Noted composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist and author David Amram received an Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Award during a star-studded International Folk Music Awards Show, Feb. 15, on the opening night of the 29th Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. The late activist songwriter Malvina Reynolds (legacy) and prolific Canadian folklorist Helen Creighton (Business/Academic) were also named as recipients.Aptly described as “the Renaissance Man of American Music,” David Amram is a composer, a conductor, an author, and a multi-instrumentalist bar none. Through the years, he’s been engaged in many genres – including jazz, classical, folk and world music. He’s been a conductor and bandleader, conducting symphony orchestras and bands that have played around the world, as well as a soloist. Amram is considered a pioneer of the French horn in jazz. He has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber works – including Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie (commissioned by the Woody Guthrie Foundation) and Theme and Variations on Red River Valley. He’s written two operas and numerous theatrical and film scores – notably including those for Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. He’s worked with such musical luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, Levon Helm, Pete Seeger, Arturo Sandoval, Mary Lou Williams and many more. And he’s a musical luminary in his own right. Why, he’s even been immortalized in a popular children’s song by Raffi – “One for me and one for David Amram.”
In recent years, Amram has shown a particular affinity for the folk community – as an active participant in Folk Alliance International and Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conferences. Although now 86 years young, he has more energy and vigor than many people much younger than him. As folks who have sat in on the late-night showcases I host at NERFA Conferences can attest, Amram is generally the last man standing at 3 a.m. playing one of his many instruments as he improvises and accompanies other artists – particularly young and emerging ones.
Many honors have been bestowed on Amram — including the second annual Pete and Toshi Seeger Power of Song Award in 2012, several other lifetime achievement awards, and six honorary doctorates. I’m so delighted that Folk Alliance International members voted to honor him this year and that he was in Kansas City to accept his award from Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center.
Bruce Cockburn, The Great Hudson River Clearwater Revival and Others are also Honored
Others honored during the awards show hosted by Grammy Award-winning artist Paula Cole and celebrating excellence, tradition, innovation, and the collective history of the global folk community included:
Bruce Cockburn – The Canadian folk-rocker – who has highlighted environmental, social and indigenous issues globally over the past 40 years — was on-hand to accept the inaugural People’s Voice Award. Artist and activist Kris Kristofferson presented the award to Cockburn in recognition of his commitment to incorporating social and political commentary in his creative work and folk music career.
The Great Hudson River Clearwater Revival received its namesake Clearwater Award, established this year and set to be presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production. Launched by the late Pete and Toshi Seeger, the Great Hudson River Clearwater Revival celebrates environmental activism, music and education. Festival director Steve Lurie accepted the award from artist and activist Eliza Gilkyson.
Barbara Dane, Chloe Goodyear, Michelle Conceison, Ramy Essam, Si Kahn, and SONiA disappear fear were the recipients of Spirit of Folk Awards presented in recognition of their active involvement in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, community building and demonstrated leadership.
In addition, Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Megan Mullally (of Will and Grace fame), who is also a singer – and impressed as part of the duo Nancy and Beth — presented the following member-voted Best of 2016 awards:
Album of the Year: Undercurrent by Sarah Jarosz
Song of the Year: “Black Man in a White World” by Michael Kiwanuka and Inflo
Artist of the Year: Parker Millsap
Although none of the “Best of” award-winners were in attendance, each recorded a video that was screened during the awards show.
Folk DJ Hall of Fame Inducts Its Inaugural Class
Inducted into a newly established Folk DJ Hall of Fame in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of folk music, as well as demonstrated and inspired leadership in the broadcast field, were Oscar Brand (the late host of the world’s longest-running radio show, Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival, which aired for 70 years on WNYC AM 820 in New York City); Mike Regenstreif (an Ottawa, Canada–based veteran music journalist, broadcaster and host of Folk Roots/Folk Branches, which was heard on Montreal’s CKUT from 1994-2007, and who recently returned to the airwaves as a rotating host of both Saturday Morning and Canadian Spaces on Ottawa’s CKCU); and Howard and Roz Larman (the late hosts of FolkScene, a highly influential syndicated music program, emanating from KPFK-FM in Southern California, that aired from 1970-2016. Also recognized in the Hall of Fame’s inaugural year were folk DJs and past FAI- award recipients Rich Warren (longtime host of Midnight Special on Chicago’s WFMT, that also is nationally syndicated on some 70 stations) and Gene Shay (former longtime host of The Folk Show on Philadelphia’s WXPN-FM).
Note: Here’s a link to a previous AcousticMusicScene.com article about Oscar Brand:
29th Folk Alliance International Conference Attracts Nearly 3,000 People
The International Folk Music Awards was just one among many highlights of the 29th Folk Alliance International Conference, Feb. 15-19, which had as its theme “Forbidden Folk,” celebrating activism in art. Billy Bragg, a Grammy Award-winning British singer-songwriter and activist, delivered a stirring keynote and also headlined the second annual Kansas City Folk Festival that capped it on Sunday afternoon, while singer-songwriter and social activist Ani DiFranco also spoke, shared a couple of songs, and engaged in an on-stage Q & A interview.
The conference, which drew nearly 3,000 people from some 20 countries – and more for select events that were open to the public — featured several days of panel discussions and workshops, mentoring sessions, regional and peer group meetings, receptions, an exhibit hall, a health fair, and lots of music and networking. During four nights (and several afternoons), emerging and renowned touring artists from throughout the world showcased their talents for hundreds of concert and festival presenters, agents, managers, media, and music industry representatives in hundreds of juried and private in-room showcases, in-the-round song swaps, and jams that extended well into the early morning hours. Many also could be found plying their craft in the lobby, stairwells and other nooks and crannies of The Westin Crown Center — the hotel that played host to the conference for the fourth consecutive year.Kansas City-based Folk Alliance International (www.folk.org) is 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: An elected member of the Folk Alliance International board of directors, I also serve as board president for its largest regional affiliate — Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA), whose boundaries extend from Washington, DC’s northern Virginia suburbs to eastern Canada. I moderated a well-received panel discussion on “The Art of Adventurous Programming” for presenters, mentored a few artists, and led a regional meeting during the conference.