Back on the road, this time to Murfreesboro, TN for the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance conference on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. The conference ran from Friday, October 17th to Sunday, October 19th. Here’s the recap. As you may or may not know, Folk Alliance (the primary organization promoting and preserving folk music and dance in North America) is divided into regions. The conference for North America as a whole occurs in February of each year in Memphis. Then, in the fall the various regions (Far West, FARM (Midwest), Southwest, Northeast and Southeast) hold their respective conferences. SERFA (southeast) is the last region chartered and this was its inaugural gathering. SERFA includes a large geographic area - Florida, Georgia, SC, NC, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The conference is an opportunity to network with artists, presenters, radio and media and for artists to showcase for presenters (venues, house concerts, folk societies, etc.) with hopes of booking shows. It’s also just a heck of a lot of fun! We met on the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro about 40 miles east of Nashville beginning last Friday at noon. MTSU has a major communications program which includes degrees in sound engineering and live performance production, so the facilities were really well suited for the gathering. The day (and the weekend generally) was spent in workshops on various subjects from guitar techniques, to vocal techniques, to songwriting, to technical information on recording and production, to promotion / booking / website management and on and on. Breaks and meal times were the networking / socializing opportunities. Then the evening to the wee hours were filled with the showcases both at MTSU and back at the hotel, the nearby Doubletree. This initial conference was fairly small (about 100 attending), but VERY well organized, thanks to our President Kari Estrin and her “SERFA Six” (Denise Williams, Betty Friedrichsen, John Stoecker, Christine Stay and Charlie Dahan). It was a magnificent job and a terrific kick off for what I’m certain will be the strongest regional presence in Folk Alliance in coming years. I had the welcome chance to renew and expand old acquaintances and make so many new ones. Unlike larger gatherings where you only meet a fraction of the folks there, I doubt there were 10 folks at this conference that I didn’t get to spend time with in one way or another. I admit I was questioning whether the expense of attending would be worth it, but I was worrying without reason! Besides making some very promising booking contacts I got some great information from the workshops and feel part of an authentic, larger folk family. I was particularly blown away by the level of talent present for the conference. As is typical for these conferences there were “official” showcases for artists selected by the SERFA committee, private or “guerilla” showcases for artists selected and presented by various groups back in the hotel from 11 pm to 2 am and a “fast pitch” showcase Sunday morning for artists selected, again, by the SERFA committee. I performed in three guerilla showcases and the fast pitch showcase. I watched a lot of performances in the course of the two and ½ days. My usual experience is that you see an even mix of weak, average and strong performances in these showcases. However, this SERFA crowd was strong across the board. While some were clearly stronger than others there were no performances that wouldn’t have been well received on any festival or house concert stage throughout Florida and the rest of the Southeast. I was quite impressed.! So, “how do I get involved in SERFA?” So glad you asked! Start by getting on SERFA’s listserve at and their Yahoo Group at Next year’s conference will be October 14 – 18 in Mountainview, Ark. at the Ozark Folk Center ( – put that on your calendar now! See you soon! Doug Spears 36 Interlaken Road Orlando, Florida 32804 407-257-4242