Artist Spotlight: Jesselyn Leach
THREE RIVERS — On the first Thursday of each month Lowry’s Books hosts an open mic night, bringing poetry, music and other artistic expression to downtown Three Rivers.
The open mics have a traditional sign-up sheet and are open to anyone interested but usually the event also includes at least one featured artist. June’s featured artists were Jesselyn Leach and Nicholas Baxter.
Leach is described as “a spoken-word poet, hand percussionist, and light warrior.” She has “decades of music in her bloodline,” and “carries with her generations of creativity and rhythm.” According to her bio, Leach “works to live into her truth by sharing stories of hope & hardship through her poetry, and spreading a little more love into each person she connects with.”
Baxter — also known as “Nick the Drummer” — is “a self-taught left handed multi-instrumentalist born with music in his blood.”
According to Baxter’s bio, “he synthesizes years of community leadership, activism, youth mentoring, public service, organizational development and hundreds of interactions with musicians, artists, storytellers and global citizens into an eclectic blend of sounds and rhythms to soothe hearts, activate minds and encourage hands to continue building a better world.”
Leach, who was kind enough to agree to an interview with the Commercial-News prior to her performance on June 6, said she has been performing for the better part of the last six years.
“I have been writing and performing for six years now. I started writing when I began working with a non-profit, Speak it Forward Inc., and discovering that I had stories and pain in need of processing,” Leach said. “Writing poetry has been a tool for understanding some of that pain, and performing poetry is the brave act to honor that pain.
“Because as a child, I often felt silenced so when I grew up, I felt like my voice didn’t matter — unworthy of being listened to. Performing poetry is the way I counteract that feeling of being unworthy.”
Leach said she uses poetry as a way to process and better understand hardships she’s faced throughout her life.
“I learned how to use spoken-word poetry as a tool to lean into the difficult moments in my life and honor them,” she said. “I think often it is easy to distract ourselves when we’re hurting or healing, and writing/performing is my way to show up bravely for myself and be present with hardships.”
During a performance Leach often uses a box-shaped percussion instrument called a cajon, which she says is her most prized possession.
“I have a very loyal cajon that my friends call ‘the box’ and it is truly my most treasured possession,” she said. “I bought it on a whim and it began my journey of playing around with sounds to convey emotion. So it’s a way of still processing when I can’t find the words to process — if that makes sense?”
Leach attempts to convey and accomplish a number of things during a performance, including working to become “light warrior.”
“To me, a light warrior is someone who has experienced darkness within themselves, within others, and within the world, and chooses to do the work necessary to not let that darkness overcome them,” she said. “Someone who chooses to find their light and live within it, for themselves and for others. And I’m not sure if I’m truly a light-warrior, but I am working to live into my definition of one.”
Ultimately with each performance Leach hopes to connect with her audience and be present.
“I hope to just slow down and connect with everyone there. To offer an opportunity to be present and connect with each other and ourselves. I hope to be an example that hope and hurt can exist in the same moment, and both are worthy of our attention.”
Alek Frost can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.