An unexpected ray of light shone down upon Kansas City last week. Folk Alliance International, a 2,800-member international organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting folk music, announced that it would be moving its annual three-day conference from Memphis to Kansas City starting in 2014.
"The conference is three days of panels, workshops, exhibit halls and music-education camps," says Louis Jay Meyers, the organization's executive director and one of the original founders of the South by Southwest music festival in Austin. "The crowd is an even split of artists and industry types: talent buyers, agents, managers, record labels, media, instrument manufacturers. We showcase 200 folk acts officially and probably another 300-400 acts unofficially."
Why Kansas City? "Hotels, the airport, the sense of community — probably in that order," Meyers tells The Pitch. "We're really excited about the quantity of hotel rooms and the quality of the hotel space at Crown Center. And having access to Southwest Airlines makes it a lot easier for our members to come in for the conference."
Meyers says the extra space at the hotels — the Sheraton and Westin — enable the Folk Alliance to expand its educational components. "We've always done music clinics, but this will allow us to hold a full-blown camp for people who have no interest in the business side of the industry and just want to learn an instrument or become better on an instrument," he says.
The Folk Alliance also operates as an organization year-round, and Meyers says it plans to bring music clinics, workshops, concerts and films to the community. The group is still scouting locations for its headquarters, including the Boone Theater at the 18th and Vine Jazz District. But nothing is official yet on that front. Meyers plans to move to Kansas City in the spring to get preparations under way. "We plan to start having a real presence in Kansas City by next summer," he says. "We're hoping to become very involved in the local music community, to improve and enhance all the great stuff that's already going on there."