Two regional affiliates of Folk Alliance International — an association that aims to foster and promote contemporary, traditional and multicultural folk music — hold their annual conferences this month. Folk Alliance Region-West (FAR-West) convenes Oct. 13-16 in Bellevue, Washington, while the Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) Conference is set for Oct. 27-30 in Iowa City, Iowa.

FAR-West Conference, Oct. 13-16, 2016 in Bellevue, Washington

6a01347fb35eac970c01b7c8974abb970b-500wiMore than 300 performing artists, presenters, managers, agents and others engaged more than peripherally in the world of folk and acoustic music are expected to converge on the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bellevue, WA, Oct. 13-16 for the 13th annual FAR-West Conference. Several conference events also will be open to the public for nominal fees.

Conference highlights include the opening Venues’ Choice Concert on Thursday night and juried Official Showcases on Friday and Saturday evenings. On Thursday, Oct. 13, from 7-9:30 p.m., venues from around the region will each present artists of their choice. These include Traditions, Olympia, WA (Holly Gwinn Graham); Seattle Folklore Society, Seattle, WA (Orville Johnson); Artichoke Music, Portland, OR (Avery Hill); Wintergrass, Bellevue, WA (Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons); and Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater, Snohomish, WA (The Kadalywompass Radio Show featuring The Shed Players and Dawn Madsen).

Official Showcases extending from 7-10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, will feature (in order of appearance) Rachel Garlin, Uncle Bonsai, Jamie Laval Duo, Scott Cook, Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, and March to May. Saturday’s lineup includes John Batdorf, Rita Hosking and Scott Feder, Melanie Devaney, Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan, Nathan & Jessie, and Otter Creek.

A limited number of tickets are available for the public to each of these events for $15/night; they can be purchased online until 5 p.m. on Oct. 12 and may also be available at the door.

Following the Venues’ Choice and Official Showcases, from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., there will be late-night private guerilla showcases arranged by conference attendees and held in their hotel rooms, as well as a New Voices Showcase for conference first-timers. Also on the docket are jams that often extend from 2 a.m. until dawn. The Suzanne Millsaps Memorial Coffeehouse, named after the late beloved folk DJ, will feature short performances by a number of artists on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

During the daytime hours, conference-goers can choose from among a broad array of panel discussions and workshops focusing on such topics as diverse revenue streams for musicians, radio airplay and promotion, booking from the venues’ perspective, how to get the most out of your sound check, music success is a team sport, strategies for the self-managed act, and teaching – a way to foster community and nourish your music. Musicians and others also can get to know each other through “speed-dating” sessions as well as in the conference’s networking center.

Danny O'Keefe

Danny O’Keefe

The annual Best of the West Awards will be presented during a Saturday afternoon luncheon. Established by FAR-West in 2005, these awards honor individuals — one performing artist and one non-performer — who have maintained an enduring presence on the folk and acoustic music scene in the West and have established themselves as true leaders and inspirations to others through their talents and efforts on behalf of the community. This year’s honorees include a performing songwriter and someone who has played a major role in arts education and advocacy with a particular focus on music.

Danny O’Keefe, a performing songwriter since the early 1970s, is perhaps best known for his top ten hit song “Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues.” Numerous other artists of more renown have recorded his songs over the years – including Elvis Presley, Cab Calloway, Allison Kraus, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Chris Smither, Nickel Creek, Earl Klugh, Chris Hillman, Conway Twitty, Dwight Yoakum, and more. O’Keefe, who will host a songwriting master class during the conference, has also conducted classes and workshops for more than 30 years. Devoted to the cause of preserving habitat for Western Songbirds, O’Keefe is also prime mover in the Songbird Foundation.

Peter McCracken has been a visionary administrator who has played an integral part serving in various capacities with the Centrum Foundation, a Port Townsend, WA-based arts education and advocacy program that promotes creative experiences that change lives through intergenerational workshops bringing together aspiring and master artists to foster creativity, provide mentorship, and build community.

During the luncheon, FAR-West will also present a special Organizational Achievement Award to the nonprofit Seattle Folklore Society in recognition of its 50th year of producing concerts, dances, song circles, camps and a newsletter.

The FAR-West Conference concludes on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 16, with a Story Expo featuring seven storytellers who enjoy the enrichment that music brings to their art. Tickets for this event, slated for 2-4 p.m. and priced at $10, also are available to the public via BrownPaperTickets. More information may be found online at

FARM Conference, Oct. 27-30 in Iowa City, Iowa

13932930_10153836753340983_3342303314611336302_nAnne Hills, a Pennsylvania-based singer-songwriter and a Michigan native will keynote the annual FARM Conference that’s set for Oct. 27-30 in Iowa City, Iowa. Besides keynoting the conference on the Friday, she will conduct a Thursday afternoon songwriting master class that will be followed by a Community Sing, a special dinner and awards presentation, and a Presenters and Folk DJ Showcase from 8 p.m. to midnight. Folks can still register online at for the conference.

Fourteen Official Showcase artists have been selected by a panel of judges to perform during this year’s conference. Friday night’s lineup includes (in order of appearance) johnsmith, Gina Forsyth, Roy Schneider & Kim Mayfield, Jon Brooks, The Deep Hollow, The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, and The Don Juans. Gracing the stage on Saturday night will be Linda McRae, Noah Zacharin, The Lords of Liechtenstein, Beth Wood and David Stoddard, Leaf Rapids, Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan, and Kenny White.

Friday and Saturday afternoons will feature an array of workshops and panel discussions, while the evenings’ official showcases will be preceded and 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 from midnight into the early morning hours.

During the conference, Sally Porter, who has been a staple of the Mid-Michigan folk community for many years, will receive FARM’s Folk Tradition in the Midwest Lifetime Award, while Sue Kessell, a folk DJ at Northwester University’s WNUR, among other things, will be given the 2016 Lantern Bearer Award.

The Folk Achievement in the Midwest Lifetime Award is an annual honor bestowed on an individual who has made a significant contribution to the region’s folk community for at least 25 years. A singer, song leader and producer of numerous acoustic music events, Porter has volunteered her services as booking manager for Ten Pound Fiddle — which hosts more than 30 concerts each season at venues around Greater Lansing, Michigan — for the past eight years. Inspired by the Wheatland Music Organization’s Wheat Scouts program, she also spearheaded the creation of Fiddle Scouts, a monthly interactive music and dance gathering that draws 40-60 children, ages 3-12. Porter, who performed in the folk trio Second Opinion from 1989-2001 and founded the Mid-Winter Singing Festival in 2003, has been leading large monthly Community Sings since 2004 and has inspired many others to launch community-based singing programs in their areas. A high school economics teacher, Porter also sings with the Arts Chorale of Greater Lansing.

The Lantern Bearer Award is given to an individual who has contributed locally and regionally to folk performance and the folk music and dance community for 25 years or more. Kessell, whose lifelong love of folk music began in her teens, has been a host of the “Folk Show” on WNUR since 2000. She is also a longtime board member of Chicago’s Old Time School of Folk Music, with which she first got involved as a student taking guitar lessons. She later served as its volunteer coordinator and created a membership program for the nonprofit educational organization and volunteered as its membership coordinator for nine years. Kessell, who manages affordable housing for senior citizens during the day, is also an active participant in international folk dancing.

Anne Hills

Anne Hills

The FARM Conference concludes on Sunday at noon, following a continental breakfast and a membership meeting. However, conference attendees are also invited to attend a special 25th Anniversary Concert offsite at The Mill on Sunday afternoon. Featuring Anne Hills with guest performances by Sandy Andina, Mark Dvorak and Carol Montag, the concert is also open to the public for a fee ($12 in advance/$15 at the door).

A Taste of FARM will afford those individuals who only want to attend the evening concerts (Presenters and Folk DJ Showcase on Thursday and Official Showcases on Friday and Saturday) an opportunity to do so. One-night is $20, while a three-night pass costs $50. For more information and to purchase those, visit


As previously noted, FAR-West and FARM are part of the larger Folk Alliance International ( Billy Bragg, a Grammy Award-winning UK-based artist and activist, keynotes the 29th International Folk Alliance Conference that is set for Feb.15-19 in Kansas City, Missouri, and also will feature an awards gala, a three-day music camp and a daylong indoor Kansas City Folk Festival on Sunday. The conference theme is Forbidden Folk: (a celebration of activism in art).

Folk Alliance International has three other regional affiliates. The Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (SWRFA) held its annual conference in Austin, Texas earlier this fall, while the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) has slated its 22nd annual conference for Nov. 10-13 in Stamford, Connecticut; an article previewing the NERFA event will be posted on later this month. The Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) conference takes place next May in Montreat, North Carolina.

Editor’s Note: A board member of Folk Alliance International, I also serve as vice president of NERFA’s board of directors.