If there were a poster girl for the creative class, it might well be Molly McGinn. Her Cosmo-cover radiance aside, it is her multifaceted career as a singer, songwriter, musician, journalist, filmmaker, blogger, model, artist and entrepreneur that makes her the ideal person to launch this series.
Molly came east from her native Dodge City, Kan. by way of Wisconsin to study at Elon College in 1992, earning a degree in creative writing with a minor in art. While there she joined her first band, the Alan Smithee Band, and recorded her first album. Since then there have been stints with five other bands — Jostle Lee, Marsbound Mind, Thacker Dairy Road, Molly McGinn & the Buster Dillys and Amelia’s Mechanics — and five other albums, including a solo project titled Girl With Slingshot and the vocals on the soundtrack for Bloody Blackbeard, a play for Triad Stage written by Laurelyn Dossett. Recently she was asked to join the popular Americana group Wurlitzer Prize, and also is half a duo with local guitar legend Scott Manring.
Along the way she was also a reporter for the Greensboro News & Record, composer at Kindermusik, and documentary filmmaker with the Dotmatrix Project.
Lately she has become a food writer for the Lucky 32 Farm to Fork blog, a music writer for the Rooster’s Wife blog and a feature writer for Go Triad, and has developed a music education curriculum for Kindermusik that teaches children a second language. She also contributed to the online “Vote Against Amendment One” short that went viral.
Her catalogue includes roughly 40 original compositions, most of which, she says, are “just trying to get to the root of things.”
Molly can be heard monthly with Wurlitzer Prize at the old Winston Social Club and with Scott Manring at Lucky 32.
The facilitator Chris Roulhac
It is fair to say that over the last decade and a half, Triad musicians have not had a better friend than Chris Roulhac. Since launching “The North Carolina Show” on WQFS 90.9 FM, Guilford College’s campus radio station, in July 1999, she has given exposure and airplay to more local artists than any other media outlet. Not only does she play their records exclusively, but has two or three acts in the studio each week to play live.
Chris has also made a name for herself — although that was anything but her intention — through her acts of altruism by staging benefit concerts whenever there is a need. She began with local DJ Eugene Sims, by hosting a benefit at the Blind Tiger for the late Jack True, “the Santa of Chapman Street,” and it mushroomed from there. Over the years she has been the prime mover for benefits to aid victims of Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami and ALS, and helped out on benefits for the late Ray Burnett and other musicians, and Triad Musicians Matter.
Since 2005 she has been on the board of the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society, serving four years as vice president before assuming the presidency a few months ago.
A pianist and saxophonist herself, last week Chris was a panelist at the Music Academy of the American South at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
Of her radio show, she smiled, “I just felt that we had so much talent around here that needed exposure, I’d devote the show to them, rather than national acts who are already getting the exposure. I was and am a big fan of artists like Tornado and Snüzz and Mary Lyon and Blues-a-Matic, people like that who are so good, and thought, ‘These people aren’t getting any radio play at all.’” They are now.
THE MONETIZER Mitchel Sommers
Few people may recall that in 1987 the Community Theatre of Greensboro was on its last legs. Attendance was dismal, funding was down and support from the community was practically non-existent. In a last-ditch effort, the board advertised for a new executive director, but what they really needed was a miracle worker.
They got one in Mitchel Sommers. A Broadway and TV actor (a regular on “Ryan’s Hope”) whose claim to fame was that he once delivered singing telegrams with Nathan Lane, Mitchel had come south to get his MFA from UNCG, where he met his future wife Susan, also a theater major, and settled in Greensboro. He applied for the job, got it and went to work.
To say that he turned CTG around would be an understatement. Today the organization has an operational budget of $650,000, boasts four full-time and two part-time employees, and uses roughly 500 volunteers a year. Moreover, last year the organization signed an agreement to purchase the Broach Theatre on South Elm Street, giving it a permanent. It is in the midst of a $2 million capital campaign drive.
“We’re raised $1.1 million so far,” said Sommers. “We’re in the building, running it and creating a lot of excitement, but we need to wrap it up by the end of the year. I feel very confident we will.”
CTG stages The Wizard of Oz annually, but does not shy away from the edgy or controversial. Its production of La Cage Aux Folles created a bit of stir, as did the dark Sweeney Todd. Last year it staged Avenue Q and this season will produce My Big Gay Italian Wedding.
“We’ve got to speak to the young and old, the gay and straight, the rich and poor,” he said. “That’s who we are, that’s what theater does.”