Lake Susan in Montreat, NC (Photo: Michael Kornfeld)

Nearly 200 people are expected to converge on the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Asheville, May 17-20, 2012, for the fifth annual Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) Conference — an extended weekend of contemporary and traditional folk music, networking,and learning opportunities.

The newest of the five regional affiliates of Folk Alliance International, SERFA ( exists to promote, develop and celebrate the diverse heritage of roots and indigenous music, dance, storytelling and related arts in the Southeastern United States. Its annual conference is a primary means of doing that. This is the second consecutive year that it is being held at the same location, a beautiful and tranquil spot nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This year’s conference opens with workshops, followed by dinner and a three-hour open mic on Thursday and concludes on Sunday morning with a continental breakfast.

Billy Jonas peforms during the 2012 Folk Alliance International Conference (Photo: Neale Eckstein)

Workshops on a variety of topics will be offered each day. Among them are “The Care and (not) Feeding of Musicians,” Changing Gears in Your Music Career” “Enhanced Tools for Performance Critique,” a primer on Facebook Timeline, “40 Points for 40 Years of Folk,” and “Taking It to the Next Level.” Also slated are house concert and tech forums and sessions on Piedmont blues, radio promotion and recording, as well as workshops specifically focused on the next generation and those engaged in running and booking for venues. Noted songwriters Tom Kimmel and Jon Vezner will conduct separate songwriting sessions, while industrial percussionist Billy Jonas leads one on Primal Source Rhythm. Rather than feature a keynote speaker this year, conference organizers have opted to invite representatives of Folk Alliance International and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 1000, as well as a booking agent and public relations strategist (’s Michael Kornfeld) to deliver short presentations and respond to questions during a two-hour “Resources for Working Musicians” session on Friday afternoon. A series of one-on-one mentoring sessions are scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

A number of artists have been selected by a panel of judges to present official showcases from 7- 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Slated to perform on Friday night are Annie and Rod Capps, Dave Gunning, Roy Schneider, SONiA, Sam Pacetti, The Stray Birds, Mitchell and Harris, Honor Finnegan and Jon Vezner.

SONiA (Photo: Jake Jacobson)

Saturday night’s official showcase artists are John Batdorf, Gloria Attoun, Dana and Susan Robinson, Clint Alphin, Tom Kimmel, Harpeth Rising, Emily Pinkerton, Michael Reno Harrell and Moors & McCumber. Following the official showcases, late-night guerilla showcases and AFM Local 1000 Song Circles will take place in various conference rooms between 10:45 p.m. and 2 a.m. Conference organizers are inviting the public to attend the showcases for $10 a night or $25 for all three nights.

Editor’s Note: During the 2011 SERFA Conference, I participated in a panel discussion entitled “Performers and Presenters: Partnering to Help Pull in People”. This year, in addition to being part of the “Resources for Working Musicians” session, I will again be a mentor offering advice and counsel on public relations, strategic communications, websites and social media, and other topics of interest to performing artists and presenters.