Students participate in an open mic night at United Wesley. Photo: Sydney Billings/University of Miami
By Christian Rosa
There is a hidden gem at the University of Miami’s Coral Gables Campus. 
Located on Stanford Drive, across the street from the Mahoney Pearson Residential College, is a historic building that is home to live music and large crowds. United Wesley of Miami, the campus ministry of the United Methodist Church, is a residential church that offers worship, service, and hosts events throughout the semester that engages participants and fosters community. 
A part of the University since the 1940s, United Wesley of Miami knows what draws a crowd and how to create a welcoming space for a variety of individuals. One of their events that has stood the test of time for three decades is Coffee House, a student-run event that hosts musical and theatrical talent from the University community. 
Occurring every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., attendees can expect an event that offers a variety of snacks, no shortage of musical talent, and, of course, coffee. Having access to both an indoor and outdoor stage, the show continues regardless of the weather. 
The show kicks off with a student headliner performing a combination of cover pieces and original songs. Past main acts included performances from student groups such as Nuclear Monkey, Rug, and Pulp Love. Following the main act, students can participate in an open mic, which is not limited to just singing. Past open-mic entertainers have included spoken word artists, a solo bagpipe player, and last-minute jam sessions from brave audience members. 
Coffee House has its fair share of veterans who know what it takes to roll with the punches and piece together a new production each week. One of those people is Alita Irigoyen. Serving as the office manager for United Wesley of Miami, Irigoyen has access to archives illustrating the event’s humble beginnings and where it is today. 
“If you go back 30 years, Coffee House was a brainchild of the pastor at the time and the Wesley residents who wanted a weekly outreach event that could be the bridge between ministry and the student body,” she said. 
More recently, Coffee House increased in popularity as an event students could attend when indoor activities were limited. Irigoyen emphasized that the show has occurred every week, no matter what. And the outside venue was a key component for increasing attendance. The atmosphere “lets anyone who wants their talent to shine to come out and do that,” Irigoyen shared. “The audience is always gracious, very motivating, and enthusiastic.” 
A key member of the production crew is Veronica Geoghegan, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. She serves as the show’s emcee and helps to set up and break down the event each night. 
“I actually lived in Mahoney my freshman year and saw Coffee House from my dorm room,” she said. “ Turns out, some of my friends were already getting involved there, so I decided to as well.” 
With plenty of experience in musical theater, Geoghegan found her niche in front of a crowd and was able to rekindle a passion she had not engaged in since grade school. 
“I did theater all throughout grade school, but as I got to college, being onstage was something that I found myself lacking in,” she said. “Then, I was introduced to Hunter, the previous emcee, and it clicked. I saw how much fun he was having working the crowd and introducing people, and I immediately knew I wanted to give it a try.” 
Geoghegan has been emceeing for several years now and is a driving force to keep energy and vibes high. 
Of course, in addition to Geoghegan, the show would not be possible without an important behind-the-scenes member controlling sound, pitch, and volume. That’s where Kamryn Charles, a senior music and technology major, has been instrumental as the sound engineer at Coffee House for almost four years. 
“James Hassell was the engineer for the show when I was a freshman, and I went with him for three weeks,” Charles said. “One day I was next to him on the soundboard, and he went to the restroom and never came back (to the soundboard). I ended up controlling the soundboard as he was hiding behind me and claimed I was a natural at it.” 
From this point, Charles kept searching for opportunities to learn and enjoyed how the Coffee House helped her achieve those goals. Before she was a sound engineer, she could recall the difference between a good and bad concert depending on the presence of a sound engineer. She mentioned that many sound engineers who have been in the music industry for decades might consider it a straightforward predictable job, but “when you try to create the best possible sound experience, you leave a lasting impression on artists, and audience members have a more enjoyable show.” 
Charles also explained important terminology and the general function of sound systems. “Microphones are plugged into systems that transfer sound to the speaker. With that connection, you can apply different effects, limits, and gain with the soundboard,” she said. This is where the artists’ and sound engineers’ talents combine to create the best possible experience. 
Her most memorable moment was the opening act of Coffee House in 2021 after the pandemic lockdown, where months of planning and outreach resulted in one of the largest turnouts with more than 100 people in attendance. 
The most recent headliner was Tucker Smith, a senior enrolled in the Frost School of Music’s modern artist development and entrepreneurship (MADE) program. Smith sang several indie/pop songs as well as performed original pieces accompanied by his acoustic guitar. His vocal range and control kept audience members engaged and singing along to some well-known songs, including Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.” 
“Coffee House was so fun and all the people there were so kind and helpful to make sure I had a good experience,” Smith said. 
“I would highly recommend to any artist at whatever level you perform. Music making is how I communicate, how I truly feel, without social formalities and keeping up with appearances. It’s really just a more refined way of expression,” said Smith, who is currently working on his senior capstone project, which will feature some original music. 
The set-up crew, sound engineer, performers, and audience members all combine their positive energy to create a welcoming and musical atmosphere every Thursday night to generate a memorable experience for students and community members alike. 
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Coffee House has several special events planned later this semester. There is a Halloween party on Sunday, Oct. 29th. In addition, there is a Chicken and Waffles event, which is offered to celebrate the end of the semester, being held on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Visit United Wesley online for more information about upcoming events and performances.
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