This past weekend, I attended my first NERFA conference. No, it’s not about the toy guns that shoot foam darts. North East Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA)
For many years, it’s been recommended to me by well meaning listeners, presenters, DJs, etc., that I attend the annual NERFA conference. My response was always to ask if they wished to sponsor my trip. The reply was always silence or an uncomfortable laugh. Really, it costs quite a bit of money to attend: registration, hotel, gas, promo materials. That’s a lot to ask of any musician, let alone a folksinger. I’m also a first class introvert and the thought of being around hundreds of people all day for 4 days induces major anxiety. So what does a sarcastic little lady like me do?
She posts to Facebook. I took to my music page, facebook.com/hannahbingman to vent my folkie frustration….
Original post- August 14th, 2018
Random advice giver: “You should really go to NERFA.” (or something similar)
Me: “I’d love that. You’ll pay my way, then?”
Random advice giver: *silence*
Ok, venting done. Move on. Nope. I get Facebook message later that night from a fellow we will just call DM. He offers to pay way to NERFA. Wait, what? I don’t know that I remember meeting this man in person. Maybe I haven’t. But he knows my music and he supports the music of my other musician friends. It was all legit. Wow, I couldn’t believe that someone thought so much of my work that they’d support me financially without me even asking. Screw the introvert in me, I was going.
I had been to other music conferences in the past and always found them to be more of a money-making affair for the organizers. NERFA is different. These people just really love folk music. Musicians attend. Concert promoters and venue representatives attend. Folk DJs attend. I even met a guy who attended just because he loves the music. There are workshops, major music showcases, and smaller ones that start late at night called Guerilla Showcases that take place in other peoples’ hotel rooms. It’s actually pretty neat and I got the play a few, meet some folks that took interest in my songwriting. I’ll get to that. Oh, and Dar Williams gave a great keynote speech.
The whole event allowed me to re-connect with some music friends I hadn’t seen in years. When I reached out to my old friend, Brad Yoder, from Pittsburgh, he immediately offered to help me out with my first NERFA experience. Brad is a NERFA veteran and knows his shit. He’s also one of my favorite songwriters. The guy stopped at my place in Lancaster on his way from Pittsburgh to Stamford, Connecticut to pick me up and drive me! And asked for nothing in return. This world is full of amazing people if you let them be.
If anything, I was a spectator and a listener. It confirmed to me that what I write is not for everybody. It’s not always accessible. I also accepted that that’s really fine with me. I’m not made to be the easy listening folksinger. That said, I encountered some amazing songwriters and some folks who really connected with my songs. That’s all I could hope for.
Thank you, DM. You gave me the lift I needed.