Published in the December 26 – January 8, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Reina Carrillo and some of her many friends at the last Open Mic Night.

The Morgan Hill music community suffered a setback when GVA owner Reina Carrillo announced they are canceling all music and turning the music studio room next door into a retail outlet. GVA has been a pillar of live music for close to six years. They have had local and regional bands of all styles and national acts. They have had musical workshops, paint nights, receptions, private events and of course the Open Mic Night, their biggest night of the week.

Every Wednesday for the past five and a half years Chris & Friends Open Mic Night grew to become one of the best open mic events in the South Valley. Chris O’Connor, an accomplished musician and singer-songwriter created a local music scene where musicians of all levels could play and mix and mingle, and learn to increase their confidence levels week after week. Many musicians made GVA their go-to place to perform and enjoy a weekly night of camaraderie, sip coffee, have a cocktail and eat sandwiches, salads and taste the many flavors of gelato.

I have been a regular there since the beginning, using the GVA stage as a place to try new songs to see how audiences would react to my offerings. I have made many strong musical bonds and grew to love my GVA family.

Chris stepped back to summarize the experience in an email to all his “friends” after announcing the final open mic would be Dec. 12.

“There have been players that experienced public performance for their first time and there have been traveling musicians and itinerant musicians alike that have stopped in while on tour to treat us to their super talents,” O’Connor said. “We have had keyboardists, harpists and accordionists, ukulele players, flutists, conga players, bongo and exotic hand drum players, harmonica players, mandolin players, bassists and guitarists to free their souls. We have had great song writers and excellent interpreters of already written pieces taking these songs to the greatest heights.”

O’Connor said it was overwhelming to think back to the days when the open mic nights started.

“I was inspired by my good friends and I began this thing at GVA with the selfish hopes that I could play and develop performances of my growing catalog of compositions,” he said. “My hopes were sideswiped by the wonder of hearing, seeing, enjoying, and supporting others that share the same passion for music as I do. What a great surprise to find that I had more care in other people’s journey than my own. This was a revelation that helped me grow as a person. That inspiration became only one layer of the onion skin as I then came to know Renee a bit more and was astounded to find this lovely lady who does not play an instrument or even sing, yet she invests more energy, time, blood, sweat and soul into live music than I thought possible of a non-musician.”

As a musician and friend, I must say Renee is special and generous in so many ways and I encourage you all to support her café and catering company and continue to make GVA Café the centerpiece of Morgan Hill’s downtown scene.

Thanks to everyone who has been touched by the magic of Chris & Friends. I look forward to announcing the next chapter of South Valley’s open mic scene as it unfolds.

Got a music tip? Send it to harmonicaman1@yahoo.com.