Lake Susan at the Montreat Conference Center (Photo: Michael Kornfeld)

Lake Susan at the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina (Photo: Michael Kornfeld)

Several days of contemporary and traditional folk music, networking, and learning opportunities await the nearly 200 people expected to converge on the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Asheville, May 13-17, 2015, for the eighth annual Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) Conference. will again host late-night song swaps.

The newest of the five regional affiliates of Folk Alliance International, SERFA ( seeks 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 fifth consecutive year that it is being held at the same location — a beautiful and tranquil spot nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“SERFA provides an annual gathering, a place to gather each year at the same time and often at the same place to connect and reconnect, to celebrate and mourn, to feel that special sense of community and solidarity, of mutual concern and respect, that those who practice a trade, a craft, an art recognize in each other,” says Si Kahn, a renowned folksinger, songwriter, author and community activist who will have a major presence this year. He describes the conference as “a family reunion that reminds us we are not alone, that we have not just a common trade, but a common purpose; and that together we can raise our voices not just in song, but in the hope of a better, kinder and more just world.”

The conference opens with lunch on Thursday, followed by an opening reception, workshops, group mentor sessions, dinner, three-hours of official showcases and nearly three-and-one-half-hours of late-night guerilla showcases. It concludes on Sunday morning with breakfast and SERFA’s annual general meeting. For those opting to arrive early for the conference, there also will be a buffet dinner, a one-woman show: Precious Memories by Kahn and featuring Sue Massek, and a two-hour informal open mic on Wednesday evening, May 13.

Honoring Folks for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Culture in the Southeast

Special guests at this year’s conference include Kahn, Alice Gerrard and the founders of Rounder Records (Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin, Marian Leighton Levy) – all of whom will share the second annual Kari Estrin Founding President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Culture in the Southeast, to be presented on Friday afternoon. In addition, they will take part in a 90-minute “Wisdom of the Elders” panel discussion moderated by Art Menius on Saturday.

Gerrard is one of the pioneering women in bluegrass and old-time music. Rounder Records, a leading American roots music label founded in 1970 and acquired by the Concord Music Group in 2010, has released more than 3,000 albums in such genres as bluegrass, Americana, Cajun and Zydeco, folk, singer-songwriter, and children’s music. Rounder also has been in the forefront of the preservation and re-release of historic recordings by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Mississippi John Hurt, as well as a number of anthologies from the Library of Congress and the Alan Lomax Collection.

(The inaugural award was presented last year to The Highlander Research and Education Center, which serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South and integrates music with social change.)

Si Kahn

Si Kahn

“If we really are judged by the company we keep, I can’t imagine better company among whom to be honored than Alice Gerrard, a roots music legend if there ever were one, and the three ‘Rounder Founders’ — Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin — true visionaries who created a record company that would help preserve the best of traditional music, while at the same time giving emerging musicians and musics a home.” says Kahn.

“That’s very similar to what SERFA has done. It’s become a place where musicians who are just starting out can connect as equals with artists who, like Alice Gerrard, have been working at this time-honored trade for 60 years a and more.”

Kahn also will lead a “Music Can Make a Difference” workshop and participate in a “Theater for Folk Musicians” workshop during the conference. Singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa will speak on “From Major to Indie;” Tim Grimm and Jim Photoglo will conduct songwriting workshops; and Cosy Sheridan will lead a performance master class. Graphic design and imaging, harmony, “The Herstory of Oppression and Resistance in Appalachia,” international touring, performance rights organizations (PROs), and sound are among the other workshop topics. A series of group and one-on-one mentoring sessions also are on the conference agenda, as are participatory instrumental and dance clinics.

Artists to Showcase Their Talents on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Nights

The following artists and bands present official showcases on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights following dinner: The Barrel Jumpers, Bobtown, Mary Bragg, Shawna Caspi, The Early Mays, Angela Easterling, Wyatt Easterling, Kala Farnham, Tim Grimm, Tish Hinojosa, Kaia Kater, Paddy Mills, Danielle Miraglia, The Misty Mountain String Band, Zoe Mulford, Matt Nakoa, Jim Photoglo, Bruce Piephoff, Jefferson Ross, Sheltered Turtle, Cosy Sheridan, Underhill Rose, Dan Weber, The Yes Team, and Zoe & Cloyd. Nothing else is scheduled during these showcases, which are also open to the local community. Persons not registered for the conference can attend these juried showcases for $10 each night or $25 for all three nights (cash only). Tickets will be available on-site at the Assembly Inn Convocation Hall.

Following the official showcases, eight meeting rooms will be abuzz with late-night guerilla showcases that extend until 2 a.m., which has had a presence at the SERFA Conference for the past four years, will host late-night showcases on Thursday, May 13, overnight in Room 230. These will take the form of song swaps. showcase schedule:

10:40: Sharon Goldman, Bev Grant
11:00: Si Kahn Sing-along with Kari Estrin
11:30: Rob Lytle, Kipyn Martin and Paddy Mills
12:00: Mary Bragg, Shawna Caspi and Matt Nakoa
12:30: Redneck Mimosa: Todd Hoke, Carmody & Carver
1:00: Harmonic Convergence: The Early Mays and Underhill Rose
1:30: Blues & Roots: Lorraine Conard, Danielle Miraglia, Jon Shain

Editor’s Note: In addition to hosting an showcase, I will be part of a concert and festival presenters panel discussion and will join Lorraine Conard in a group mentoring session on Performers and Presenters Partnering in Promotion. I’ll also offer some one-on-one mentoring on public relations, strategic communications, artist bios and one-sheets, website content and social media, and other topics of interest to artists and presenters.