Re­gional folk con­fer­ence draws acous­tic pros

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Glenn Roth is ac­cus­tomed to per­form­ing acous­tic gui­tar in front of stream­ing throngs of New York City trav­el­ers and tourists. As a li­censed street per­former, he sup­plies mu­si­cal respite to the city’s hus­tle and bus­tle. The Nor­walk fin­ger-style gui­tarist has a life­time per­mit to per­form in Man­hat­tan through the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity’s “Mu­sic Un­der New York” pro­gram.

He also has over 1,000 fol­low­ers for his YouTube chan­nel, where his “Busker TV” se­ries is part of over 200 videos of his live per­for­mances he’s up­loaded over the years.

He plays of­fi­cial con­certs on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, as well, but this week­end will be some­thing dif­fer­ent for him. Roth joins hun­dreds of per­form­ers, agents, fes­ti­val pro­duc­ers and ra­dio dee­jays from through­out the north­east United States and Canada at the 24th an­nual North­east Re­gional Folk Al­liance Con­fer­ence at the Crowne Plaza Ho­tel in Stam­ford that runs through Sun­day.

For Roth ex­plained, this is his first NERFA con­fer­ence. “My mu­si­cian friends had been telling me for years to at­tend be­cause of the net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and I de­cided to fi­nally go this year.”

The con­fer­ence fea­tures an end­less ar­ray of work­shops, for­mal show­cases, semi-for­mal show­cases, an “open mic” and an ex­hi­bi­tion hall in the Crowne Plaza’s first floor main gath­er­ing spa­ces, plus there’s the late night “guer­rilla” show­cases in the up­per floor’s ho­tel rooms that run into the very wee hours.

“I’m hop­ing to net­work with venues, other mu­si­cians, and other mem­bers of the folk scene, and make con­nec­tions for fu­ture per­for­mances,” said Roth, who will have a table in the ex­hi­bi­tion hall, where he’ll be run­ning videos of his per­for­mances. “Although the at­ten­dees are mostly singer­song­writ­ers, I know there is a place for in­stru­men­tal mu­sic in the folk scene.”

New Haven’s Bar­bara Shiller, a mem­ber of the NERFA board of di­rec­tors, talked about this year’s con­fer­ence. “This is NERFA’s third year in Stam­ford,” she said. “Be­fore that, it was in the Catskills at a re­sort in Ker­honk­son, N.Y. One ben­e­fit to Stam­ford is the fairly cen­tral lo­ca­tion for the North­east Re­gional con­fer­ence. Peo­ple come from Mary­land and up through Canada. There is good train ser­vice from New York City. It is a chal­lenge to find a ho­tel that can ac­com­mo­date 700 to 800 peo­ple that doesn’t mind mu­sic be­ing played in the lobby and pri­vate rooms all hours of the day and night. Be­sides con­certs and show­cases, there are work­shops, so there needs to be good-sized break­out rooms as well as a re­ally large din­ing room. I hope it re­mains in Stam­ford.”

Shiller is co-pres­i­dent and board mem­ber of the New Haven-based non­profit CT Folk, which presents monthly acous­tic con­certs and an an­nual CT Folk Fest and Green Expo. “I started go­ing to NERFA to book artists for CT Folk, the fes­ti­val and the Folk Fri­day con­cert se­ries, as well as for my own House Con­cert se­ries. In the last nine years, I have hosted more than 60 of these,” said Shiller. “This will be my 8th NERFA.”

NERFA is the north­east re­gional af­fil­i­ate of Folk Al­liance In­ter­na­tional, rep­re­sent­ing a re­gion that in­cludes Con­necti­cut, New York, New Jer­sey, Rhode Is­land, Mas­sachusetts, Ver­mont, New Hamp­shire, Maine, Penn­syl­va­nia, Mary­land, Delaware, the Dis­trict of Columbia and its north­ern Vir­ginia sub­urbs, Que­bec, New Brunswick, New­found­land and Labrador, Nova Sco­tia, Prince Ed­ward Is­land, and Green­land.

Other re­gional af­fil­i­ates in­clude the South­east Re- gional Folk Al­liance, South­west Re­gional Folk Al­liance, Folk Al­liance Re­gion Mid­west and the Folk Al­liance Re­gion West. Each re­gion hosts its own con­fer­ence, but the big one is the Folk Al­liance In­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence tak­ing place in Mon­treal in Fe­bru­ary.

“It is a busi­ness con­fer­ence, said Shiller about NERFA, “geared to help mu­si­cians have suc­cess­ful ca­reers, to help venue pre­sen­ters pro­duce suc­cess­ful events, and to fa­cil­i­tate the mu­si­cians and venue op­er­a­tors meet­ing each other.”

Con­trib­uted photo / Grace Pisano

Nor­walk gui­tarist Glenn Roth will be one of the hun­dreds of mu­sic pro­fes­sion­als tak­ing part in this year’s North­east Re­gional Folk Al­liance Con­fer­ence in Stam­ford this week­end.

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