What I Learned From AcoustiCafé

Author: Hailey Oppenlander


People always say that college is the time to try new things. The start of my junior year propelled me into the typical mid-college crisis: I realized that I was more than halfway done with my time at Notre Dame, and that the opportunities for doing new things and going outside my comfort zone were quickly dwindling. So, to combat this college-is-halfway-over gloom, one of my friends and I decided to sign up for AcoustiCafé together.

Every Thursday night, the Student Union Board hosts AcoustiCafé, an event for student musicians. Anyone can sign up for a 30-minute set - polished performers and amateur artists alike. You can perform solo, or with friends if you’re aiming to wow the audience with stunning harmonies. Although AcoustiCafé used to take place in Duncan Student Center, this year it’s been held on Library Lawn, which I must say fits the vibe even better. Outside among the fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and string lights twinkling in the night sky, the intimate setting almost makes you forget that you’re on a college campus. 

Although I enjoyed watching friends and classmates share their artistry at AcoustiCafé, I never thought I would find myself on that stage. I’ve always loved singing and I took piano lessons when I was younger, but I had never played piano and sang simultaneously in front of anyone. To prepare for our performance, I practiced our setlist every night, at first motivated by the fear that I’d mess up and look foolish onstage. Soon, my practice sessions grew into sources of enjoyment rather than stress. I found myself lingering at my dorm’s piano a little longer than I needed to, craving the time where I could express myself by doing something I loved.

When the night of our performance finally arrived, I was so touched to see all our friends who showed up to cheer us on, and all my high school friends and family who were able to watch via livestream (perhaps the only good thing to come out of COVID). Although the performance went by in a blur, it was one of my favorite experiences of the semester.

AcoustiCafé taught me that when it comes to music, the value isn’t always in the perfection of the end product, or trying to judge how you perform compared to others. It’s okay if you mess up! What makes AcoustiCafé so special is that it’s all about sharing art and emotion with the people around you.

Over the winter break, I’ve been learning to play new songs, because AcoustiCafé made me realize how much I love - and need - music. (I sincerely apologize to my mom and brother, who have heard me practicing drivers license and champagne problems about a zillion times now). By performing at AcoustiCafé, I learned that sometimes, trying new things can help you re-discover something that you already loved.