From Mitch's house to a Folk Fest stage

·2 min read

Maggie Collins says she grew up in a Wolseley house that the late Mitch Podolak, "the guy who invented the Folk Fest," sold to her parents in 1995.

"My dad made a joke that it's kind of a full-circle moment, because now I'm performing at Folk Fest."

Collins is one of 31 individuals and groups taking part in the Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF) STINGRAY Young Performers Program (YPP) this year. She will spend a day being mentored by Manitoba singer-songwriter Del Barber—himself a YPP veteran and a 2022 festival performer—and then take to the Shady Grove stage to perform on the Friday of the festival, running from July 7 to 10.

Collins, 23, began writing music at 15 after getting a guitar for Christmas. When she started attending Kelvin High School in Grade 11 she took part in monthly Coffee House performances at the school (which included no coffee), honing her performance chops and unveiling original songs. Six of those songs made it onto her 2018 debut EP Moody, which can be found on Apple Music and Spotify.

She describes her music as folk-indie acoustic, and cites soundtracks from movies like Juno (singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson, in particular), Little Miss Sunshine and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as her inspirations.

She's now working on her second EP. She hopes to make it more produced and upbeat than her first, which was purely her and a guitar.

"I have all the songs written, but I'm still trying to figure out who I can get to record it and mix it."

She was "definitely nervous" to be performing on a WFF stage, but also "super excited, like, this is a huge opportunity."

WFF artistic director Chris Frayer says the YPP, which accepts young musicians aged 14 to 24, is the festival's "farm league where we cultivate local talent."

Many past YPP participants have gone on to become professional touring musicians and WFF performers, he says.

As part of the program, which started in 2000, about 30 young musicians and groups are matched with veteran musicians for a day of songwriting and mentorship.

"It can be everything from showing them technique or adding a part to the song, song structure, or it can deal with the professional aspect of (performance and a music career)," says Frayer.

Mentors share what the realities of being a touring musician are, which can help the youth decide if they want to pursue a career in music.

"Some of them quit and maybe do it as a hobby, and others become full-on professional touring artists. It's great. It's great either way."

As far as a professional career goes, Collins says she's most proud of her songwriting skills.

"If I could make that a career that would be insane."

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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