What is NERFA?
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 Stamford, Connecticut 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.
The NERFA community singing together at the 2017 annual conference. Photo by Jake Jacobson.