John Gorka

John Gorka will keynote the annual FARM Gathering that’s set for Oct. 11-14, 2012 at the Sheraton Westport Chalet in St. Louis, Missouri. The popular singer-songwriter and Red House recording artist also will conduct a songwriting master class during the three-day event hosted by Folk Alliance Region Midwest, an affiliate of Folk Alliance International.

More than 200 people have registered for the FARM Gathering that provides useful and enjoyable learning and networking opportunities, not to mention plenty of fine listening and performing opportunities for artists, presenters, agents and managers, folk DJs, and others engaged in the folk music field.

Booking gigs is a primary objective of some performers who attend these annual conferences, while many presenters and folk DJs come primarily to scout out new artists and those who they have not previously heard and seen in live performance. However, the FARM Gathering, like that of other Folk Alliance International regional conferences, is much more than that; it’s really about forging connections and building an acoustic community.

Official showcase artists, selected by a panel of judges to perform during this year’s Gathering, include Ben Bedford (Springfield, IL), Ruth & Max Bloomquist (Muskegon, MI), Jon Brooks (Toronto, Ontario), Chad Elliott (Coon Rapids, IA), Lac La Belle (Detroit, MI), Mike Mangione and the Union (Cedarburg, WI), Shelley Miller (Chicago, IL), Karyn Oliver (New York, NY), Jenn Rawling & Basho Parks (Portland, OR), Red Tail Ring (Kalamazoo, MI), SONiA of disappear fear (Baltimore, MD), Heather Styka (Chicago, IL), Sultans of String (Toronto, Ontario), and Jack Williams (West Fork, AR).

A Midwest Folk Radio Presents showcase, modeled after the popular Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase that takes place during the annual Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference, is slated for Thursday night. Participating artists, along with the names of the folk DJs who chose them, include: Laura Joy (Al Kniola, WVPE), Donna Herula (Sue Kessell, WNUR), Daniel Boling (Wayne Greene,, Gloria Attoun (Steve Jerrett, KOPN), Lyal Strickland (Emily Higgins, KSMU), Amy Dixon-Kolar (Lilli Kuzma, WDCB), Greg Klyma (Rob Reinhart, WDET/“Acoustic Café”), and The True Falsettos (Jim Hall, WLNZ).

Cathy Barton and Dave Para

Following this showcase, FARM will present awards to three artists from the Midwest. The acoustic duo of Cathy Barton and Dave Para, who also created and serve as artistic directors of two annual folk festivals in Missouri (the Big Muddy Folk Festival in their hometown of Booneville and the Boone’s Lick Country Folk Festival in Arrow Rock) will receive the 2012 Folk Tradition in the Midwest Lifetime Award. Andrew Calhoun, an internationally touring singer-songwriter, who also founded the artists’ cooperative folk label Waterbug Records 20 years ago, will receive the Lantern Bearer Award in recognition of his contributions to the folk community for 25 years or more. An hour-long open mic in tribute to the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth will follow the awards presentation.

Friday and Saturday afternoons will feature an array of workshops and panel discussions, while the evenings’ official showcases will be followed by Performance Lane (an open mic of sorts featuring select artists who are not performing in juried showcases), private showcases hosted by conference attendees in their hotel rooms, jams, song circles and community singing that extend into the early morning hours.

In addition to Gorka’s songwriting master class, workshops will cover such topics as booking, publicity, social networking, lightening things up, and learning to play slide guitar. Singer-songwriter Jack Williams will conduct one on “Doing Almost Everything Yourself,” while a panel of folk DJs and other music industry professionals will offer their critiques of songs following quick listens during an “On the Griddle” session.

The FARM Gathering concludes on Sunday at noon, following a continental breakfast and a membership meeting.

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