SERFA is a four-day conference that gives artists, venues and music professionals a chance to network together and share their talents. Attendees hail from not only all around the Southeastern states, but from throughout the U.S. and Canada. SERFA strives to offer creative and informative workshops to help educate and inspire attendees. This year will feature a Presenters Workshop with Steve Johnson from MerleFest and Jennifer Pickering from Black Mountain's LEAF Community Arts, with other panels ranging from songwriting to budgeting CDs and tours, instrumental clinics, as well as individual and group mentorships. SERFA provides many opportunities for artists to perform, including three nights of official showcasing, an Open Mic, late-night showcases and informal jam sessions. An added bonus is that the conference is held at a peaceful retreat-center located 20 minutes from Asheville, NC making SERFA both enjoyable and productive.
"SERFA brings together this community of music-minded folks and provides the space and time to connect and re-energize together--to ask questions, share lessons learned, and inspire one another," says SERFA President Kim Richardson, "Not to mention, to play a ton of music in this stunning setting."
In 2014, SERFA instituted Community Hours--short and varied workshops for a call to building communities through music and organizing, an expanded mentor program and instrumental clinics. Attendees took advantage of this wide array of workshop offerings as well as shared meals on site, allowing more opportunities to get to know each other.
Last year also saw the institution of The Kari Estrin Founding President's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Culture in the Southeast. The inaugural recipient of this award was The Highlander Research and Education Center, with Executive Director Pam McMichael accepting. McMichael gave a moving presentation of the history of Highlander, whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the U.S. South. Rosa Parks, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and hundreds of others over the years have taken inspiration and techniques for their activism from their visits there and Highlander is where the song "We Shall Overcome" was evolved and disseminated. Capping off the award festivities was activist, travelling musicians union Local 1000 co-founder, songwriter and beloved folk artist John McCutcheon, who delivered both a poignant and rousing keynote speech that was one of the true highlights of SERFA 2014.
This year's recipients are two North Carolina artists--Alice Gerrard and Si Kahn, along with the Rounder Records founders Marian Leighton-Levy, Ken Irwin and Bill Nowlin. Marian Leighton-Levy will deliver SERFA's 2015 keynote and all five recipients will participate in workshops throughout the conference. This year's "Wisdom of The Elders" session will feature The Rounder Roundtable--hosted by Art Menius, discussing various issues of Southern music and activism. As an added feature to this award, SERFA will present "Precious Memories," Si Kahn's compelling one-woman show on Wednesday night, featuring Sue Masseck as Sarah Ogan Gunning, whose album, The Silver Dagger, was one of Rounder's first releases in 1976.