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NERFA. Another RISA Membership Bennie.
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Thursday, 27 January 2011
Written by Billy Mitchell

NERFA. What the heck is that? I had no clue. Sure, there were photos on the RISA website and stories about playing music all night. And there was the incredibly “robust”, yet confusing NERFA website.
Fellow RISA folks said “you should go”. So I went. Hung out with RISA pals (Chuck Williams, Chris Moon, Joanne Lurgio, Rick Demers).  I was absolutely blown away by what lie ahead.

First, a definition: NERFA stands for North East Regional Chapter of Folk Alliance International.

The event in question is NERFA’s annual conference, usually held in the beautiful Hudson Valley (aka, the Catskills) where the following types congregate for a weekend:

· Performers
· Agents
· Booking agents
· Venue and festival promoters,
· Recording industry professionals,
· Graphic artists,
· Folk DJs,
· Journalists,
· Photographers,
· Publicists
· Production professionals

PLEASE READ THIS LIST AGAIN. Roughly translated, if you’re a performer, anyone who can book you in a venue, festival, or house concert; anyone who can play your music on the radio; anyone who can manage you, sign you to a record deal, or record you, is THERE under one roof…and the reason they come is to find new performers for their audiences. Freakin’ Nirvana.

This year there were 800 attendees: 350 performers and 450 people looking for performers. Nice odds.

Now how does all this work?

Well first off there are all kinds of great workshops each day that cover all the ins and outs of performing, recording, publishing, marketing, booking, pitching. Hoo boy. Tons of knowledge. But wait, there’s more.

Lots of “Networking time”: happy hour in the lobby (with two free drinks!), downtime lobby schmoozing (amidst some jam sessions).

And there’s the “Exhibit Hall” Lots of booths from instrument makers, record producers, festival organizers, performers, etc. time to schmooze again.

But the real mind blower is the “Showcases”. This is where performers get to play a short set for the movers and shakers who can get you & your music out there. The selection process varies, and in some cases it’s juried, in other cases, you have to watch the NERFA listserv to apply (schmoozing helps a lot too), but in all cases, there’s something here for everyone. 

Three different Showcase flavors each night:

The Formal Showcase - 7 to 9pm; In the Big Room. 2 hours, 4 performers per hour. Looks like you have to be nationally recognized to qualify though, but as a member of the audience, it’s two hours of fantastic music.

TriCentric Showcases. 9 to 11pm.  Three Venues – Three performers each venue. Hop around to catch the ones you want to see. These performers are regionally strong and on the brink of national recognition. 800 applicants this year, so it’s cream of the upwardly mobile crop. Applying is a long shot for most, but for some, worth a shot.

Guerilla Showcases – 11pm till ???. This is the mother lode. Two floors of the hotel are designated for Guerilla showcases. That means there are about 30 different showcases going on all night. Basically the Showcase host turns their room into a venue. 4 songwriters in the round. Change line-ups every hour. (RISA had a showcase this year & will do so again next year). Many of these showcases are sponsored by House Concert promoters, and Venue managers. Instant audition. What’s more, promoters, presenters, DJs, cruise the Guerilla showcases looking for the next big thing. Apply for a spot on ahead of time via the NERFA listerv. Many folks were able to play at a dozen or so showcases throughout the weekend. Lots of exposure, lots of networking. Lots of showcase promotion as well…flyers everywhere, ads in program book. Gotta get those movers & shakers to go to your showcase!(RISA will have a few promo tricks up its sleeve next year)

And yes there’s even an open mike during the day (sign up way early, though).

But wait, there’s more. The lobby of the hotel is jam session central. Spontaneous stuff going on all the time.

AND the food (quite surprisingly) is terrific.

To wrap-up
· Two Solid days of top flight Music
· Workshops
· Networking
· An opportunity to perform for movers & shakers
· Nightly Happy Hour with 2 free drinks.
· A weekend at a resort in the Poconos – all meals included

All for around $300 a head.  As I’m sure someone once said in the Catskills, “Such a Deal”! And if you’re an old flower chile, you can even stop by Yasgurs Farm…not far at all.

So now that you know, next year, RISA will be planning a strong presence. More info to follow as we get closer to it. Join us.

Last Updated ( Monday, 21 February 2011 16:36 )
Re-vitalized RI Songwriter's Association
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Thursday, 22 July 2010
Written by Billy Mitchell

Re-vitalized Rhode Island Songwriter's Association rolls out new structure and initiatives. Elects new slate of Officers and Board.


In an effort reminiscent of "A Little Help from My Friends", the Rhode Island Songwriter's Association (RISA) has been undergoing an ambitious re-organization of its structure and services.


Last June, at the annual all-member meeting, John Fuzek, Co-Chair of RISA,  acknowledged that the Association needed to be better organized in order to create programs to better serve members of the Rhode Island Songwriting Community and in turn the Region's music community as well.


A volunteer Steering Committee was formed to study various issues and create a new organizational structure... in fact a new RISA...to address the future.


One year later, at this June's 2010 RISA Annual all member meeting, the thirteen member committee presented its work which included:


1. Updated by-laws

2. Streamlined membership and financial processes

3. New state-of-the-art website/community portal featuring member profiles, benefits, articles, community accomplishments, learning topics, and event updates.

4. New workshops & critiques based on membership surveys.

5. Performance Initiatives - new guidelines and packages for creating RISA songwriting showcases throughout the region and performance opportunities for members.

6. Mentoring program for new & growing members

7. Marketing - new objectives, and organization.


Committees were formed and staffed. Active committees are: Development & Education, Performance, Mentoring, Marketing, Website, and Membership.


Nominations for officers, and Board of Directors were held and the following offers were elected at a RISA Meeting on July 12:


President-John Fuzek,

Vice President-Chuck Williams,

Treasurer-Joanne Lurgio,

Interim Secretary-Barbara Lema.

Board Members and Members at Large: Paul Pasch, Mary Ann Rossoni, Billy Mitchell, Jan Luby, Rick Demers, Anthony Demmings, Rick Wahlberg, Wyatt Lema, Greg Lato.





The Rhode Island Songwriters Association, founded in 1993, is a recognized 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to encourage, foster and conduct the art and craft of original lyrical and musical composition; provide educational programs, critique sessions and performance opportunities for all musical styles; and support open collaboration within the Songwriting community of Southeastern New England.


Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 December 2011 11:45 )

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