By Madeleine Edwards ‘18
On Thursday, Sept. 10, The Motley Coffeehouse opened its doors for the fall semester while hosting jazz singer Melanie JB Charles. Featuring live music from the Brooklyn-native, the opening kicked off a new year for the new Motley team. The Motley opened at 8pm Thursday and Charles performed from 8:30 to 9:30pm. Doors remained open until midnight. The theme was “A Walk Through the Woods” this year inspiring baristas to dress as woodland animals.
The 10-woman managerial team of the Motley worked behind the bar as Charles performed. Head Manager Becca Shope ‘16, costumed as a deer, described her hopes for The Motley’s impact on the Scripps community this year.
“One of the really big things that we’re excited about this semester is increasing our level of engagement with the political and social issues that are in the Claremont area,” Shope said. “We’re really looking forward to hearing from the community and within our staff, trying to understand the implications of our business and whether or not we are really the inclusive space that we’re trying to be.”
The staff are promoting the coffeehouse as a place for club meetings and events as much as it is a study space.
Emilie Fisher ’16, a Barista Lead said, “[The Motley] gets a rap for being a hipster indie-pop quiet study space where everyone’s drinking their fair trade coffee and working on their homework, but it’s a community space. It’s for you and it’s for the community. It’s not for one particular sub-set of the student body. I think my two best decisions in life so far has been coming to Scripps and working at The Motley. Working [here] makes me feel so loved and cared for.”
Similar sentiments were reflected by other staff members.
Returning barista Carmen Abbe ‘18 said, “It think it’s cool that the opening night is such a big thing… I always feel lots of Scripps love at this event… I think I’m a really social person and it’s just such a social and community space. I always run into people I might not otherwise at The Motley. There’s so much camaraderie with all the baristas behind the bar and it just feels really good to be a part of a community in that way.”
Dominique Lee ’18, a returning patron, said, “I love The Motley because I love doing work to the sound of grinding coffee beans and steaming milk. Motley gives you the perfect atmosphere… I find myself [here] at least four or five times a day.”
Customers and staff had some pro-tips for first-years and other new students.
Abbe said, “The art to getting a Motley table is tricky! Especially during big study times like in the evening. Don’t be afraid to sit with someone, and when you see someone starting to pack-up, be ready!”
Fisher said, “If you get an iced coffee, iced tea, or a hot coffee or tea, all of those will be made for you right at the register and so you don’t have to have your cup put in the line. Including coffee and tea with syrup!”
Shope said, “The selection we have on our menu can be really overwhelming and all of our baristas are really well prepared to answer any questions you may have about that and they love that sort of question.”
Finally, Lee said, “If you can’t find a seat, you can always just ask to sit down with someone, or if not, just lie out on the stage!”
Charles meanwhile with her mic, flute, guitar and laptop on the stage, sang for an hour during the opening.
According to Charles, regarding her artistic style, “I sing jazz, soul, I grew up in the church so I sing gospel, and I studied opera. In high school I wasn’t a vocal major, I was a flute major. I act as well. I studied dance. I just kind of use everything that I have to express myself. It’s my arsenal of expression.”
Emilie Fisher ’16, a Barista Lead, said, “This is why I’ve come tonight. I don’t think I’ll even make it through the drink line. She has such a soulful, powerful, jazzy, bluesy voice.”
The performer and artist has only been in L.A. for a month. “I was born and raised in Brooklyn and I was always singing and doing community stuff. In school I was always the singing girl. And then I went to La Guardia high school (like the “Fame” school) in New York and then I went to the New School for Jazz. While I was studying, I was really lucky to tour and open for John Legend and Maxwell and all those people. I was singing backup for Laura Izibor…” (here she starts singing Izibor’s 2009 hit “Shine”), “with her we did a world tour… Tonight was awesome. The vibes and the energy were really cool. Like I said, I’m from New York and I’ve been out here for a month. Right now what I’m working on is creating and making more art and expressing myself more consciously.”
Charles’ first impressions of The Motley were powerful. “This is my first time [at The Motley] and I didn’t really know much, to be honest. My friend just contacted me like, ‘hey, there’s this cool coffee spot on the campus, they’re doing an opening night there’… there wasn’t much detail and as the date approached I thought, okay, let me do some research on this place— and I absolutely fell in love. Like I said during the show, I’m kind of ignorant about feminism. I haven’t done much reading, I don’t know the important pillars or women that we all should know, but I feel connected to that idea and that way of life. I was just really happy to find myself in a space where there are women and men that are knowledgeable about this. Tonight is like an introduction to that for me, so coming here was more than just ‘okay, I’m gonna sing for these people’.”
Connect with Melanie Charles:
Facebook: Melanie JB Charles