August 8 is the application deadline for artists seeking one of 14 coveted 15-minute juried formal showcase slots during the 17th Annual Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. Registration for the conference, slated for Nov. 10-13 at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, New York, also is now open.

Beaucoup Blue captured during a formal showcase in 2009 (Photo: Robert Berkowitz/RSBImageWorks)

The Formal Showcases take place on Friday and Saturday evenings in the resort’s theater, and no other activities are scheduled at the same time. Following those, folks will shuffle between four conference rooms to catch short sets by various artists. Applications for those showcase opportunities must be submitted by Aug. 31.

“Dianne Tankle, our longtime conference coordinator, and I have heard from many performing artists who consider being selected for one of these juried showcases to be quite an honor,” says Cheryl Prashker, NERFA’s president and percussionist to the folkies. “Many festival and concert series presenters — for whom we offer incentives to attend — have featured artists they’ve discovered in these showcases and had opportunities to speak with during our conference,” she adds. “Indeed, for some, the NERFA Conference serves as a primary vehicle for booking talent.”

Similarly, Tankle notes having “heard from performers and their agents who consider this the best place to showcase knowing they have a captive audience. This is because NERFA is held at a resort where everyone eats together as a community and almost all attend the showcases as a community. This is unlike the International [Folk Alliance] Conference and some other industry conferences where meals are not included and folks may or may not make it back in time for the showcases when they go out to eat.”

As in years past, the NERFA conference, which drew a record attendance of more than 750 people last year, will feature a diverse mix of folk and acoustic music presented by artists from throughout the U.S. and Canada, informative panel discussions and workshops, mentoring sessions, communal meals, and lots of opportunities for schmoozing and networking. A large exhibit hall gives the conference the added aura of a trade show.

The Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase on Thursday night marks the unofficial kick-off of the conference. An Midnight Hoot — featuring several singing folk DJs and a host of performing artists – follows, along with a number of late-night guerilla showcases. Conference programming begins with an array of workshops on Friday morning. After the juried showcases each evening, will join dozens of presenters, performers and others in hosting guerilla showcases in their hotel rooms that extend through the early morning hours. Open mics, informal jam sessions, private showcases, thematic song circles and round-robin song swaps round out the mix.

A nonprofit organization for those engaged in traditional, contemporary and multicultural folk music, the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) is the regional arm of Folk Alliance International that seeks to strengthen and advance organizational and individual initiatives in folk music, dance and related performing arts through education, networking, advocacy, and professional and field development.

For more information, downloadable showcase applications, and conference registration forms, visit the NERFA website at

Editor’s Note: I have been attending and actively participating in this conference for a number of years and currently serve as vice president of NERFA’s board of directors.