More than 750 people from throughout the U.S. and Canada are expected to converge on the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, NY, Nov. 8-11, 2012, for the annual Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. Performers, presenters, promoters, folk DJs, agents and managers, and others actively engaged in the folk and acoustic music scene will enjoy three jam-packed days and nights of music showcases, open mics, song swaps and informal jam sessions, informative panel discussions and workshops, one-on-one mentoring and peer group sessions, a large trade show-like exhibit hall, tasty communal meals in the dining room, a welcoming party and happy hours, and lots of informal conversation and networking.
Booking gigs may be the primary objective of some performers who attend the annual NERFA conference, and many presenters and folk DJs do scout out new artists and those whom they have not previously heard and seen in live performance. However, the conference experience is much more than that; it’s really about forging connections, building community, and attending workshops and seminars to learn about options to further your careers.
Workshops, Panel Discussions Inform and Enlighten Attendees
A wide array of workshops, panel discussions and professional development seminars will be offered during the day. ”NERFA for All it is Worth” orientation sessions, designed to give first-timers a sense of what goes on during the conference, are slated for both Thursday and Friday afternoons. Also back again will be the popular “On the Griddle” instant critique sessions, during which panels comprised of folk DJs and music industry professionals will, in rapid-fire fashion, play CDs provided by attending artists and share their thoughts after listening to the first 60 seconds of a tune. Also on tap is another special extended two-hour “Wisdom of the Elders” panel designed to enable a small group of folk music pioneers and community leaders to interact and share stories and perspectives about our music and community. Participating in this year’s panel, organized by longtime folk DJ Sonny Ochs, will be Josh Dunson, Bob Fass and Happy Traum – all of whom were very active in the folk scene around Washington Square Park in New York’s Greenwich Village during the 1960s.
Other workshops will explore such topics as DIY booking and management, branding (and merch), doing music for kids, keeping healthy on the road, recording, social media, and vocal performance. Peer groups sessions for folk DJs and house concert presenters also are on tap, as is one on speed mentoring for venues. Louis Meyers, executive director of Folk Alliance International, moderates a panel entitled “Banjos, Banjos, Banjos” that will feature several banjo players. Julie Gold, Garnet Rogers and Jon Vezner will provide some insider tips on songwriting. In honor of Veteran’s Day, Diane Crowe of the People’s Music Network, has assembled a group of conference attendees who will sing songs inspired by the day or focusing on issues of war and peace.
14 Artists/Acts Selected for Formal ShowcasesTaking center stage during this year’s conference will be 14 artists/acts selected by a panel of judges, with each to perform a 15-minute formal showcase set in the resort’s theater on Friday and Saturday nights. These artists include:
Putnam Smith Trio
The Stray Birds
The Tres Amigos
Named as alternates were Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, and Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys.
”I speak for the judges when I say that there is no such thing as a losing
submission to a NERFA formal showcase,” says Ron Olesko (WFDU-FM, Teaneck, NJ), who coordinated the judging panels. “Everyone who submitted [applications] had their
music heard by the entire panel, and there are now a number of new artists
who will be heard on the radio and be considered for bookings at venues.”
Quad Showcases Feature 40 Artists/ActsAfter the formal showcases, attendees will shuffle between four conference rooms to catch short sets by 40 additional artists who have been selected (from among more than 250 applicants) by a different set of judges. This year’s Quad Showcase artists are:
Bettman & Halpin
Ruth and Max Bloomquist
Michael Jerome Browne
Burns & Kristy
Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys
Colleen Kattau and Some Guys
M.S.G. – The Acoustic Blues Trio
Cassie & Maggie MacDonald
Miles to Dayton
Moors and McCumber
Old Man Luedecke
Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan
John Wort Hannam
Named as Alternates were Peter Alsop, Gillian Grassie, Jean Rohe Band and Chana Rothman.
A series of 15-minute showcases set for Friday and Saturday evenings, between 9:45 and 11:30, four Quad Showcases take place concurrently in nearby conference rooms equipped with professional sound and production services. Like the Formal Showcases that immediately precede them, nothing else is allowed to compete with the Quad Showcases during the conference.
Following these official NERFA showcases, informal late-night ‘guerilla showcases take place in some three-dozen hotel rooms until the early morning hours, while musicians also stake out other areas of the hotel and engage in jam sessions that often last until 4 or 5 a.m.
Here’s a link to a video montage of images captured by Neale Eckstein (Fox Run Studio) during the 2011 NERFA Conference, set to the music of singer-songwriter Bethel Steele:
Artists Chosen for 2012 Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase
Twenty folk DJs who will be attending the NERFA Conference in November have selected artists to perform in this year’s Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase on Thursday evening, Nov. 8.
For the past eight years, these and other folk DJs have presented artists who they consider to be worthy of more attention for the listening enjoyment of their fellow DJs, presenters and others during a Folk DJ Showcase. “The original philosophy of the showcase when Suzi Wollenberg and I conceived it was that folk radio DJs (and I suppose now credible Internet DJs as well) hear all the newest talent, often long before the rest of the folk community becomes aware of these rising artists,” says Rich Warren, host of the nationally syndicated “The Midnight Special” and “Folkstage” on Chicago’s WFMT-FM. “Part of our pleasure (and job) as DJs is listening to new music,” he continues. “Also, DJs often attend folk festivals and a number of Folk Alliance conferences looking for new voices. So Suzi (who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago) and I envisioned creating an environment where folk DJs could share their new discoveries with one another. Thus was born the NERFA Folk DJ Showcase, which has been emulated by a couple of other regional FA conferences.”
The artists selected for Thursday night’s showcase will perform in alphabetical order by the radio station call letters of the folk DJ who nominated them. If listed, an alternate will only perform if the primary nominee becomes unavailable.
8:00- 8:04: Welcome and introductions
8:04-8:16: Paul Sachs
Presented by Wanda Fischer, The Hudson River Sampler
WAMC, Albany, NY
Alternate: Chris Lavancher
8:18-8:28: Susan Greenbaum
Presented by Mary Cliff, Traditions
WAMU, Washington, DC
8:30-8:40: Anna Dagmar
Presented by Graham & Barbara Dean, Common Sense Songs
WBCR-LPFM, Great Barrington, MA
Alternate: Christine DeLeon
8:42-8:52: Boxcar Lilies
Presented by Ron Olesko, Traditions
WFDU, Teaneck, NJ
Alternate: Meg Braun
8:54-9:04: Stephanie Bettman & Luke Halpin
Presented by Rich Warren, The Midnight Special & Folkstage
WFMT, Chicago and syndicated
Alternate: Matt Harlan
9:06-9:16: The Whispering Tree
Presented by John Platt, Sunday Breakfast
WFUV, New York, NY
Alternate: Beggars Ride
9:18- 9:28: Pat Lamanna
Presented by Sonny Ochs, Mostly Folk
WIOX, Roxbury, NY
Presented by Angela Page, Folk Plus
WJFF and syndicated
9:42-9:52: Ben Grosscup
Presented by Diana Crowe, Music of the People
WMCB-LPFM , Greenfield MA
Alternate: Arujuna Greist
9:54-10:04: Brittany Ann
Presented by Joe Pszonek, Radio Nowhere
WMSC, Upper Montclair, NJ
10:06-10:16: Scott Cook
Presented by Sue Kessell, The Folk Show
10:18-10:28: Crys Mattews
Presented by Pamela A. Smith, Amazon Radio
WPKN, New Haven, CT
10:30-10:40: Paul Pasch
Presented by Jane Falvey, The Kingston Coffeehouse
WRUI, Kingston, RI
10:42-10:52: Caitlin Canty
Presented by Mark Corso, Homemade Music
WRSU, New Brunswick, NJ
Altenate: Frank Tedesso
10:54-11:04: Matt Turk
Presented by Jon Stein, The Hootenanny Cafe
WTBQ, Orange County, NY
Alternate: Brian Kalinec
11:06-11:16: Martin Swinger
Presented by Dave Palmater
WUMB, Boston, MA
11:18-11:28: Heather Styka
Presented by Al Kniola, The Back Porch
WVPE, South Bend, IN
11:30-11:40: Broken Fences
Presented by Gene Shay, Folk Music with Gene Shay
WXPN, Philadelphia, PA
11:42-11:52: Roy Schneider with Kimberly Mayfield
Presented by: Ken Batista, An American Sampler
WYEP, Pittsburgh, PA
Alternate: Emily Pinkerton
A popular AcousticMusicScene.com Midnight Hoot featuring a few singing folk DJs (Jim Colbert, Barbara and Graham Dean, Wanda Fischer, Mike Holliday and Jon Stein) and some three-dozen artists follows the Folk DJ Showcase, as do other guerilla showcases.
NERFA (www.nerfa.org) is part of the larger Folk Alliance International, an association that seeks to foster and promote multicultural, traditional and contemporary folk music, while strengthening and advancing organizational and individual initiatives in folk music and dance through education, networking, advocacy, and professional and field development.
Editor’s Note: In addition to hosting the AcousticMusicScene.com Midnight Hoot and other showcases during the NERFA Conference, I will be moderating two panel discussions focusing on social media.Another article about the conference will be posted later this fall. I also serve as vice president of NERFA’s board of directors.