Folks jam in the lobby during a previous NERFA Conference

Folks jam in the lobby during a previous NERFA Conference

Some 800 performing artists, presenters, promoters, agents and managers, folk DJs and others actively engaged in contemporary and traditional folk music will converge on the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, New York, Nov. 12-15, 2015, for the 21st Annual Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. will again have a major presence as it hosts afternoon and late-night song swaps, in addition to its popular Midnight Hoot at the close of the conference’s first day.

Ellis Paul will keynote the conference. (Photo: Jack Looney)

Ellis Paul will keynote the conference. (Photo: Jack Looney)

The NERFA Conference will feature several jam-packed days and nights of music showcases, song swaps/in-the-rounds, an open mic, informal jam sessions, informative panel discussions and workshops, a keynote by singer-songwriter Ellis Paul, mentoring sessions, a large trade show-like exhibit hall, peer group sessions for presenters, communal meals in the dining room, a welcoming party and happy hours, and lots of informal conversation and networking. This year’s conference will extend longer than usual – closing out late Sunday afternoon with an 85th birthday celebration and concert featuring and feting acclaimed composer and multi-instrumentalist David Amram.

Booking gigs may be the primary objective of some performers who attend the 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 careers, promote the music, and attract audiences and listeners.

Taking center stage during this year’s conference will be 14 artists/acts selected by a panel of judges, each to perform a 15-minute formal showcase set in the resort’s theater on Friday and Saturday nights. Slated to perform on Friday are Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys, Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, The Young Novelists, Robert Jones & Matt Watroba, Les Poules a Colin, Shun Ng and John Flynn. Saturday’s Formal Showcase lineup features Mile Twelve, Pat Donohue, Sultans of String with Anwhar Kurshid, Yann Falquet & Pascal Gemme, Ken Whiteley & The Beulah Band, Cosy Sheridan, and Don White & Christine Lavin.

After the formal showcases, attendees will shuffle between four conference rooms to catch short sets by 40 additional artists who were selected by a different set of judges. Performing in quad showcases on Friday night are Scott Ainslie, Mari Black, Susan Cattaneo, Cricket Tell the Weather, The Early Mays, Efrat, Friction Farm, Jan Krist and Jim Bizer, David Massengill, Kate McDonnell, Mist Covered Mountains, David Myles, The Nields, Rant Maggie Rant, Dave Rowe, Amy Soucy, Spuyten Duyvil, Jim Trick, Letitia Vansant & the Bonafides, and Dan Weber. Saturday’s Quad Showcase artists include Eric Andersen, Marc Allen Berube, Michael Braunfeld, Meghan Cary, Shawna Caspi, Joe Crookston, Durham County Poets, Angela Easterling, Jane Fallon, Gathering Time, Lynne Hanson, Jacob Johnson, Sharon Katz & the Peace Train, Evie Ladin Band, Mamalama, Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt, Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers & Wendy Ramsay, Lindsay Straw and Carla Ulbrich.

Following the juried showcases each evening (as well as on Friday afternoon), 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 musical mix. It’s not unusual to see musicians staking out other areas of the hotel and jamming until 5 a.m. Midnight Hoot Features Artists and Singing Folk DJs

An overflow crowd will likely again descend on the room (1506) on Thursday overnight for its popular Midnight Hoot. Following the Suzi Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase and extending from 11:45 p.m. to 3 a.m., the Midnight Hoot is a pre-arranged, round robin song swap featuring several singing folk DJs (Barbara and Graham Dean, Wanda Fischer and Jon Stein) and some three-dozen artists/acts – each of whom will perform one song.

Now in its ninth year, the Midnight Hoot is intended to shine a spotlight on several folk DJs who also enjoy singing, while providing them, presenters and others with an opportunity to get a small sampling of the music of a lot of artists in a short period of time.

A house band comprised of Mark Dann (bass), Efrat (violin), Marshal Rosenberg (percussion), Brad Yoder (various instruments) and Jason Rafalak (mandolin) also will be there for anyone who desires accompaniment.

The musical festivities in the room will wrap up on Saturday overnight with an extended “O Canada” song swap. Carrying their instruments and the maple leaf, a number of talented Canadian artists will march into the room shortly before 2 a.m. singing their national anthem.

Schedules for the showcases appear below. There will be a carpeted wooden platform stage and stage lights courtesy of Stuart Kabak. Blue Point Brewing Company (Patchogue, NY) is providing craft beers.

Thursday Night
11:45 p.m. – 3 a.m. – Midnight Hoot

These chairs will be filled during the showcases.

These chairs will be filled during the showcases at the NERFA Conference.

Featuring one song by each of the following (not listed in order of appearance)

Folk DJs: Graham & Barbara Dean, Wanda Fischer and Jon Stein

Artists: Annika Bennett, Marc Douglas Berardo, Chelsea Berry, Mark Allen Berube, Robert Bobby Duo, Meg Braun, Kate Callahan, Greg Cornell and the Cornell Brothers, Pat Donohue, Efrat, Gathering Time, Generations: Mike & Aleksi Glick, Sam Gleaves, Sonya Heller, Jacob Johnson, Stuart Kabak, Rachael Kilgour, Erika Kulnys, Mara Levine, Lowell Levinger (Banana from The Youngbloods), Rob Lytle, Kirsten Maxwell, Dennis McDonough, Emily Mure, Dan Navarro, Hugh O’ Doherty, Jim Photoglo, KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner, The Royal Yard, Ben Shannon, Carolann Solebello, Amy Soucy, Hank Stone, Jim Trick, Mark Wahl, Dan Weber, Emily White, Brad Yoder and Jason Rafalak

House Band: Mark Dann (bass), Efrat (violin), Marshal Rosenberg (percussion), Brad Yoder (various instruments) and Jason Rafalak (mandolin)

Friday Afternoon

12:00 Pirate Camp: The Royal Yard (sea chanteys)

12:15 Pirate Camp: Mya Byrne, Robinlee Garber, Gathering Time, Susan Kane

1:00 Pirate Camp: Stuart Kabak, Keith Kelly, Rachael Kilgour, David Massengill

2:00 Long Island Sounds: He-Bird, She-Bird, Rorie Kelly, Scott Krokoff, Hank Stone, Christine Sweeney, Robinson Treacher

3:00 The Maine Event: Caroline Cotter, Paddy Mills, Dave Rowe, Putnam Smith, Sorcha, Ashley Storrow

4:00 Keystone Staters: Michael Braunfeld, Meghan Cary: Sing Louder, The Early Mays, Mist Covered Mountains, No Good Sister, Brad Yoder & Jason Rafalak

Friday Night

11:45 Blues All Around: Scott Ainslie, Pat Donohue, Generations: Mike & Aleksi Glick, Jon Shain

12:30 A Pair of Duos: The Levins, The YaYas

1:00 Guys of Note: Marc Douglas Berardo, Rob Lytle

1:30 NYC Roots-Americana: Greg Cornell & the Cornell Brothers, Vincent Cross

2:00 Mass. Appeal: Mile Twelve, Matt Nakoa, Pesky J. Nixon, Jim Trick

Saturday Night

11:45 California-centric: Freebo, Dan Navarro, Eric Schwartz

12:30 Powerful Voices: John Flynn and Rachael Kilgour

1:00 Strings & Songs: Efrat, Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

1:30 Harmonic Convergence: Gathering Time, Mara Levine, Kirsten Maxwell

2:00 O Canada: Bob Ardern, Amy & Rachel Beck, Shawna Caspi, Ian Foster, Fraser & Girard, Manitoba Hal, Jory Nash, Rant Maggie Rant, Suzie Vinnick, Ken Whiteley & The Beulah Band, The Young Novelists (Percussion: Cheryl Prashker)

NERFA-logoNERFA ( is a regional affiliate of Folk Alliance International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to nurture, engage and empower the international folk music community – traditional and contemporary, amateur and professional – through education, advocacy and performance.


Editor’s Note: My thanks to Stuart Kabak, with whom I partner in hosting pre-arranged late-night song swaps and open song circles under the Tent @ Pirate Camp during the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, for providing a carpeted wooden platform stage and stage lights for this year’s showcases. Thanks also are due to him, Mira Shapiro and Hank Stone for graciously offering to host afternoon showcases, and to Amy Blake, Sybil Moser and Gary Schoenberger for the loan of folding chairs.

In addition to hosting the Midnight Hoot and other showcases during the NERFA
Conference, I will be assisting a few artists and offering a series of 15-minute mentoring sessions focused on artist bios and one-sheets, electronic press kits (EPKs), media relations, social media, website content, and what presenters look for when considering artists for their concert series and festivals. I also serve on the board of directors for both Folk Alliance International and NERFA.