Making Connections: The Folk Alliance
The Stray Birds perform at the 2013 Folk Alliance International conference.
The Folk Alliance is an international organization, founded in 1989 which exists to foster and promote traditional, contemporary, and multicultural folk music and dance and related performing arts.
Now 3100 members strong, the Folk Alliance community has grown to include record companies, publishers, presenters, agents, managers, music support services, manufacturers and artists that work in the folk world.
The most popular question presented to the organization and membership is consistently: What is folk? FAI defines 'folk' as anything rooted in tradition, indigenous to one's culture, and includes songwriters, story tellers, bluegrass, blues, soul, world music, spoken word, zydeco, and much...much more.
The Folk Alliance has five regional affiliates that provide the grass roots efforts in their respective markets: west, southwest, midwest, northeast, and southeast.
Each of the regions is known by an acronym riffed off of the FA theme; southwest is known as SWRFA (pronounced “swerfa”), northeast is NERFA, southeast SERFA. Only the west and the midwest change it up, to FAR-West and FARM, respectively.
The Folk Alliance and its affiliates seek to strengthen and advance organizational and individual initiatives in folk music and dance through education, networking, advocacy, and professional and field development. The Folk Alliance and each of its regions hold annual conferences at which members can meet, learn, network and collaborate.
They are generally held at the same time each year –- SWRFA, in Austin TX, the last weekend in September; FAR-West in mid-October in various locations in its western region; FARM two weeks after that in St. Louis, MO; NERFA in Kerhonksen NY in early November and lone SERFA in May in Montreat NC. And the mother ship, Folk Alliance International, in February, at its new permanent HQ in Kansas City, MO.
My introduction to Folk Alliance was at my first FAR-West conference in Sacramento CA several years ago. It was a somewhat overwhelming swirl of opportunities to play music, attend workshops and seminars, and meet people.
I dove in, and haven’t stopped swimming yet. Invariably, the folks I met (no pun intended) were friendly, helpful, and instructive in the ways of FA. Like any organization, there are some ins and outs and “how-to’s” that one must figure out, but after that, it’s all blue sky.
Each FA conference provides an opportunity to hear an array of talented musicians (any of whom you would pay good money to hear in concert!), be mentored by peers or industry insiders, and to perform for your fellow musicians, presenters and venue operators.
There are “official showcases,” for which an audition and selection is required, and which take place on stages and auditoriums when nothing else in happening (ensuring maximum exposure). And then there are the unofficial showcases, known as “Private Guerilla Showcases,” which take place after the officials are done, simultaneously in hotel rooms of the PGS hosts. And finally, after the PGSs, there are jams and song circles, which go on into the wee hours of the morning, often ending with the dawn.
After it’s all done, some get gigs, some get co-writers, some get an agent, some get new bandmates, but everyone gets some new perspective, knowledge, and an ever-widening community of supportive friends who believe in one another and their ability to change the world with a song. Folk Alliance’s motto: Building community one song at a time. And so it does.
Find out more at folkalliance.org
Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released three CDs of original songs and is poised to release the 4th, "Life Wide Open," early this fall. More at LauraZucker.com
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