Charlie Maguire

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HomeArtistsCharlie Maguire

Charlie is completely self-taught on guitar and various other folk instruments. He grew up in New York and at the age of 13 started his guitar “lessons” when he purchased a how-to book in a drugstore. After college, he was mentored by Pete Seeger, Lee Hays (“If I had a Hammer”) and Don McLean, who taught him that being a songwriter and musician was not only rewarding, but absolutely possible.

He met Garrison Keillor in 1974 and performed on “A Prairie Home Companion” for nine years. Other rewarding and exciting experiences followed: Centennial Troubadour for Minnesota State Parks; the Singing Ranger for the National Park Service; and appearances on “Good Morning America,” “All Things Considered,” and “As It Happens,” to say nothing of awards ranging from a Bush Fellowship to the New York Film and Television Festival.

More About the Artist

Charlie has been honored with multiple grants and awards, including a Bush Artist Fellowship and the New York Film and Television Festival Gold Award. He has been named a “Humanities Scholar” by the Minnesota Humanities Commission. He is also an adjunct professor of Language Arts at Hamline University in Saint Paul, teaching a songwriting course. He has been a writer for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) and for All Things Considered and Options in Education, both on National Public Radio.

Learn more about Charlie in his January 2016 Artist Spotlight Interview.

Program Offerings



Once the topic of the class songwriting activity is chosen, Charlie works with every student to write the new song as a group. Charlie has written over 900 songs with children as part of the COMPAS residency program. Once the topic for the class songwriting activity is chosen, Charlie works with every student to write the new song as a group. When the song is finished (usually in 2-3 class visits) Charlie then helps the class arrange and perform the song on the last day of the residency. Everyone can contribute a word or phrase, and they can bring in instruments to play along on the song from home. Every kind of participation that enhances the song is welcome. It is truly amazing and wonderful to see the song grow and take shape, and to see each and every student having a part in it.  What makes Charlie’s approach so special is that he understands what each child is going through as they work hard for just the right word or phrase. He celebrates their creative efforts, and captures exactly what they want to say and project in the writing and performance of their new work.

Lasting memories are created for each student after just a week with Charlie. He has received many messages from former students (who are now adults) thanking him for his time with them. Many, if not all of these messages include the fact that these former students can still remember and sing the lyrics to the song they wrote even after 25 or more years.

What My Eyes Have Seen

“What My Eyes Have Seen” includes the creation of a totally original song (words & music) and the creation of individual works of visual art. Performer/composer Charlie Maguire has worked with seniors, adult day care, and adult memory loss centers since 1976. The Wilder Foundation, Courage Center, and innumerable nursing home and assisted living situations throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois have counted on Charlie’s songs and stories—with guitar, jaw harp and spoons—to bring joy, enrichment and comfort to their clients.

Charlie’s proposed project is in two parts. The first part is the creation of a totally original song (words & music) based on the contributions of the group. The second part is the creation of individual works of art in the form of cardboard eyeglasses (which are colored and then worn) based on what each person wants the world to see about themselves. Photographs are taken of each work being worn, with interesting and exciting results for client and staff members alike. Some photographs are later worked into a montage by Charlie which is suitable for display after the residency is over.

Note: Materials and mileage costs may also apply.


Pastures of Plenty: Woody Guthrie’s Life & Times

Called “a national possession like Yellowstone or Yosemite” Woody Guthrie was a songwriter, poet, visual artist, Veteran, author, adventurer, and raconteur. His songs, including “This Land is Your Land”, “Hard Traveling”, “Do Re Me” and “Roll on Columbia” completely captured in simple simple verse and melody not only his love of America, but also his deep and enduring compassion for it’s people. In turn, Americans and millions around the world have sung his songs, and increasingly want to know more about him.

Noted Woody Guthrie writer and performer Charlie Maguire brings a treasure-trove of Woody’s best loved, and least known songs prefaced with introductions to each selection in Woody’s own words! Performed on acoustic guitar, harmonica, jaw harp and spoons it’s like going to the theatre and hearing Woody Guthrie’s words and songs for real, as if he were passing through your town. It’s humorous, it’s casual, it’s informative, and always entertaining. Minneapolis Star Tribune critic Jon Bream says of Maguire’s program “Unless Bob Dylan were to crash the party, you could not find a more apropos Minnesota musician to celebrate Woody Guthrie.”

Charlie’s recent review of “Woody Guthrie: Songs & Art, Words & Wisdom” by Nora Guthrie and Robert Santelli was syndicated in over 70 newspapers nationwide. As a writer and performer in his own right, Charlie was mentored personally by folksingers Lee Hays and Pete Seeger who knew and traveled with Woody. Maguire has also shared the stage with original Woody Guthrie interpreter Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, of whom Woody once said; “He sounds more like me than I do.”

Minneapolis folk club impresario Mary Tjosvold sums it up with her review of Charlie’s program saying “The show is magnificent, touching, and so timely!”  

Running time approximately 75 minutes, BUT we can customize this show just for you! We can also provide PDF’s of a “Woody Guthrie Reading & Listening List” of books and recordings by him compiled by Charlie Maguire, as well as “His Songs Are Our Songs”, and “Woody Guthrie’s American Chorus” authored by Charlie and originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that can be duplicated on site and distributed to your patrons after the program.

Getting in the Cows: Songs & Stories of Life on the Farm

Selected by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the National Building Museum in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Minnesota Humanities Commission, “Fall Is Here” is an authentic and timeless account in song and story of life on the farm.

Born and raised on a 500-acre dairy farm in western New York, Charlie’s songs and stories of the people and their work, is a program of farm life that many still recall. Those were the days of tractors without cabs, cows that went out to pasture every day, hired men, blacksmiths, a wood stove in the house, and plenty of “homemade.”

It was a time of fall plowing, filling silo, baling hay and straw. A time of raising your own meat, eggs, and milk, and for the kids — hunting in the fall, houses in trees, and rafting down the creek. It was a time of “making do, or doing without,” and there were good friends and families you could count on to see you through.

If you ever lived the farming life or wanted to, or if you knew someone who did, you owe it yourself to hear the songs and stories worthy of Smithsonian inclusion in their exhibit “Barn Again.” Don’t miss this one!

Concert length: 60–75 minutes

Going To Bartalina: Commerical Sailing Songs & Stories Of The Great Lakes by Songwriter/Performer Charlie Maguire

“Do you know, where the sailor goes? 

When he goes away, when he goes away? 

He leaves his family And he leaves his home 

And he sails away, to Bartalina”

-BARTALINA Words & Music by Charlie Maguire-All Rights Reserved 

“Bartalina” is a Filipino term meaning “a job you can’t get out of”. Charlie Maguire learned that harsh fact and more-sailing through all of the Great Lakes and up the Saint Lawrence Seaway to Montreal on board M.V. NORDIC TRADER; from Duluth to Detroit; on WILLIAM CLAY FORD; and off Isle Royale and Houghton, Michigan; on the USCG Icebreaker/Buoy Tender SUNDEW-WLB-404 (While she was still in service). 

Mirroring the duties of Third Mate on the first two vessels, and as a common enlisted Coast Guard deckhand on the last voyage, enabled him to write about the modern-day life of commercial sailing, that few if any persons can experience outside of choosing it as a career. Charlie was embedded in the day-to-day, hour-by-hour life of a sailor aboard commercial and U.S. Government vessels in a never-before heard-of opportunity to write absolutely authentic songs, and collect amazing personal stories of life aboard the big vessels on the Great Lakes and the maritime services that help keep them safe. 

If you have ever seen a big ship entering a harbor, or glimpsed one out on the horizon, and wondered what it must be like to be onboard, then this program is for you. Charlie’s songs and stories make it as real as the wind in your face, the comradeship of the crew, and the movement of the deck under your feet. 

Going To Bartalina: Commerical Sailing Songs And Stories On the Great Lakes by Songwriter/Performer Charlie Maguire. 

Length: 60 Minutes plus Q.&A. 

Staging: One 8 foot table and sound.

Appropriate for all ages, but intended for adults


Twang! Learn to Play the Jaw Harp!

An excellent companion piece to the Woody Guthrie performance! Small, cheap and easily carried, the jaw harp, also known as the “Jew’s Harp,” or, by its ancient name, the “trump,” has been played for centuries and is known throughout the world. Some cultures use the jaw harp to dance, others to entertain, still others in courtship and dating! Through the application of three simple steps, up to 25 students become proficient in 45 minutes and will also learn two songs to entertain their family and friends. The presentation ends with an informal group concert that never fails to gain an audience!

Note: Jaw harps are required and are available for a nominal fee.


“Charlie is patient with children and takes the time to listen to them share their connections with the music and tell their own stories. He allows students to see themselves as entertainers by showing and sharing the gift of music with others by using their voice and heart.”

Mr. Terrones, St. Anthony Park Elementary School


COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.