Heidi Ouellette had the chance to work with a musical mentor and that experience helped shape her life's work.
Seven years ago, Ouellette was a protegee in the Youth Mentorship in the Arts program, sponsored by the Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba (ACI Manitoba).
Her mentor was the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's composer-in-residence, Vincent Ho.
Through the process, she got to witness the making of the New Music Festival behind the scenes, she got composition lessons with Ho, and she even composed a new piece of music for the orchestra.
"Hearing my piece performed so well by a professional orchestra was a rare opportunity," she said.
"They're kind of untouchable in a way when you're a student. They're so great and you admire them, and then to be able to work with them and with Vince in such a close capacity is really inspiring. So the learning was huge.
"Also, learning about the business of putting on such a huge festival was really helpful, especially as I started my own festival a year or two later," she added.
Ouellette currently runs the Cluster New Music Festival with her partner, Luke Nickel, and is executive director of the Groundswell new music series. Both were opportunities that grew out of her experience in the mentorship program.
Actor Andrea del Campo returned from Toronto last year with the goal of pursuing her career in Winnipeg. She joined the mentorship program and was paired up with Rea Kavanagh of Theatre Projects Manitoba to learn about producing theatre.
Del Campo said the experience helped her in very tangible ways.
"They gave me a job this year," she said. "They hired me as a social media coordinator, and they wouldn't have done that had I not done the mentorship."
Del Campo is also a part of an improv company called Outside Joke and this year, thanks to her mentoring experience, the company started producing an actual season in the manner of a traditional theatre company.
"Theatre Projects Manitoba has absolutely influenced the way I manage and administer Outside Joke," she said.
When Ali Tataryn joined the program, she was a trained film and television actor who aspired to write and direct films.
After her mentorship with filmmaker Jeff Erbach, she went on to direct a short film, Gestalt, by Madison Thomas and is currently producing and directing the short film Bloody Mary.
"I can confidently say that because I did this ACI mentorship program, that was the first step of everything else that I'm doing now," she said.
Program coordinator Talia Pura explains that the goal of the program, now it its seventh year, is to match emerging artists between the ages of 20 and 24 with specially-selected mentors appropriate to their area of interest in any discipline in the arts, including dance, writing, sound engineering, video, administration and more.
"Generally speaking, the experience is life-altering," she said. "We hear it all the time."
Some of the mentors this year include Steve Kirby of DIG! Magazine, choreographer Brent Lott, writer Charlene Diehl of Thin Air Writers Festival and fashion designer Alex Espinosa.
Heidi Ouellette has now come full circle, having been a mentor herself last year. At the end of the season, ACI organized a showcase for all the mentor and mentee pairs to present what they did.
"It was kind of surreal being up there as a mentor this time. It was really wonderful," she said.