STINGRAY Young Performers Program

Don’t Miss Future Folk Sensations – Or The Chance To Be One


Each year, the Winnipeg Folk Festival presents the STINGRAY Young Performers Program during the festival weekend showcasing young talent from across Canada. The program hosts up to 35 multi-talented musicians aged 14 to 24 and offers mentorship and workshopping opportunities with festival performers who will share a wealth of knowledge about the industry, in addition to technical skills and songwriting tips. The participants will then showcase what they learned on Shady Grove stage in front of a festival audience.

We aim to nurture musicians in the community and provides career stepping stones so they may one day lend their voices to inspire a younger generation. The popular program started in 2000 and sees hundreds of applicants each year. A jury of industry professionals selects 35 to 40 promising young musicians annually. Young artists use the program as a springboard to launch their careers and many have gone on to play the festival as part of the main lineup; artists such as Brandy ZdanCara Luft, Crooked BrothersDaniel ChampagneDel BarberRichard InmanSweet Alibi.

Participants spend their first days in sessions with mentors crafting and perfecting their songs and the final day performing on stage in front of a Folk Fest audience.



2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Stingray Young Performers Program! This year’s stellar mentors include Christine Fellows & John K. Samson, Danny Michel, Jesse Matas, Samantha Crain and William Prince who will be sharing songwriting and performance tips as well as their experience and knowledge of the industry.

*Catch STINGRAY Young Performers Program past participant Taylor Janzen on Main Stage opening up the 2019 Winnipeg Folk Fest on Thursday, July 11!


2019 STINGRAY Young Performers

Annika Marie | Altona, MB

Annika Marie is a Manitoba based folk artist with smooth and inviting vocals that will lull you into a world she creates with her music. With simple but haunting melodies, her unique voice will captivate you to your core. She has spent the past four years playing different venues from Winnipeg to her hometown roots in Southern Manitoba, as well as on stage at the Winnipeg Folk Fest. Keep your eyes peeled for her debut EP in the new year.

Bryn | Brandon, MB

Drawing from a wide range of musical influences from indie to classical to jazz, Bryn blends and bends genres in a myriad of ways with a quaint and deeply personal sense of lyricism and a bold harmonic palate, seeking to create something you haven't quite heard before. For better or for worse.

Carson Friesen | Winnipeg, MB

After many years playing primarily drums and piano since childhood, Carson discovered his love of the acoustic guitar at about 10 years old and have been playing ever since. Most of the opportunities he’s had to perform have been busking or background music at parks, small festivals, craft shows, community events and a couple of coffee house concerts. When Carson started performing, he used a looper pedal with different guitars, keys and percussion, but in the last three or four years, he’s been focused on simplifying with only acoustic and vocals.

Cole Shway | Winnipeg, MB

Cole Shway is a singer-songwriter who plays a soft yet passionate genre of experimental folk while keeping his lyrics clear and relatable to connect with his listeners. Debuting with his EP What's Next?. In 2017, Cole Shway has been working hard at writing and self-producing material for a follow-up LP.

Born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1997, Shway first broke into music playing guitar as a member of a teenage punk band. Time past and in 2014, he set off on his own to pursue music further as a solo singer-songwriter.

Dayle Kroeker-Tom | Winnipeg, MB

Dayle has a passion for music and has had the good fortune of playing with wonderful musicians from all over the world. He has travelled and hitchhiked around the globe and his music always goes with him. Dayle’s music allows him to meet nice people wherever he goes, be it on the street, in bars or where ever life takes him.

Erika Fowler | Winnipeg, MB

Erika Fowler is a 19-year old singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, writing music in English and French. In both languages her ephemeral voice and precocious songwriting blends genres. Her single “Stay” was selected in the 2017 CBC Searchlight competition in the top 25 of over 2000 entries across Canada. Her debut EP, Stay was released July 5, 2017.

In 2019, she began performing accompanied by a band with the intention of developing her simple acoustic sound into a full band affair. Her latest compositions are focused on blending her melodious vocals, acoustic guitar and indie-folk melodies with elements of synth pop, indie-rock and singer-songwriter genres.

Gavin Penner | Winnipeg, MB

Gavin grew up as a performer. He was constantly entertaining anyone who would listen, even if they weren't. As a 4-year-old he recorded eight episodes of The G-A-V-I-N Show beautifully articulating the world through the eyes of a toddler. Kinda.

In 2016 Gavin began taking more of an interest in singing and songwriting. Performing locally in churches or house concerts. In 2017 Gavin's grandfather passed away, scarring him incredibly. Gavin wrote a tribute to his grandfather and performed it during the funeral in front of a crowd of 500 strong. After the funeral Gavin continued to struggle with the meaning of life, ultimately trying to end his own months after. Songs are his outlet. Songs allow him to convey his feelings in a more complete manner than conversation. Gavin tends to write dark, thought-provoking music. However, he has also created some upbeat and lively music as well.

Hailey Mierke | Winnipeg, MB

Hailey began her path in music with the violin at a young age but found the guitar, ukulele, singing and songwriting were more of a fit to her interests. She’s currently taking lessons for singing and guitar with Gabriella Ocejo but has been taking on-going vocal lessons with other teachers for six years now. Hailey’s biggest performance to date was singing backup for the opening act at Carly Dow's album release tour in Winnipeg, Manitoba but Hailey has also done some other performances showcasing her original songs.

Heidi Wright | Winnipeg, MB

Heidi Wright is an emerging Canadian singer-songwriter, born in Quebec on December 6, 2002. Heidi currently lives in Winnipeg and began writing music when she was 12 years old, after receiving a guitar from her father. Heidi was recently recognized for her song, "The Boys of Valour Road" which has received national recognition as a Remembrance Day song that connects our current generation to Canadian war veterans. Heidi's song received airplay through numerous radio stations across Canada and was televised by CBC and CTV. Heidi was also presented with an award by MLA Andrew Swan on December 3 in the Manitoba Legislature. Heidi is an International performer, having recently showcased in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jamboree | Winnipeg, MB

Formed in the mean streets of St. Vital, Jamboree is a 3-bodied hive mind dedicated to creating sad rock and roll music. Alex Braun, Sky Parenteau and Nick Lavich write independently before bringing their songs to the others for processing into joyous, pious noise. They were recently featured on the cover of The Uniter's annual new music issue as winners of The Uniter Fiver. Jamboree's music is sincere, naive, hopeful and melodic, inspired by Pavement, Kero Kero Bonito, Car Seat Headrest and Neil Young, with hues of Winnipeg coldness, long bus rides and suburban isolation.

John Muirhead | Noval, ON

With stories and songs that kindle late-night Canadian campfires, John Muirhead’s heartfelt indie-folk sound will move you in more ways than one. From fingerpicked folk confessionals to upbeat roots-rock jams, John’s eclectic song collection reflects the highs and lows of love, ambition and being a young travelling musician. While he is based in London and Halton Hills Ontario, John is a troubadour by nature and has played in living rooms, theatres, moving trains, and folk festival stages across Canada.

Katherine Fischer | London, ON

Like a re-discovered diary entry on your worst day, Katherine Fischer wants you to feel understood. With over 200 songs in her arsenal and counting, she hopes to be your tour guide through the darkest corners to the brightest balcony of her human experience. Katherine’s unique pop confessionals are the medicine for when our hearts get sick, served with an eccentric dose of sugar to help it all go down. To see her play is to know her story and end the night as if parting from an old friend.

Her inspirations pull from multiple genres, from artists like Sara Bareilles to Carol King to Kacey Musgraves. Each one of these strong female songwriters has a way of creating art that is solely theirs. The soaring melodies of Sara, the unique chord changes of Carol and the genre-bending country of Kacey each of these artists influence Katherine’s music and inspire her soul.

Keltie | Sherwood Park, AB

Keltie is a singer-songwriter from Edmonton. Her debut EP Everything I Haven’t Said reached number one on iTunes Canada singer-songwriter chart and her debut single, “Someone Tell Her” reached number two on iTunes Canada singles chart.

“Someone Tell Her” earned Keltie the Rising Star Award at the Edmonton Music Awards, a finalist spot in The Canadian Songwriting Contest and a CFMA Young Performer nomination.
Another of Keltie’s originals, “Sanity Song”, won second place in The Ship and Anchor Song Contest.

She also received a 2018 Pride of Strathcona Award for Achievement in the Arts.
In addition to the experience of the Stingray Young Performers Program last summer, Keltie performed at many events including the Edmonton Music Awards, the Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival and Kaleido Fest.

Kira Gregory | Winnipeg, MB

Singer-songwriter Kira Gregory began expressing herself through music as a child in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After spending her childhood taking on multiple lead roles in musicals, her passion quickly turned towards songwriting in her teen years. With a passion for storytelling, Kira draws inspiration from poetry to express songs of love and heartbreak. Kira frequently participates in open mic nights, new music nights and “Sing Out Louise” around the city regularly.

She is a self-taught guitar player and her musical style and songs are inspired by folk music and other popular singer-songwriters such as Lennon Stella and Kina Grannis. She is a past participant of the Stingray Young Performer Program at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and is releasing her first EP in spring of 2019.

Lajla Jean | Surrey, BC

Lajla Jean is a Yellowknife born, Alberta raised singer-songwriter. She grew up surrounded by various genres of music, from soul to alternative rock. Lajla Jean is a perfect combination of soul and alternative folk. She channels the lyrical styles of UK folk artists, Gabrielle Aplin and Lewis Watson, utilizing similar stylistic choices creating an emotional resonance in her music.

Lajla spent her childhood as an idealist often lost in her mind. Inspired by films, she would create narratives that echoed her real life. At the age of 14, Lajla began songwriting as a means to accompany the fictional movies she would imagine. Lajla continues to use this method to create her music. Drawing inspiration from films, and especially her dreams. By blending her introspective lyrics, gentle guitar picking and her soothing soulful voice, Lajla Jean creates an astral ambiance to produce the whimsical tone in her songs.

Lindsay Thomson | Kenora, ON

Lindsay Thomson is a Canadian singer-songwriter born and raised in the Northwestern Ontario town of Kenora. Her sound blends folk with rock and alternative sounds. She expresses herself with hopes to connect with others through her honest lyrics and guitar driven songs. 

"Lindsay Thomson is an exciting, emerging songwriter and guitarist. I can't wait to see what she creates." - Juno Award Winner, Lynn Miles.

Mark Davidson | Winnipeg, MB

Mark Davidson grew up obsessing over his parents’ record collection including The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Phantom of the Paradise (a Winnipeg cult classic). Growing up he would play in school talent shows and perform at graduation ceremonies. Now he writes, plays guitar and sings vocals for a rock band called Neighbour Andy. They have played all over southern Manitoba and most recently at Park Theatre, debuting some of their new material.

In the last few years, Mark has developed a passion for creating music in his basement. After lots of recording trial and errors, he is starting to accumulate knowledge and is working on developing more of a producer mindset. He’s now in the midst of recording the band’s debut EP which will hopefully be ready for an early summer release.

Mes Jolies | Winnipeg, MB

Mes Jolies, a Metis band, comprised of sisters Aléxa Marinelli, Denae Marinell and Liane Marinelli in collaboration with the talented Dérrick Sabourin, are taking to the stage with their original songs. The group originated as a mother-daughters band playing outdoor venues, family-based events, and a book launch and fundraiser. Together, they have learned the craft of wrapping voices around each other in rich melody and harmony, while accompanying each other with acoustic and rhythmic instruments.

Raised as Franco-Manitobans with rich Indigenous culture, their music resonates with those who love folk, traditional organic sounds and music from the years gone by. Influenced by musicians such as Simon and Garfunkle, Fleetwood Mac, Gordon Lightfoot and the Beatles. The girls continue to nurture their inspiration through artists such as The Staves, The Paper Kites, Birdy and Bon Iver.

Mitchell Mozdzen | Brandon, MB

Mitchell Mozdzen is a blues/rock musician from Brandon, Manitoba. Mitchell picked up the guitar at the age of 7 to accompany his grandfather playing Metis fiddle. Since then Mitchell has explored writing pop, rock and blues. Mitchell has recorded 4 EPs and is always working on creating new music. Recently, Mitchell has started writing with elements of Indigenous music. This includes adding pow wow beats under blues progressions and writing about themes such as residential schools.

Oakhill Road West | Beausejour, MB

The Carmichael Girls, Courtney Carmichael and Brittany Carmichael, are a country-folk duo from Beausejour, Manitoba, recently accompanied by guitarist Nic St-Pierre. They regularly perform surrounding rural communities at farmer's markets and cafés, but some of their most memorable gigs include singing the national anthems at the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in their hometown, at an international snowmobile conference in Winnipeg and at the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.

The pair recorded an album last spring and have recently been writing, recording and producing more of their original music. These sisters are always working on perfecting our sound and are excited to see what this summer has in store for them.

Ryan Boyes | Altona, MB

Ryan Boyes is a local, 15-year-old artist striving to create and share music with all people willing to listen. She grew up in a musical family and plays many instruments her favourite being the guitar. She travels often and meets many people along the way. Ryan enjoys listening to other people’s stories through conversations and music. She’s very outgoing and passionate about what she does and finds herself learning every day how to improve herself and her music. She’s always willing to try new things.

Scott Richards | La Salle, MB

Scott Richards was born and raised in the town of La Salle, Manitoba. He has been singing and making music as long as he can remember, and you can always catch him humming a tune. Richards began piano lessons at a young age and started writing music at around the age of 12. He performed his first original song in the church he grew up going to and he continues to play music in the worship bands there. He was in choirs all through high school and picked up mandolin, guitar and ukulele as well. Music is his passion and he loves sharing his gift with others.

Sophie Stevens | Winnipeg, MB

Sophie Stevens is a singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada. Combining her heartwarming vocals with gentle melody and guitar, Sophie sings hopeful indie-folk songs that tell both stories and offer introspective advice. With a love for all walks of life expressed in every note, her music gives a break from the tiresome parts of life and brings reminders of the joyful aspects of being human.

Growing up with a family of musicians and later hosting an array of self-proclaimed “Cozy Concerts” in her warm bedrooms and the art spaces of Manitoba, Sophie has been surrounded and inspired by music her entire life. Studying piano for the past eight years, innovatively exploring the guitar, and performing in choirs throughout her adolescence to hone her “angelic” vocals, Sophie has been crafting soft and unique indie folk songs that ultimately aim to offer gentle respite no matter where you may be in your life.

Sydney Beau | Abbotsford, BC

Singer-songwriter Sydney Beau grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia and the city’s motto is “the city in the country” which perfectly describes her style. Her songs carry the excitement and intensity of the city while still containing that small town, heart filled emotion. Her poetic songwriting style has been influenced by artists such as Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz and Passenger.

In 2018 Sydney completed the singer-songwriter course at Langara College in Vancouver. Later that year she performed at the Winnipeg Folk Festival as a part of the Stingray Young Performers Program. That same summer she made her first release The Hummingbird EP.

At the 2018 FVMAs (Fraser Valley Music Awards) Sydney won in the Female Artist category and was nominated in the Pop Artist category.

Tuva Bergstrom | Winnipeg, MB

Tuva Bergstrom is an alternative artist based in. Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has performed at a variety of venues across the city and takes influence from bands and artists such as The Killers, Amanda Palmer, Bon Iver and Paramore.

Victoria Turko | Winnipeg, MB

Victoria Turko is a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who loves to tell the unique stories of her life through music. She would best describe her sound as a mix between blues, rock and folk. She is currently working on the release of her first EP. Some of her more notable performances have been on the main stage for Pride Winnipeg in 2018 and taking part in the Manitoba Showcase as an emerging artist.

Virgo Rising | Winnipeg, MB

Virgo Rising is a multi-instrumental indie-folk band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is comprised of Emily Sinclair (vocals, guitar, ukulele), Lauren Wittmann (vocals, percussion, keyboard, ukulele), and Jenna Wittmann (guitar, violin, trumpet, omnichord).

Having all pursued music individually for most of their lives, Virgo Rising approaches songwriting from a collaborative perspective. Drawing influences from other genres such as bedroom pop, alternative, baroque pop and art rock. They aim to expand their sound by incorporating a variety of instruments and experimenting with song structure. Their lyricism reflects their collective outlook on adolescence and growth through themes such as winter, outer space and the tropics.

They’ve played at Music + Market this April, and are set to open for local artists Urban Vacation in May and Kira Gregory in June. Virgo Rising is currently writing and recording for their debut EP.

Past Mentors Include

Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas)
Alexa Dirks
Amelia Curran
Amy Rigby
Andrew Whiteman
Andrina Turenne
Andy Stochansky
Andy White
Ann Louise Genest
Annick Bremault
Aoife O'Donovan
April Verch
Brandy Zdan
Cara Luft
Carolyn Mark
Catherine MacLellan
Chad VanGaalen

Christine Fellows
Damhnait Doyle
Dave Bidini
David Wax & Suz Slezak
Dustin Bentall
Fred Penner
Greg MacPherson
Heather Bishop
Mark Berube
Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
Michael Jermome Brown
Natalia Zuckerman
Nathan Lawr
Oh My Darling
Oliver Schroer
Oliver Swain
Paul Thorn

Rani Arbo
Rick Fines
Royal Wood
Ruth Moody & Heather Masse (Wailin’ Jennys)
Ruthie Foster
Sacha Daoud
Sarah Lee Guthrie
Shannon Johnson
Stephen Dudash
Stephen Fearing
Steve Dawson
Suzie Ungerleider (Oh Susanna)
Tannis Slimmon
Tim Williams
Tony Dekker