The Folk Alliance Region Midwest – commonly known as “FARM” – is an organization I’ve been involved with for almost 15 years. I spent some time as a board member, continued on as graphic and web designer, and for the duration of it’s three-year term in Michigan I was hired on as conference director. We just finished up year number 2 in Grand Rapids and by all accounts the conference was a success. The number of comments and emails we get from first timers who tell us how they immediately felt part of this amazing community is not surprising. 

I’m especially humbled by those who give of their time and energy with no motives beyond just a desire to help and be part of something bigger than themselves. Most of those in attendance have no idea how much work goes into running an event like this. And we like that most don’t notice the few who are racing around putting out fires and fixing things so those who invested their money and time can focus on their reasons for being there in the first place.

There are ample spotlights shining all weekend on official showcase artists, elders sharing wisdom, award recipients and many, many talented folks who were lucky enough to stand out from the crowd. What I always find remarkable is the number of people who may not have stood out in any significant way but still walk away from the conference feeling nourished and energized by the family of musicians and music supporters. Those who come to bask in the magic bursting out all over the place – great conversations, spontaneous jam sessions, a lone singer songwriter playing in the hallway for anyone who will listen.

I won’t lie, the time and focus necessary to make sure that everything is in its place and comes together as it should leaves this conference director pretty well spent and though I’m fortunate to still absorb that nourishment from generous people feeding my soul all weekend, it also comes with the loss of our ability to put our own music into the hearts and ears of those who gather.  It’s a choice I made and I don’t regret it.

We’re on the other side of it and though there’s still a bit of wrap up left to take care of, there will be a couple of months of down time where I can take all that inspiration and apply it to my own craft. Finish a few songs that have been patiently waiting for my attention. Learn a new banjo tune, and dare I say let myself start thinking about our next album.