommendations – Audio

The microphones built into most computers are terrible. A USB microphone (available for around $30 on Amazon) provides vastly improved audio if set up properly.

Here’s one example of a decent USB microphone that won’t break the bank. For other options, just go to Amazon, search for “USB microphone” and look for the products with the highest ratings.

A multi-channel USB audio interface (starting at around $70) is helpful but not required. An interface allows you to control the audio level for your mic(s) separately from your instrument(s). Here’s one example of a fairly affordable unit. For other options, go to Amazon and search for “USB audio interface.” Again, look for the highest ratings.

Performers should use headphones if possible so that Original Sound (explained below) will not cause feedback and echoes. Many options are available for headphones, so choose whatever works best for you. As one example, here’s a fairly good set of over-the-ear headphones from Audio Technica.

Hardware Recommendations – Video

Just like the microphones built into most computers, built-in cameras leave a lot to be desired. Granted, video isn’t as important as audio for an open mic, but if you want everyone to see a clear, crisp image, you may want to consider using a separate USB webcam. The Logitech C920X is a great option at an affordable price. All you need to do is plug it into your USB port and select it as your active camera in Zoom. Nothing to install or configure.

Zoom Audio/Video Settings

The default settings in Zoom use automatic background noise cancellation. This is good for meetings where you want to filter out any background noise in the room. But it’s not so good when you’re playing music because Zoom mistakes certain parts of your audio as background noise (especially something like acoustic guitar playing).

To get the best audio quality, we need to change some settings. These changes ONLY apply to performers. Listeners do not need to change anything.

Go to your Zoom Preferences and go to the Audio tab. On that screen, there are three settings to change:

  1. Make sure the checkbox for “Automatically adjust microphone volume” is unchecked. This allows you to manually control your input level as needed.
  2. Under “Music and Professional Audio,” check the box for “Show in-meeting option to enable Original Sound“.
  3. In the same section, also check the box for “High-fidelity music mode“.

Refer to the screenshot below for a reference, but note that this screen layout may change from time to time as Zoom updates their software.

After changing these settings, performers should record themselves in a Zoom session prior to the open mic so they can check their own audio quality and sound level before performing. Just start your own Zoom meeting and record it to your local computer. Then you can play it back and see how it sounds.


Internet Connection

Even if you do everything above, if you don’t have a good Internet connection, the results will be poor. The reason for this is that transmitting audio and video takes a lot of bandwidth. If your Internet connection struggles to keep up, Zoom responds by compressing your incoming data. The result is that both audio and video quality drop significantly. If it gets bad enough, the audio stops entirely and the video freezes.

Therefore, in addition to having the right audio/video hardware, it’s important to make sure your Internet connection is strong. Even if your connection seems fine for normal web browsing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will perform well for an open mic. If you can plug in an ethernet cable and bypass your wifi, that’s usually preferable. If you use wifi, get as close to your wifi router as possible.

To check the performance of your Internet connection, head over to https://www.speedtest.net/ and run a test (it’s free to use). After the test finishes, you’ll get three values:

  • Ping (ms) represents the latency of your connection. You want that to be around 25ms or less.
  • Download (Mbps) represents your download speed. It should be at least 5-10 Mbps, but this one is less important than the third setting.
  • Upload (Mbps) represents your upload speed, and this is the one that will most impact the quality of the audio and video you send during the open mic. You’ll want this to be at least 2 or 3 Mbps, but higher is better.

Last But Not Least

If you are performing at an open mic, we like to do sound checks before we begin. Doors open at 6:30 pm, but we don’t begin until 7:00 pm, so try to come early, before performance time, so we can make certain you’re comfortable, and all sounds good.

We look forward to seeing you at these wonderful evenings, Every Saturday Virtual Open Mic.

November 12 Stage Left Open Mic | Features Montana Suede & The Lonely Strings Band

Montana Suede & The Lonely Strings Band, a a classic country folk band with a refreshing new sound, are the featured performers at the Stage Left Open Mic Nov. 12.

Our November 12 Stage Left Open Mic features Montana Suede & The Lonely Strings Band.

Montana Suede is a 24 year old Country/ Folk artist from Wonder Lake, Illinois. Singer, songwriter, performer, and story teller, Montana’s somber melodies and percussive instrumentals remind you of a time that has long since passed. Nostalgic in nature, and picturesque in practice. Following his debut single, “Talking to Ghosts,” Suede’s long awaited EP, “Basement Hymns For a Penthouse Sinner,” is set to release November 13th, 2021.

Montana Suede performs with The Lonely Strings Band, “a classic country folk band with a refreshing new sound.” ~ Clay Mutert

About Stage Left Open Mics

Stage Left Open Mics are held on the 2nd Friday of every month from 7 – 11 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square.

Off Square Music invites musicians, singers, poets and other performers to participate in the Open Mic Nights. Whether you’re just starting out as a performer or are a seasoned veteran, Open Mic Night offers a supportive atmosphere with an exceptional performance space and sound system.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL PERFORMERS AND ATTENDEES: Please review new COVID-19 Guidlines provided by the Opera House for Off Square Music events held at Stage Left Cafe.

Would You Like to Perform?

Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.
Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.

Performing slots are 15 minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. In addition, there will be a featured performer taking the stage for a 30-minute set.

As we get underway with live events, be sure you’re on our email list for information about all our upcoming events! Sign up in the left column of any page on the site. Send your music-loving friends and family to sign up too.

You don’t have to perform to enjoy Open Mic Nights. Just come on out for the live music and Woodstock’s charming atmosphere. Off Square requests a $5.00/pp donation to support our many music activities, including Open Mic Nights.

To sign up to perform, email Mike Breen at offsquaremusic@gmail.com, Subject: Stage Left Open Mics. If you stop by an Open Mic Night early in the evening, there might even be an available slot that same night.

Upcoming Dates

Upcoming Open Mic nights are: Featured Performer

  • November 12 – Montana Suede & The Lonely Strings Band
  • December 10

Off Square Music Stage Left Open Mics are moving to second Wednesdays. Watch for upcoming dates!

If you would like to contribute to Off Square Music, please use the Donate Button in the left column of any page on our site, https://offsquaremusic.org/. We look forward to seeing you at this month’s Stage Left Open Mic.

Guyz With Bad Eyez | Stage Left Open Mic | October 8 Feature

Guyz With Bad Eyez - Merv Collins has dazzled audiences with his masterful fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Don Humbertson adds soaring vocals and great guitar playing. Together they are Guyz With Bad Eyez.

Guyz With Bad Eyez is the Stage Left Open Mic feature for October 8.

Merv Collins dazzles audiences with his masterful fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Don Humbertson adds soaring vocals and great guitar playing. Together they are Guyz With Bad Eyez.

Stage Left Open Mics are held on the 2nd Friday of every month from 7 – 11 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square.

Off Square Music invites musicians, singers, poets and other performers to participate in the Open Mic Nights. Whether you’re just starting out as a performer or are a seasoned veteran, Open Mic Night offers a supportive atmosphere with an exceptional performance space and sound system.

Would You Like to Perform?

Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.
Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.

Performing slots are 15 minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. In addition, there will be a featured performer taking the stage for a 30-minute set.

As we get underway with live events, be sure you’re on our email list for information about all our upcoming events! Sign up in the left column of any page on the site. Send your music-loving friends and family to sign up too.

You don’t have to perform to enjoy Open Mic Nights. Just come on out for the live music and Woodstock’s charming atmosphere. Off Square requests a $5.00/pp donation to support our many music activities, including Open Mic Nights.

To sign up to perform, email Mike Breen at offsquaremusic@gmail.com, Subject: Stage Left Open Mics. If you stop by an Open Mic Night early in the evening, there might even be an available slot that same night.

Upcoming Dates

Off Square Music acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
Off Square Music acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Upcoming Open Mic nights are: Featured Performer

  • October 8 – Guyz With Bad Eyez
  • November 12
  • December 10

If you would like to contribute to Off Square Music, please use the Donate Button in the left column of any page on our site, https://offsquaremusic.org/. We look forward to seeing you at this month’s Stage Left Open Mic.

Stephen Schuch | Stage Left Open Mic | September 10th Feature

Stephen Schuch is the featured performer for the Stage Left Open Mic, September 10, starting 7pm.

Stephen Schuch is the Stage Left Open Mic featured performer for September 10.

Stephen brings a wide variety of sounds and moods to each performance, hoping to make you feel the music. With pop tunes, folk, blues, R&B and jazz, there’s certainly something for everyone to enjoy who comes to listen.

Stage Left Open Mics are held on the 2nd Friday of every month from 7 – 11 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square.

Off Square Music invites musicians, singers, poets and other performers to participate in the Open Mic Nights. Whether you’re just starting out as a performer or are a seasoned veteran, Open Mic Night offers a supportive atmosphere with an exceptional performance space and sound system.

Would You Like to Perform?

Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.
Stage Left Open Mics meet second Friday of every month, Woodstock, Illinois.

Performing slots are 15 minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. In addition, there will be a featured performer taking the stage for a 30-minute set.

As we get underway with live events, be sure you’re on our email list for information about all our upcoming events! Sign up in the left column of any page on the site. Send your music-loving friends and family to sign up too.

You don’t have to perform to enjoy Open Mic Nights. Just come on out for the live music and Woodstock’s charming atmosphere. Off Square requests a $5.00/pp donation to support our many music activities, including Open Mic Nights.

To sign up to perform, email Mike Breen at offsquaremusic@gmail.com, Subject: Stage Left Open Mics. If you stop by an Open Mic Night early in the evening, there might even be an available slot that same night.

Upcoming Dates

Upcoming Open Mic nights are:

  • September 10 – Stephen Schuch Featured Performer
  • October 8
  • November 12

If you would like to contribute to Off Square Music, please use the Donate button in the left column of every page of this site. We look forward to seeing you in September.

Sundays On The Square presents …

August 1, 2021

Dave Ramont 5-6PM

Robin & Jenny Bienemann 6-7PM

Dave Ramont 5-6PM; Robin & Jenny Bienemann 6-7PM