8 - A long lost friend who found herself

When I was eight years old, I had a neighbor named Maggie. One night, when all of the neighborhood kids were gathered together, one of the parents jokingly said something along the lines of, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome –remember this name –Maggie Rogers.” 


Maggie stood up in front of maybe eight of us–there were kids and parents–and she started singing. She was such a confident singer. I remember almost being taken aback by her voice. It echoed through the trees above us. She was so present, so vulnerable, so comfortable. So much so that I was becoming uncomfortable. I started looking around at how everyone was reacting to her voice. They were completely captivated by her presence.

I think that it’s sometimes overlooked that one of the most important aspects of a documentary film/audio is the music. Music sets tone, it gives emotion, it creates a feeling inside the viewer. It adds an entire dimension to a piece. It’s the documentarians secret way of guiding the viewer: telling them how to feel, how to react, how to take new information and process it on the emotional level. 

Music can be manipulative. But music can also validate, drawing the audience in, further connecting them to a body of work.

When I recorded the voiceover for my first documentary, I was a high-voiced eleven-year-old. I remember being disappointed because of how boring and flat it sounded. I didn’t think I would ever be able to share the work because I didn’t have a deep, rich British accent. Then I added the music below my narration and when I showed it to my mom she cried. 

So it’s true that music manipulates the viewer, but in this case it was in keeping with the spirit of the story. When things are told retrospectively, through the voice of someone recalling something that may have taken place years earlier, the emotion they felt when an event took place is often lost. Music is a way of adding this feeling back into the film or audio piece.

It is the job of the documentarian to be responsible when employing the use of music. Documentarians must remain true to the emotions of the story. It’s with this idea of staying true to one’s roots that I look up to Maggie. 


A couple weeks before she graduated from college, she shared her work in a masterclass with Pharrell Williams. It made him cry. The video was recorded, posted online, went viral, and she was launched into the global spotlight. Her career has exploded, she has been on Fallon, Colbert, Ellen, was even the musical guest on SNL this past fall. I think that Maggie is a role model for leaning into the pressures of commercialized art gracefully.

She has remained true to the spirit of her story. Even when on the world’s grandest stages, she’s still the same person whose voice echoed in the trees above, as an awkward eight-year-old became uncomfortable with the power of music.

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