For Kenneth Gartman — whether he’s leading cabaret workshops, giving voice lessons, directing church choirs, or running an open mic night, like he will do in Norwalk this weekend — it’s all about finding your voice.

“I’ve taught music all of my life to some degree,” said the singer-pianist, who is also a cabaret award-nominated performer. “It’s a very personal thing, sharing your heart with people. But I find that if you create art, and you don’t share it with anybody, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

That was one of Gartman’s inspirations for starting Open Mic nights at the Unity Center of Norwalk over five years ago. The church’s monthly series makes its first installment of the New Year at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 19.

“It can be terrifying for so many people to have an opportunity to share their talents. Providing a place where people can feel comfortable sharing is ideal. It helps people find their voice in a very interesting way,” said Gartman, “and that can expand into the rest of their lives. It’s that aspect of it that I really love.”

Gartman’s own stage credits include roles in off-Broadway, New York Music Theatre, and National Broadway touring productions. He is also the producer and booking manager for B.J. Ryan’s Magnolia Room in Norwalk.

At the Unity Center of Norwalk, on the second floor of 3 Main St. above McMahon Ford, open mics take place the third Saturday of the month. Gartman serves as host and pianist and does an opening and closing number. He’ll also accompany open mic performers, if needed, as long they provide at least a lead sheet.

“Give me dots on a page or chord charts, and I’m fine,” Gartman said.

He brings in a featured artist every month, who does a set of three songs in the middle of the program. The featured act this weekend is cabaret veteran Leslie Orafino, who has appeared across the country from the legendary Algonquin’s Oak Room in New York to Napa Valley’s Silverado Country Club.

“I bring in people from New York who have been in Broadway shows or are recording artists, friends of mine, to be the special guests,” he said. “I find that makes it a little more of a show and gives it a little more grounding. The headliners are pros. They know how to get up there and deliver it. And what that does is raise the bar with everybody else.”

Gartman started the open mic series in June 2013.

“We had a lot of people who really just loved to perform, who went to the church. And I knew people in the area who were performers, and I thought it would be a great outlet,” he said. “It gives a lot of people an opportunity to perform, or do whatever it is they do.”

A wide array of performance styles has provided the entertainment over the years.

“We have a crazy variety of stuff,” he said. “We have a few guys who are regulars, who sang in tons of cover bands in the ’80s and ’90s and used to tour all over. They’re older guys now, but they love to sing. We have a lot of singer-songwriters, some are folk-like and some feature the American songbook classic material. We have spoken word, original poetry, story tellers, and comedians.”

And it tends to be an all-age crowd.

“One talented young singer named Liv Benjamin started coming here when she was 13, and she’s now a senior at Wilton High School. The first time she ever sang, it was amazing and wonderful. Another family came with their daughter who was 14, and she would sing with her dad, then she would sing by herself, and now she’s in college,” he said.

Sign up is at 6:30 p.m. All the performers do one song or do a spoken-word performance, poetry recital, or comedy with the same length of time in mind.

After sign up, Gartman organizes the evening’s proceedings.

“I sit down with the list, and I make sure I know what people are singing. If I know it’s up-tempo, I try not to have five ballads in a row,” he said. “I put it into an order that seems to make sense and create some sort of show. We’ve got some amazing talent.”

Open Mic admission is $10, which includes a two-for-one drink special at the B.J. Ryan’s Banc House following the event. Call (203) 855-7922.

Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at news2mh@gmail.com.