Folk Alliance International Stages Its 30th conference

Folk Alliance International

Richard Thompson and Mary Chapin Carpenter will be among the guest speakers at the 30th Folk Alliance International conference being held at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri, February 14–18. According to FAI’s executive director, Aengus Finnan, “Folk music is alive and well with more artists, presenters, and audience than ever. Our 30th conference is a monumental milestone where we will honor the past, celebrate the present, and chart our course for the future as we begin our fourth decade as an organization and event.”

As always, the 2018 FAI is going to offer a multitude of events and activities over its five days, including  70 educational panels about music and the music business, 200 “official” jury-selected music showcases (in every folk-related style imaginable, from Cajun to bluegrass to blues), jam sessions, the International Folk Music Awards (held, for the first time, at the historic Folly Theater), the intensive-but-fun Louis Jay Meyers Music Camp (“a camp like no other, where pros study with legends and dedicated hobbyists learn from the best in the field”), the Kansas City Folk Festival, and lots more. This year’s conference will also launch a new Global Summit Series—in-depth sessions “intended to re-introduce a deeper connection to the processes, people, and policies behind the scenes that help establish and maintain the rich ecology of folk music.” The inaugural summits include deep dives featuring archivists, ethnomusicologists, and cultural sector planners and funders.


The Folk Music Awards are always an interesting affair, as the more than 3,000 FAI members worldwide vote to honor folk artists and albums from the past year, and also bestow the prestigious Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Award in three categories: living artist, legacy artist, and business/academic. The list of recipients since the awards were instituted in 1995 reads like a veritable who’s who (and who was) of the folk world! Performers and presenters at the 2017 confab included Kris Kristofferson, Paula Cole, Megan Mullally, Bruce Cockburn, and Eliza Gilkyson; quite a group! (No 2018 names were available before press-time.)

The FAI conference has been growing steadily the past few years, with last year attracting about 2,700 people from 27 countries, and this year is certain to connect with audiences, too. For more info go to

Below, Mary Chapin Carpenter performs a lovely version of “Come On Come On,” the title track of her excellent 1992 album. The tasteful and elegant acoustic fills are by John Jennings.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Blair Jackson
Blair Jackson

Blair Jackson is the author of the definitive biography Garcia: An American Life and was senior editor at Acoustic Guitar before retiring in 2023.