The music scene in Whitehorse is really something. Full of fresh, creative musical sounds that come straight from the heart and soul of artists who discovered their own voices inside the warmth of their homes in the dead of winter. The diving board for many of these discoveries is Peggy Hanifan and her Wednesday open mic jams. She has been instrumental in setting the stage and welcoming these musicians to express themselves.

Twenty years ago Peggy Hanifan hosted her first jam in Whitehorse. It started at the Kopper King in 1996, but when it moved to the Backwater Lounge (previously The Regina Hotel Lounge), that is when it got its name, Whitewater Wednesday Jam.

While Hanifan had worked with others to host the jam, it was the collaboration with Barry Jack Jenkins that allowed her to continue to set the stage for Yukon music.

“He and I met and fell in love 16 years ago and he’s been a huge part of the jam ever since,” she says. “He sets us up and tears us down and makes us sound good each and every week.”

The couple welcomes all who come out for the WW Jam, but Hanifan is definitely the sparkle. She is silver and diamonds, outgoing and supportive beyond belief. She makes you feel special, no matter what.

Many musicians got their start or their chops at WW Jams. I reached out to several songwriters, here is what some of them had to say about the influence Hanifan and WW Jams had on their musical careers.

Canadian Folk Music and Western Canadian Music Award nominee and Yukon recording artist Natalie Edelson with three albums released, wrote in her testimonial about WWJams, “Whitewater Wednesday has been one of those key music hothouse venues that have been instrumental in transforming initially-timid Yukon musicians into confident national and international touring and recording artists -The rock polisher for those Yukon diamonds in the rough.”

Gordie Tentrees, a celebrated Yukon recording artist who tours the world, and who has six albums to his name, wrote, “Peggy was the first person to clap for me in public. I returned every Wednesday for nearly 2 years straight with the goal of learning more songs to play and really started writing. Coincidentally the first song I ever wrote was, “Whitewater Jam”. I recorded it on my first record in 2004. Thanks Peggy for taking me past, “Angel from Montgomery”.

Juno Award nominee and talented Yukon recording artist Anne Louise Genest has this to say, “The Whitewater Wednesday open stage was a huge part of my early development as a performer. It was so great to have a stage that was open to anyone who wanted to get up and play.”

Paris Vagabond, an up-and-coming talented Yukon star who arrived up north a few short years ago says, “Peggy has become my Yukon mom in a sense. Supportive of any and all music I’ve brought to her jam.”

I’d like to thank Peggy Hanifan for welcoming me to the stage the summer of 2000 when I finally got up the guts to play. Since then I have recorded seven albums and been blessed with several Canadian Folk Music and Western Canadian Music Award nominees. Thanks Peggy!

Hanifan herself has been writing songs since the age of 11. She’s performed a bit in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, but it was Whitehorse that really brought her music to life. She is super-talented and a true inspiration to any artist.

“I have a full and happy life here at my Yukon home and just hosting the WW Jam each week keeps me content and satisfied …

“For now,” Hanifan says.

She has no concrete plans to record, but she’d love to. There’ve been a few ideas tossed her way.

The 20th anniversary celebration for Whitewater Wednesday Jam will be place from July 13 – 15, 2016 at Epic Pizza in Riverdale, starting at 7pm each night. You can sign up for a performance slot by contacting WW JamFest event on facebook.