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Bloomington songwriters invited to perform their original works at Bear’s Place



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Artists performs at the Bloomington Songwriters Showcase in 2016 at Bear's Place. The showcase gives local artists the opportunity to perform their works in public.  IDS file photo Buy Photos

The B-town Songwriter Showcase takes place at 8 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at Bear’s Place. 

This event, which is dedicated to providing local artists the opportunity to perform their original songs, typically features three invited musicians. The goal of the showcase is to not only provide a show for the public, but also give people an outlet for people to perform.

Unlike an open mic where people can perform covers of songs, songwriter showcases are reserved specifically for original compositions. Additionally, the format differs from an open mic night because the same artists take turns performing one song at a time in a rotation system.

“Songwriters like it because people get quiet and listen,” said Suzette Weakley, the showcase’s creator. 

She said audiences like it for that reason, too.

The idea for a songwriter showcase in Bloomington began around 13 years ago when the musical duo Stella and Jane, which Weakley was a part of, began performing in them at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee.

Weakley, the “Stella” in the duo, met Bobbie Jane Lancaster while working at Weakley’s real estate agency. The two found they shared a passion for songwriting and performing. Soon after meeting, they took to the road and performed all over the country, including Texas, Indiana and Tennessee.

“It was just a real hoot,” Weakley said. “I look back now, and I appreciate it a whole lot more than I did at the time.”

After around five years of joint performances, Lancaster was unable to continue traveling, so they instead decided to bring Nashville to Bloomington. After moving, the two found there were only open mics in the area, and they wanted to try to reach an unaddressed audience in the area through a songwriter showcase.

“We decided to recreate what we saw down there, here,” Weakley said.

They started the showcase around 12 years ago at the formerly operating Players Pub. It was an immediate hit for local artists, Weakley said. 

“They didn’t really have a place to show their stuff,” Weakley said. “It filled up really quickly.”

Lancaster has since moved away from Bloomington, but Weakley still runs and promotes the showcase. Three years ago, the showcase moved to Bear’s Place, where it's still run today. Although she said the work is taxing, Weakley plans to continue the showcase for a long time.

“It means so much to so many people,” she said. “For a lot of them, I think it is a really important thing.”

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