The NERFA/SERFA jointly-organized conference (endearingly referred to as “SNERFA”) was held in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, September 6. The conference offered a day of networking, helpful workshops and some stand-out performances in the artist showcase. An added bonus was the close driving distance to most of us in the DC metro area. Although attendance may not have been what some organizers were hoping for (the turnout was about 65 people), the program was well planned and organized.
I had the opportunity to attend the conference and thoroughly enjoyed meeting some new people and gaining new insights about promotion, using social media and submitting materials for contests and reviews. The “On the Griddle” workshop was a highlight. The workshop consisted of a panel of music industry experts who would listen to the first 60 seconds of a song submitted by various conference attendees. The group would then discuss the song’s potential to draw in the listener and potentially get played on local and national radio syndicates. The organizers chose their panelists well: folk DJs Peter Jones (WTJU-FM), Anne Williams (WNRN-FM), along with Michael Jaworek (The Birchmere) and Scott Moore (Focus Music) deftly moved from praise to constructive criticism, ensuring an objective stance on each song.
Other workshops offered were “Blues, Banjos and Ballads: A Musical Conversation on Regional Folk Traditions”, “Online Communications and Promotion”, “Why Free Pays”, and a presenter’s open forum.
The conference ended with the ten selected performers and groups performing 3 songs each in a three and a half hour showcase. The performance styles ranged from upbeat traditional bluegrass to beautiful, haunting folk ballads to contemporary guitar virtuosos. The ten finalists were Beggar’s Ride, Rj Cowdery, Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins, Friction Farm, Susan Greenbaum, Jacob Johnson, Lulu’s Fate, Kipyn Martin (an MASC 2014 winner), Grant Peeples and Simple Gifts.
All in all, the day was well planned and executed and those in attendance all seemed to enjoy the day. The “SNERFA” team hopes to host more one-day conferences in the future. Until then, check out the SERFA and NERFA websites for their upcoming conferences at www.nerfa.org and www.serfa.org.