Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Celebrating Celtic Sounds with Maggie Sansone of Maggie’s Music

Dec 28, 2017 04:00PM
By Cate Reynolds

Maggie Sansone’s music label, Maggie’s Music, all started with a love for music and a little yellow cart. Sansone traveled to folk festivals across the United States and sold her self-made cassette tapes off of a yellow wooden cart decorated with Celtic art. The tapes sold quickly and Sansone decided that this was just the beginning.  

Since its humble beginnings 30 years ago, Maggie’s Music has grown immensely. The music catalog includes over 50 recordings, four Celtic collections, and eight Holiday albums, featuring a variety of skilled and award-winning musicians. 

The label is known primarily for Celtic and folk sounds, and has won over a dozen Washington Area Music Awards for “Record Label of the Year”. Sansone herself is a skilled hammered dulcimer player, a traditional stringed folk instrument played with wooden hammers.

“Our label started very small with just one musician playing in the street and we’ve just grown one by one. It’s amazing. A lot of the people that work with me are close friends and we are truly a family.”- Maggie Sansone

On Sunday, January 7th, Sansone and several other Celtic and Irish musicians will be ringing in the New Year at Maggie’s 17th Annual Celtic Celebration for the New Year at Rams Head on Stage. Tickets are $25 and available here.

You founded Maggie’s Music 30 years ago. How did Maggie’s Music begin?

My husband and I started the company together. I’ve always played music. I started out as a street musician playing around in different places. I made a cassette tape and started selling it at the Renaissance festival and other festivals, and it sold very fast. I was really excited about that. Shortly after that we made our first CD and started signing our friends to the label.

You’re a skilled hammered dulcimer player, which isn’t a very common instrument. How did you decide that you wanted to play the hammered dulcimer? When did you begin playing?

I began playing in the 70’s or early 80’s. I heard someone playing the hammered dulcimer while I was in Key West and I fell in love with it. It’s kind of like a melody drum. You play it with wooden mallets and I just love the sound. When I moved back to the D.C. area I found a hammered dulcimer maker and bought them. I also play the classical guitar, bongos, and bassoon.

The Maggie’s Music catalog features a variety of musicians. What’s the best part about working with so many different artists?

I love playing with different musicians. The different instruments add a lot of variety and it brings different types of sounds and improvisations. I like having a mixture of sounds and having everyone just improvise on the spot. We’ll have our set list, but usually someone will just say “Who wants to start first,” and we just take it from there. There’s a freedom to it that makes it very fun. 

Maggie’s Music has won over a dozen whammies (Washington Area Music Awards) for “Record Label of the Year” and the label’s music can be heard worldwide. How does it feel to know your label’s music is being heard across the globe? What has been the most rewarding part of your work? 

Our label started very small with just one musician playing in the street and we’ve just grown one by one. It’s amazing. A lot of the people that work with me are close friends and we are truly a family. That’s what is really beautiful about it. The folk community is very friendly and dynamic. We’re all pretty well connected, especially in the Washington D.C. and Annapolis area.

What can people expect at Maggie’s Music Celtic Celebration? 

People can expect a lot of fun jigs and reels, and really fast music. All the musicians will have solos and duos. There are always a lot of fun interactions on stage. It’s a really enjoyable and lively concert, and we just like to have a good time. This is also our 17th annual Maggie’s Music Celtic Celebration and it’s been going really well. We’re so grateful to Rams Head for hosting local artists.