The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) is a regional affiliate of Folk Alliance International (FAI), a nonprofit organization that aims to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion. The FAI folk umbrella represents the broadest international iteration of the genre, encompassing a diverse array of music including Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Francophone, Global Roots, Indigenous, Latin, Old-Time, Traditional, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word and every imaginable fusion.

More than 700 performing artists, presenters, promoters, agents, managers, folk DJs, and others actively engaged in contemporary and traditional folk music attend NERFA’s annual music business conference in Asbury Park, New Jersey each November. NERFA is governed by a volunteer board of directors that has been engaged in ongoing efforts to make it more of a year-round organization in order to best meet the needs and serve the interests of FAI members from the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC to the provinces of eastern Canada. 

The NERFA conference features several jam-packed days and nights of music showcases, song swaps and jam sessions; informative workshops and panel discussions (most pertaining to the business of performing or presenting folk music); one-on-one mentoring and peer group sessions; an exhibit hall; open mics; communal meals, and lots of informal conversation and networking.

Booking gigs may be the primary objective of some performers who attend the conference, and many concert & festival presenters and folk DJs come to scout out new artists and those whom they have not previously heard and seen in live performance. However, the conference experience is much more than that. As a music business conference, it is designed to help attendees forge connections and build community, while also providing learning and performance opportunities that can help enhance their professional and personal lives.

Although it features some wonderful musical performances and is a lot of fun, this is not a music festival. Neither the conference nor its showcases are open to the general public.

Tara Shannon ([email protected])

President (2025)

Joining the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) board, Tara Shannon is a singer/songwriter from Russell, Ontario, with a passion for philanthropy. As the founder of Willow Sound Records, she released her album "Unfinished," recorded in Nashville and Ottawa. Tara's dedication to various causes is evident in her music. Her single "Butterfly Child" raised funds for her young neighbor with Epidermolysis Bullosa, while "Someone Who Understands" raised awareness for aboriginal youth and mental health services. As a NERFA board member, Tara brings a unique perspective as a mother of seven who balanced family life with a music career. Declining a record deal in 1997 to focus on her children, Tara continues to produce music while prioritizing her family. Her experiences as a mother have deepened her songwriting, enriching her contributions to NERFA and the folk community.

Dan Gottfried ([email protected])

Treasurer (2024)

Dan is a lifelong music lover and the producer of Voices in the Heights, a monthly concert series in Brooklyn, New York. He is the board treasurer of The Ashokan Center and the former longtime executive director of the Unitarian Universalist camp and conference center, Unirondack. He is passionate about creating listening spaces for musicians where they are paid well to perform for appreciative audiences. He loves to bake and creates gourmet desserts for each concert at Voices in the Heights. He believes music is at the heart of building a more loving world.

Lisa Kaston ([email protected])

Secretary (2026)

Lisa Kaston has been co-planning and presenting concerts, online showcases, special events and festivals for the past ten years, three of which she served as board president of Connecticut Folk. She also recently served two terms on New Haven’s literacy volunteer board. While on CT Folk’s board, Lisa’s passion and efforts were directed toward engaging a widening community through collaborative planning and grant-funded programming. The main stage of the 2023 CT Folk Festival was named in Lisa’s honor, in recognition of her work with CT Folk and the community. Her musical interests remain eclectic, having spent her earlier years exploring jazz, rock and folk music in NYC.

Ralph Jaccodine ([email protected])

Board Member (2024)

Ralph Jaccodine began his music career as a musician and concert promoter in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and then as the concert director at the University of Notre Dame. He has worked with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Rush, Hall & Oates, Foreigner, Yes, the Doobie Brothers, Linda Rondstadt, and Kansas, among many others. In 1992, he started Ralph Jaccodine Management by guiding the career of songwriter Ellis Paul, then expanded the business by working with artists like Livingston Taylor, Rebecca Loebe, Martin Sexton, Eric Andersen, Vinx and the Push Stars, Adam Ezra and Bang Camaro, among others. Jaccodine is the cofounder of the Boston Management Group, a professional organization he started 25+ years ago with Tim Collins, the longtime manager of Aerosmith. He has been active on various boards, including Folk Alliance International, Club Passim, Right Turn, and Hope Collaborative. Jaccodine is a full-time faculty member at Berklee College of Music. He joined the Music Business/Management Department in 2013 and in 2015 won the Dean's Award for Innovation and Service. He serves as the faculty advisor for the Berklee Law and Management Club.

Justin Nordell ([email protected])

Board Member (Board 2025)

Justin began at the Philadelphia Folksong Society over a decade ago before taking a job with a recording studio in Texas. Justin became culturally promiscuous upon his return to Philadelphia, working with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Film Festival, FringeArts, etc., with a pit stop as Director of Business Development for a law firm, before returning to PFS as Executive Director in 2015. It didn’t feel as if he was taking a new job – it felt as if he’d come home. Justin hopes to bring his youthful exuberance to the NERFA board with his music industry, nonprofit, and development expertise.

Cheryl Prashker ([email protected])

Board Member (2026)

Cheryl Prashker studied classical percussion at McGill University in her hometown of Montreal, where she landed her first international tour. She honed her skills as an accompanist in New York City, earning tour spots with Eric Andersen, Pat Wictor, Tracy Grammer, Jonathan Edwards, Zoe Mulford and more. She is a founding member of Celtic Roots band RUNA. As an administrator, Cheryl spent 15 years working alongside NERFA founder Dianne Tankle, eventually joining the Board of Directors and serving seven years as President. Cheryl now makes her home in Ontario, where she is Artistic Director and General Manager of the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, College, and Kids Camp. 

Matthew Ramer ([email protected])

Board Member (2024)

Matt is the Principal & CEO of a Wealth Management firm located in Philadelphia & Vero Beach, FL. His lifelong passion has been music, specifically music production. He has worked as a part-time mastering engineer for 22 years and is currently a student at The Berklee School of Music. In his side-career of philanthropy, he serves as an advisor to several non-profits in the realm in financial matters and fund-raising. He commits roughly 250-350 hours annually to charity and volunteerism and has managed finances for both Multi-Grammy winners and Emmy Nominees.

Peter Shafran ([email protected])

Board Member (2025)

Peter is the Founder and Chief Amazement Officer of River Spirit Music and CLIVE. He has produced over 125 shows in multiple venues, 3 festivals, 5 concert series and, since the pandemic, over 200 livestreaming events. Peter has been attending and volunteering at NERFA Conferences for over 10 years and has been a long time member of the Board of Directors of Tribes Hill, an organization uniting musicians of the lower Hudson Valley region and their patrons. Peter is also a founder of the Tri-State Folk Music Presenters Association, whose membership includes 50+ venues in NY, NJ, CT and PA.

Ethan Baird

Executive Director

Ethan Scott Baird runs the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and specializes in virtual collaboration. In his previous life as a member of Pesky J. Nixon, Ethan has performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Connecticut Folk Festival, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and NERFA. Throughout his career, he has developed internal collaboration sites for over 100 government programs and managed more than 650 Collaboration Spaces and Theaters. As the managing partner of Tribal Mischief, Ethan has worked with multimedia, PR, and presenting communities from Washington, D.C., through the Maritimes. In his role as NERFA's executive director, he has been privileged to turn the organization into a year-round resource focused on creating opportunities for people looking to build a life in music.

Natalia Zukerman

Conference Coordinator

Natalia Zukerman is a versatile artist, educator, and cultural ambassador. Raised in New York City, she studied art at Oberlin before launching her mural business, Off The Wall, in San Francisco. Her artistic journey took her to Boston, where she began her songwriting career. Now residing in the Hudson Valley, Natalia wears many creative hats. With eight independent albums under her belt, Natalia has been touring worldwide as a solo musician since 2005. In 2017, she became a Cultural Diplomat for the US Department of State, performing and conducting workshops in Africa with her trio, The Northern Lights. She also collaborated virtually with Raining Jane to lead workshops in Zimbabwe in 2022 and is slated to do so again in person in 2023/24. Natalia is passionate about teaching, offering private songwriting lessons and contributing to various programs and festivals in the US and Canada. She was an artist in residence at the cell theatre in NYC, where she developed her one-woman show, "The Women Who Rode Away." During the initial lockdown in 2020, Natalia co-produced the online music festival "Shut In & Sing," providing vital financial relief to independent musicians. She works as a teacher with Kid Pan Alley and is a certified yoga teacher. Natalia's talents extend to writing a column and producing a cartoon for her local paper, The Millerton News. Additionally, she serves as the artistic director for SoulCall Global, a conscious global community. Natalia Zukerman's creative spirit knows no bounds, enriching lives through her art, music, and educational endeavors.

A.J. Kiernan

Volunteer Coordinator

A.J. Kiernan has been performing in front of audiences since she was 13. With influences spanning from Joni Mitchell all the way to B.B. King, you can find this mother of three singing songs about life, love, politics and people. “Everyone has a story. I’m just more comfortable singing mine.” - A.J. Kiernan

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