The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic – March 12, 2021

On March 12th, a beautiful evening in Highlands NJ, the areas most talented musical youth came out to show their stuff at The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic presented by The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation (everyone’s “Favorite Friday Night of the Month”).

   The event is hosted by board member and coordinator Joseph Vincent Riggio and it continues to be an incredible night of friendship, fun and music.  He started a hashtag associated with the event #toomuchtalentinoneroom a few years back and this night proved it in spades!  The stage and lights were set and greeting commenced as the (35% capacity, COVID distanced) house began to fill and, since the weather was just fine, spilled out onto the patio of JSJBF member venue The Chubby Pickle who continues its support as the events temporary home until The Women’s Club of Red Bank is ready to host live events again at the Anthony Reckless Estate.

    First up was Abby Penny a 13 year old well known to the event who showed up this night with a bunch of back singers! Her voice has a sweet tone and is well suited for ballads of all kinds.  She opened with “Closer to the Sun” by Slightly Stoopid on ukulele with help from her high energy glee club of friends including Sabrina who backed her again a guitar version of Rhianna’s “Stand Tall”.  She then did the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams” with Sabrina and Janin.  Completing the multi-instrumental trifecta she then backed Janin once again on keys on Ruth B.’s “Lost Boy” this time she provided the backing harmony to Janin’s lead.  Sabrina then did a Karaoke performance of another Fleetwood Mac classic while the glee club live streamed her from every angle. All and all it was a great mini set to start the evening leaving the patrons and regular fans curious to see what the rest of the night had in store.

       Then came MAST Junior April Lynn back to the CP stage fresh off her all ages showcase opening set a few weeks back on Feb. 20th.  She continues to impress with her deep bench of songs from multiple genres and decades. She hit everyone with new three song she just added to her repertoire, expertly executed. “La Vie En Rose”, “Trouble Maker”, and “Attention” by Emily Watts, Olly Murrs, and Charlie Puth respectively showing her musical flexibility. You should catch her regular gigs at Burlew’s in Keyport every other Thursday and Sunday early evenings.

     Next up was 2019 JSJBF Scholarship Award Winner Jessie Roberts promoting her upcoming April 10th set scheduled right back at The Pickle.  She ironically opened with a cool acoustic version of the Britney Spears Pop-Bop “Toxic”. She then floored the crowd with a slick finger picked version of “Cherry Wine” by Hozier leaving the stage to a roar of applause and a promise to play that one again on April 10th, don’t miss it she hits the stage at 6pm sharp.

    Eleven year old powerhouse vocalist/keyboardist (and Drummer) Maddie Freeman then stepped up. She wowed everyone in attendance (including her drum instructor and huge supporter of the local young musician scene Chris Russo from “Shady Street Show Band” whose band T she was sporting) with her vocal tone and strength on her opener Journey’s mega classic “Separate Ways”.  She then continued to impress with her Miley Cyrus version of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass” and the Bungles classic “Video Killed the Radio Star”.  As she exited the stage, to much applause, a newcomer to the event asked Riggio “Is she really 11!?!” We swear she is, and we are eager to continue to help foster and track her musical and personal growth.

    The ever smiling Lexie LaPlante returned to the event after a few month hiatus. She proudly christened her brand new Taylor guitar she earned with the money and hard work she has put in on gigging the last few years. It sounded absolutely beautiful in her hands on the three she shared with everyone – “Vinyl” by Kira Kosari, “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s, and “Club” by Kelsea Ballerina. She decide to name her new ax while on the stage (after Riggio’s prompting) “Pickles”.

    Thomas W. Hagan returned sporting a “Big Guy” ball cap, referring to his recently released ukulele single of the same name, but did not play that one this time around. Instead he closed with another very catchy original on guitar “Simple Thoughts” preceded by “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers and “Falling” by Harry Styles.

    Chubby Pickle stage veteran and crowd fav Justin Coughlin was up next confessing he has become recently obsessed with the concept album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by indie “legends” Neutral Milk Hotel (BTW you should too).  He performed two cuts from that work the title track and “Holland, 1945” before closing with one of his all-time favorites “American Girl” by the legendary Tom Petty.

     Next up was 16 year old Keyport Junior Eve sporting a new hair color, Pink, covered mostly by her denim bucket hat.  Proving her musical taste is as fluid and diverse as her style, she performed unique versions of an eclectic three song set consisting of “Baby one More Time” by Brittany Spears, “Only You” by Savage and “Glittr” by ALDN.

    JSJSB 2020 Mark LaRochelle Scholarship Award winner Ruby Riggio performed and showed a noticed increased power and tone in her voice this time around. Accompanying herself, as always, with her ukulele. Her newly developed hybrid percussive strumming/multi-fingered picking style shined strongly as well on her showcased trio of tunes. She sandwiched “Sabrina Carpenter’s “Eyes Wide Open” with “Hometown” by Twenty One Pilots and “Song Cry” by August Alsina.

    Sixteen year Mellissa LaRochelle is a staple at the event, the open mic bears her late fathers’ name in memorial, he being the founder and conceptualizer of the event. She continues to spend a lot of her quarantine time building her musical chops and she dedicated her last song “Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran to his memory as she does every March open mic commemorating the month we lost him after a long courageous battel to a rare form of cancer. The JSJBF is proud to continue this event in his honor and may Mark rest in eternal peace.

     Next scheduled for April March. 16th The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic is presented by the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation one Friday night a month providing the musical youth community a forum to perform in a fun, supportive, friendly and inviting environment. Usually at the Red Bank Women’s Club in the Anthony Reckless Estate in Red Bank NJ, but due to current restrictions our new temporary home is graciously provided by venue member The Chubby Pickle at 23 Bay Ave., Highlands New Jersey.

Sign up sheet available at 6:30 PM 

Music happens from 7 PM – 10 PM 

$5 Donation to perform or attend Under 21 to perform 

All ages welcome to enjoy

Full backline provided    

(Musicians bring instruments and pedals)                                      

Music not limited to Jazz and Blues 

For further information contact 

Joseph Vincent Riggio at          


Like us on Facebook at:

And follow us on Instagram at: