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Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance

cloudstreet 02 Dec 08 - 09:17 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 02 Dec 08 - 09:34 AM
Mary Katherine 02 Dec 08 - 10:38 AM
Dave Ruch 02 Dec 08 - 10:45 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 02 Dec 08 - 11:11 AM
Arkie 02 Dec 08 - 11:13 AM
DebC 02 Dec 08 - 11:26 AM
DebC 02 Dec 08 - 12:33 PM
Mary Katherine 02 Dec 08 - 01:20 PM
Art Thieme 02 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 02 Dec 08 - 02:51 PM
Big Mick 02 Dec 08 - 03:04 PM
Art Thieme 02 Dec 08 - 03:42 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 02 Dec 08 - 03:55 PM
Art Thieme 02 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 02 Dec 08 - 04:29 PM
cloudstreet 02 Dec 08 - 05:06 PM
DebC 02 Dec 08 - 05:52 PM
Phil Cooper 02 Dec 08 - 06:15 PM
GUEST,Jane Eamon - Okanagan Valley Songwriter 28 Dec 08 - 11:51 AM
Mary Katherine 28 Dec 08 - 01:04 PM
DebC 28 Dec 08 - 02:07 PM
Stringsinger 28 Dec 08 - 02:21 PM
Mark Ross 28 Dec 08 - 03:28 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 28 Dec 08 - 04:05 PM
DebC 28 Dec 08 - 06:38 PM
Mary Katherine 28 Dec 08 - 09:30 PM
Fortunato 29 Dec 08 - 09:20 AM
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Subject: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: cloudstreet
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 09:17 AM

cloudstreet are off to Memphis next year for the International Folk Alliance Conference (the new name for the North American conference) and we're wondering if any catters have experiences to share of recent years' conferences.

Any advice/suggestions/helpful hints will be greatly appreciated.

John and Nicole


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 09:34 AM

Be prepared for a sensory overload and keep your expectations low.   The International conference draws a huge crowd and everyone is spread out between hotels.   Never attend a conference with the intention of getting bookings - if you do, that is gravy. It is a networking event and you will hear and share a lot of information that can be important to the direction you are taking your music and career.

The Folk Alliance appears to have a focus on singer-songwriters, and my feeling is that is because singer-songwriters are much better organized and see a greater need for working as an industry. There is a lot of moaning that traditional music gets the short end, but there have been few attempts to create any grassroots efforts by traditionalists to promote themselves.   I understand that there will be an event at this years FA that is being put together by Andy Cohen that looks very promising.

Everyone should realize that the Folk Alliance is meant to be an organization of members. Do not expect the Folk Alliance to do things for you - what you get out of it will be what you put into it. Like any organization, the Folk Alliance has internal issues - but I feel they work out most of them - only if the membership participates.

I find that the Folk Alliance is a wonderful organization if you have the right frame of mind.   I'm sure others will post notes about their issues - and many are legitimate.   At the end of the day, this is an "industry" conference and it is of great value to many people. As a radio host and a presenter I find the experience of great value - just for the couple of gems I get an opportunity to discover.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Mary Katherine
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 10:38 AM

I agree with Ron's assessment, and would add a few things.

There is, I believe, a "Getting the Most out of Folk Alliance for First-Timers" meeting held on the first day of the conference. When the official schedule comes out, try to be sure you're there for that; it will answer a lot of your questions.

Be prepared to get very little sleep. The conference is very intense and goes on till all hours, with music pouring out of every open door. Eat frequently (the engine won't run without fuel), eat healthy food, and drink plenty of liquids. Remember that your body will be overworked and underslept for four days. If you see a gap in the day's schedule, where there are no workshops or panels that particularly speak to your needs, use that time to relax in the hotel's pool or exercise room, or to take a nap.

Bring a lot of business cards and promo material, and be as organized as you can about the connections you make. Take a few minutes after each encounter to jot a few key words on the back of the other person's business card about your conversation; it will help later, when you get home and are trying to reconstruct the blur!

Try to use your promo sensibly and selectively. If you are a singer/songwriter, don't waste time trying to talk a traditional roots music agency into booking you. Look at their roster for two minutes; if there are no singer-songwriters on it, there's probably a good reason for that. Save your time and energy for discussions with agencies who *do* book singer-songwriters. Same goes if you're trying for a label deal; look at the kinds of artists already on that label. If all they record is Scottish bagpipe music and you're a blues band, don't waste your (and their) time.

Be courteous in the exhibit hall. Don't interrupt conversations. If there's someone you want to approach and they are already occupied, move on to another booth, and come back in half an hour or so.

Remember that this is supposed to be FUN! Don't book every minute of every day with a to-do list. Leave time for exploring, for dropping in on panels, for attending late-night showcases. If possible, leave the hotel at least once every day for a walk. Go out for barbecue, visit Sun Records, go to Graceland if that's your thing. If you can afford it, book the conference hotel (they'll give you the same rate) for one day before and one day after the conference itself and be a tourist in Memphis. Ride the trolleys, go to Beale Street, stand on the banks of the Mississippi River and watch the paddlewheelers go by, visit the Center for Southern Culture, go to the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was killed, now converted into a museum in his memory. Send an advance email to the FA staffers, who all live there in Memphis, and ask them where the good restaurants and interesting spots to visit are. There's plenty to do and see in Memphis, and if you're going there anyway...


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 10:45 AM

I'm wondering about the event that Andy Cohen is organizing. I'll email him directly, but is it anything you can share here Ron?


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 11:11 AM

I do not have any details, just heard some good rumblings. Best to contact Andy directly if you are interested.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Arkie
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 11:13 AM

I have had conversations with Andy and Folk Alliance staff and got the feeling that FA would like to have more traditional artists involved. The emphasis on singer/songwriters is not by design of the staff. I would agree with assessments above. There are people scouting new acts for possible bookings but there is just so much happening and so many acts presenting themselves that should not be the sole reason for attending. If so one could be disappointed. Some acts I have enjoyed the most were playing in hallways, lobbies, and wherever there was a little space. They were not in any of the "showcases" or any other official schedule. If you are hoping to get bookings from the event you will need, as already suggested, a lot of promotional materials. You can pass it out to likely individuals and/or booths and post it on the numerous bulletin boards and tables. Because of the sheer mass of stuff you might look for some angle to get your materials noticed.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: DebC
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 11:26 AM

We had an interesting panel at NERFA (Northeast regional Folk Alliance) entitled "Traditional and Exceptional". Long short-it began with Gene Shay giving several examples of how some musicians take traditional music and song and make them accessible to a wider audience. There was also a spirited discussion about where trad is in the Folk Alliance.

The lovely and talented Robin Greenstein, who was on the panel mentioned that she would like to see the "Folk" put back into Folk Alliance. I am sorry to say that I agree with her.

I haven't yet heard an update from Andy about what will transpire on the Wednesday of the conference. This from Andy on the listserv FATrad:

>
It must be true, it must be vernacular, it must be well done, and it must be fun.>

I think that this is all well, good and nice...BUT we will be preaching to the choir. We as trad musicians need to SHOW the connection that needs to be made bewteen then and now.

Maybe it's time to start talking about this on the FA list again. I, for one, was AMAZED that Rich Bala and I seemed to be the only non-songwriters at NERFA. If there were others, I didn't find them.

The trad community has been running away from FA for a long time now, though some of us do want to see the "Folk" put back in Folk Alliance.

Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: DebC
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 12:33 PM

Ahh darn..my paste didn't come through. Here it is again, this from Andy Cohen:

What we want to do is assemble six, roughly forty minute sessions, that expose the largest possible number of participants, to the broadest possible spectrum of unarguably traditional music. We'll use every trick in the book to make it fun, and every medium from cylinders and 78s to DVDs, and employ as many native speaker types as we can find. The general idea is to provide a baseline, projected against Geological time, of the music that farmers, urban industrial workers, churchgoers, dancers, mothers, would have encountered or made up during the time before electricity was widely disseminated.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Mary Katherine
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 01:20 PM

Andy Cohen has been in touch with me about the traditional track too -and he said that not all the trad stuff will be on Wednesday. I pointed out that I would not be able to participate if it was all on Wednesday, since I arrive early Thursday morning, and he said that he would be sure that there was something with a traditional focus each day.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM

Just one short note:

I'm reminded of a recent BROOMHILDA cartoon. Some guys are saying to her, "Sure, you know a ton of old stuff from history, but why can't you ever talk about things we can relate to?"

She answers, "If I had any recent memory left, I would."

Utah said: "The past didn't go anywhere! It's here with us!"

The traditional performers are our FARENHEIT 451 precious few who are wandering in the snowy woods each memorizing the books that are being systematically burnt so they won't be forgotten.

Given: Traditional music necessitates an interest in holding onto musical history!

Given #2: Most of the "music professionals" at the Folk Alliance believe their booking practices abnd their artist catalogues reflects what their audiences want---so those new singer-songwriting folks are booked. The trad folks, especially now, won't bring in enough cash--or so it is thought--and so it goes--miseducating and extending the dynamic.

Such is life. It repeats over and over. (And over.)

Nobody ought to be blamed; although they will be by a few.---To me, it is rather sad.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 02:51 PM

Art,

Respectfully, I have to take exception to both of your "givens".

I do think, and have relationships with, many people who are involved with traditional music. One image that I will always remember from this year's NERFA was of a 21 year old Nyckelharpa player - who I saw jamming in the lobby with another Nyckelharpa player.   Amongst the sea of singer-songwriters there were two individuals reaching back to an old tradition and bringing it to modern use. Traditional music does indeed necessitate an interest in holding on to musical history - and I feel it safe to say new generations will also be exploring.

Does that mean traditional music is as popular as it was 40 years ago? Perhaps not, but then again it may have always been a specialized interest. If we subtract the "folk revival" from the equation and all the COMMERCIAL interest that was stirred, we probably have the same level of interest in trad music.

Can we do a better job of teaching others? Absolutely!   Can we do a better job of exposing the music to others? Sure thing!   Are we preserving our musical heritage? I would answer a resounding "yes".

Your other point about "booking practices" and giving the audience what they want - I have to say from experience that traditional music does not draw audiences and will not bring in cash. The low attendance at Eisteddfod is an example - probably the finest collection of traditional musicians and a price that was affordable - but the audience wasn't there. I've booked traditional music at the Hurdy Gurdy and watched people stay home in droves.

Does that mean we give up? Hell no! We need to mix traditional with contemporary and show the connection that Deb is talking about. It works, and I see a lot of young performers who are discovering the traditions and making it part of their own. It might not please the ears that grew up during the folk revival era, but it is a way that reaches a new generation with new needs and perceptions. While you can learn by looking at old models, you cannot expect a Model A Ford to keep up with the traffic on todays highways.

Deb pointed out that the "trad community has been running away from FA for a long time now" and that is 100% true, and a big part of the problem. Without support and interest from the members, the Folk Alliance has no incentive to promote traditional music.   Simply holding a showcase is not enough.   The issue is not preaching to the choir, it is how to get enough members to join the choir to show their faces and raise their voices to be heard.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Big Mick
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 03:04 PM

Ron, you make valid points. What I would like to see more of, is the use of traditional acts (the inspiration and root of much of what the best singer-songwriters write) as opening acts in the "folk venues". Much of the reason (as Art points out) that young folks, as well as folk oriented middle agers, don't hear trad folk is that it is done at venues and places they wouldn't normally go. They don't go to these places because of their perceptions of what they are. So if we can convince folk clubs/venues to use trad acts as opening acts or at the breaks, and we are careful to book acts that know how to hook a crowd, we can help to promote this wonderful music.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 03:42 PM

Ron,

   I don't think I said what you said I said. I was trying to say that the loss of interest in history is a sad situation, and we are worse off for it. A few years ago many of us who were balladeers in the folk revival times actually immersed ourselves in finding nuggets of historical, musical and narrative gold as they were saved and handed down to us so we could see those times and people somewhat clearer---in their own words. For a new generation not to see learning the old implied instructions from the past as being an uppermost priority is, at least sad---and at most---(extrapolated) the reason we are in Iraq and Afghanistan and flushing our nation down the economic toilet.

Art


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 03:55 PM

Art - what I said was that I do not think there is a "loss" of interest in history. I see many "young" folks learning about the music and the history, but their implementation of the lessons differs from the way other generations have used it.

40 years ago, when the folk revival was taking hold, there were reasons for the interest. Those reasons change. When I interviewed him, Eric Andersen made a strong case that the reason people like himself, Phil Ochs, and even Woody Guthrie wrote songs was because they were not finding songs that addressed issues that were important to them. They took the tradition and created their own music. The fact that we have a strong TRADITION of singer-songwriters is the result of changes that were made by the folk revival. What is also happening in 2008 is that there ARE young people who are discovering old songs and tunes - I can play numerous CD's of such material for you.   These artists might not fill Washington Square Park on a Sunday, but they are creating their own scenee - much like folks from another generation did for their time and needs.

To say that younger generations are not learning lessons from the past and that ultimately it ends up with repeating wars and a bad economy is an oversimplification of facts and ignoring numerous factors. A case could be made that we are in the situation we are in because we learned from the past and attempted fixes that would not work with contemporary necessities.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM

Nope, I'm saying that Bush and Cheney never learned from history---and the malleable gung-ho young, who don't know where Maine is on a map so they point to France, follow right over the cliff. (At least we knew enough of history from all the war songs and anti-war songs) to realize "going" to an insane war wasn't in our personal interest--so we didn't!

Yes, I mix metaphors on occasion---but it is possible to draw a conclusion on one from the other being seen accurately.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 04:29 PM

The big difference is that today those malleable gung-ho young are volunteering. Back then, you were drafted for the insane war! THAT is where history taught a lesson - if you want to keep the anti-war movement down, make sure there is no draft!!


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: cloudstreet
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:06 PM

Thanks to everyone for their insights and advice.

Of course part of our agenda is to investigate agents in the US who might be interested in our type of music - traditional Anglo Celtic and Australian based, vocal harmony-focussed, originals written in a trad style and powerful and engaging delivery with a lot of humour thrown in (OK, that's not expressed in a particularly concentrated way, but I just woke up!)

So, who does trad?

J&N
cloudy-types


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: DebC
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:52 PM

I do a mix of trad and contemporary songs...I am not a songwriter, just an interpreter.

I'll be in Memphis. It would be great to meet you.

Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 06:15 PM

Not sure if either of my groups are going, but we may. We thought this might be a good year to sit out, as money is tight. A well known midwestern performer once said to me, "these things are great as long as you don't expect to get work, or don't expect to get laid." We have gotten work out of folk alliance, but usually from meeting other great musicians. We've met a lot of good friends there and stayed in contact. If you haven't gone, you should.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: GUEST,Jane Eamon - Okanagan Valley Songwriter
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 11:51 AM

Hi there, this is my first folk alliance and I'm stoked but also a little nervous. I have never ventured south from the hinterland of BC and to such a large gathering of folks doing what I do. What should I expect? I will have a private showcase room and will be bringing several singer songwriters from the Okanagan Valley to participate. Hope to meet a few faces whom I've only known as names...

jane eamon
ww.myspace.com/janeeamon


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Mary Katherine
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 01:04 PM

Ron Olesko writes (edited):
<>

This is exactly the model that was used at the 1963, 1964 and 1965 Newport Folk Festivals, which first brought traditional music to a city audience. The Advisory Board, which included our own Jean Ritchie as well as other traditional music supporters like Mike Seeger, decided that "big names" like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, etc. should be used as "bait" to bring in large crowds; those crowds were then treated to Roscoe Holcolmb, Mississippi John Hurt, Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson, Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys, Son House, Dewey Balfa and a Cajun band from Louisiana, and so forth. The evening concerts were structured so that big names and traditional artists played to the same audiences, while the daytime workshops for primarily traditional artists were usually *hosted* by big names. The big names all agreed to perform for the *exact same fee* as everyone else (dim memory says it was $50 per day plus expenses, but I am willing to be corrected on that); the money that was saved by NOT paying Baez, Dylan and PP&M their usual many thousands in concert fees was then able to be used to pay the travel costs to bring traditional artists in from Mississippi, Texas, the Appalachians, etc.
For those of us who love traditional music (and are old enough to have attended!,)those three festivals were a miraculous and life-changing experience never since duplicated.


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: DebC
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 02:07 PM

Mary Katherine,

I do hope to meet you at FA in Memphis. I have seen your posts here and (I think) even have had email contact with you a few years ago.

Best,
Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 02:21 PM

As always, the most important issue is education. The Folk Alliance could serve this function by introducing traditional folk performers and interpreters in a context by which this music could be understood.

One of the ways this could be done is to inculcate classes in learning trad folk songs and instruments so that the public could be a part of the process. There should be a lot more teaching going on instead of just offerings ways to get a gig.

You have to educate an audience to appreciate folk music.

The singer/songwriter is in danger of becoming just another arm of the pop music biz.
It's about gigs, copyrights, publishing deals, airplay etc. etc.

There has to be a conduit whereby people understand this music or it just becomes a new pop fad.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Mark Ross
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 03:28 PM

I'll drink to that Frank!

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 04:05 PM

I'll second that!! Now, who will step up and put the words into action and come up with a plan to do it. Don't forget, the Folk Alliance is made up by its members and great ideas need those members to put it into action.   Who will start the ball rolling?


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: DebC
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 06:38 PM

Well, Andy Cohen has a bunch of stuff going, but I can't recall what all he has scheduled. I was in touch with him before the holiday and he did say that there would be trad-oriented activities throughout the conference.

Frank is correct, of course..and I do believe that education is going to be happening. There are a bunch of fantastic folks that are involved in doing just that at FA. However, I do fear that Andy's (and the FA) plan might be preaching to the choir.

What we need is someone of keynote speaker status (anyone personally know Roger McGuinn?? :-) ) to try to sway the masses.

Frank said, "The singer/songwriter is in danger of becoming just another arm of the pop music biz. It's about gigs, copyrights, publishing deals, airplay etc. etc."

Unfortunately, I am afraid that they (and we) are already there. But I do believe strongly that trad folk music can be entertaining and enjoyable. We just need to be given a chance. Many times we aren't and dismissed as irrelevant and boring.

Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Mary Katherine
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 09:30 PM

Yes, will be at Folk Alliance - let's have a Mudcat gathering - anyone else coming?


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Subject: RE: Memphis 2009 - Folk Alliance
From: Fortunato
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 09:20 AM

Thanks to all for your discussion here. You encourage me to think about the life and vibrancy of folk music and what I ought to do to contribute. Susette and I had some conflicts getting our CD Release Concert scheduled and we wound up with a date too close to make a trip to Memphis feasible. We plan to attend upcoming events.
    Ron Olesko's positive influence, support and discussion of the Folk Alliance here on the Mudcat has generated interest on my part, I thank him for that.
    I find that audiences are brought to 'folk music' by education and by the tapestry of folklore, customs and environment that give rise to the music. Susette and I play what Mike Seeger calls Old Time Country Music, and we chose his term to distinguish, but not separate, the collection of traditional ballads, early country music songs, and occasional fiddle tunes we play from "Old Time" and "Bluegrass". We strive to place the music in time and space.
    But I also find that 'the old famliar tunes' lie in the collective conciousness of those born prior to 1955 or 60 and memory provides an inroad to appreciation. Add to this the children who heard the records or performance of their parents, and those whose interest in an instrument drew them in and I feel you have a cross section of those folk music can readily reach.
    Beyond those potential audience segments its very difficult to brige the gap, I'm afraid. Here I come to my belief that we do ourselve no favors by religously dividing 'folk music' into subggenres whose exclusive definitions, understood only by insiders, is exclusive rather than inclusive, and thus less approachable for new audiences.


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