Seeking the Muse

Christof Neunsinger warming up during soundcheck. Photo: Keels Mad

I’m only in my first year at FAU, but everyone I spoke to seemed shocked that this week was my first time hearing about the Musenhappen. I’ve learned now, from organizer Sina Pietrucha, that the Musenhappen has become a beloved tradition in the student community, having celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Each semester, once in Erlangen and once in Nuremburg, students with talent in the performing arts are invited to a showcase of their abilities, featuring a much-anticipated “pause” for free snacks in the middle.

I’m the sort of person who is always trying to work on one artistic hobby or another; but it’s easy for me during the semester to get caught up in schoolwork and forget about “seeking the muse” as it were. Attending the Musenhappchen was exactly what I needed to remind me of the things that I loved.

You’ll likely be able to find an official rundown of the night’s events elsewhere, but I hope to offer my personal impressions plus some insight I gained from chatting with some of the performers.

One of the highlights of the production for me was Christof Neunsinger, a pianist who specializes in unique and complex arrangements of popular songs. He was doing his soundcheck as I approached the Studentenhaus that night, and the delicate arpeggios of the piano immediately transported my heart and mind to another world. Neunsinger, an economics student, has amazingly only been playing for four years and has never had a lesson! He also performs at hotels, weddings, and other events, and you should definitely check out his Soundcloud.

The Musenhappen appear some kind of formal. Photo: Keels Mad

Another highlight for me was Dorothea Kaiser, who, in the sea of musicians, dared to be different by reading a short story. I was at first disappointed by this turn of events, since my German skills are not exactly impressive. But suddenly, as if reading my mind, Kaiser switched into English. Her story “Long Island Nights” was a fascinating experiment with inner monologue, as her narration moved back and forth between the two languages to mirror the character’s own thought processes. The character, seemingly a version of Kaiser herself, tended to think in English when she was speaking to someone in English. Very cool.

A significant foreign presence lit up the stage as well. There was powerhouse vocalist Alla Smertina from Russia, who bravely belted out the notoriously difficult “Let It Go” from Frozen, better than Idina Menzel herself! Smertina, who came to Germany to study Intercultural Communication but hopes for a professional music career (and deserves one!), told me she would love to perform again at subsequent Musenhappen events, due to the warm and supportive audience, as well as the high caliber of fellow performers. In case you missed your chance to hear her sing, give her a listen.

From Russia to the other side of the world: also performing was singer-songwriter Carlos Silva Segovia from Venezuela. Unlike Smertina who was making her Musenhappen debut, Segovia is a veteran, having now performed at four different Mussenhappen events. Segovia, who recently moved from Berlin to Erlangen, has been a musician for fifteen years. He told me he enjoys performing for the opportunity to have people identify with his songs while sharing in a positive energy.

When I read the description of the event, “a student culture series with snacks!”, I imagined something a little less formal than the perfect rows of chairs lined up before the elegant grand piano. Based on the influx of students who trickled in to shuffle around in the back of the room sometime during the fifth or sixth performer of the night, just in time for the food, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who had that idea!

Indeed, one of the night’s performers later told me he envisions the event evolving into a chair-less, festival-style atmosphere, which I think could be excellent. In fact, the art that I’ve personally been practicing lately is watercolor painting, and I cracked myself up imagining standing in front of that perfectly ordered crowd just holding up a picture and going “Ta-da!” A more free-flowing event with movement and various focal-points could offer more opportunities for visual artists to be displayed as well.

But as for me, the performers themselves definitely served as my muses: I went home, busted out the old guitar, and completed a new song by the end of the night. Perhaps I’ll even give it a go at the next Musenhappen! Thanks to all the performers for being so inspirational!

For more information on this or other events put on by Studentenwerk, you can contact Sina Pietrucha or Claudia Mueller or visit

Keels Mad