SPARC At the Folk Alliance International Conference

Folk Alliance International ‘s mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion. The FAI folk umbrella represents the broadest international iteration of the genre, encompassing a diverse array of music including Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Francophone, Global Roots, Indigenous, Latin, Old-Time, Traditional, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word and every imaginable fusion. Each year FAI hosts the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community at their annual conference. This year, the conference returned to Canada, and took place in Montreal from February 13-17.  The conference theme explored the artistic process from inspiration to vocation.

SPARC’s new Northern Outreach Coordinator – Jason Manitowabi –  and SPARC steering committee member David Newland were in attendance at the conference, and they share their experiences below!


“What an amazing experience! A newbie to this massive gathering of musical minded groups and individuals and the who’s who of industry was something I will not soon forget. You can be sure I am now hooked and am gearing up for New Orleans 2020! Attending on behalf of the Festival that I present, I was also invited to partake in the International Indigenous Music Summit. Being Odawa from Wiikwemkoong and working for an Indigenous Arts Organization, I was thrilled. We discussed ways to maintain a steady and staring relationship with mainstream within the alliance! I might also add that it was very uplifting to know that, in music and art, it is nearly impossible to see another artist as anything else but an artist first, aside from nationality, race, background or gender. Music and art is a world language! I also had a chance to hear northern artists’ challenges, coincidently enough to my new position at SPARC as the Northern Outreach Coordinator!” — Jason Manitowabi


“There was something about having 3000-plus delegates crammed into the Queen Elizabeth  hotel in Montreal for FAI2019 that was almost too much. I did a lot, but I felt I missed more. Between my own private showcases, hosting a showcase for Folk Music Canada, and interviewing members of the Wisdom of the Elders panel, I was busy. I was also a first-timer mentor for two newcomers, Melanie Peterson and Mihi Mihirangi. Add in in the various acts I managed to catch (Digging Roots, Annie Sumi, Benjamin Dakota Rogers, and Madeline Roger were highlights) and it starts to look manic. Still, apart from the frenzy, FAI2019 was positive. The Indigenous Music Summit, not formally a part of FAI but nestled within it was inspiring. While most sessions were closed to non-indigenous delegates, there was a palpable excitement with more than 40 Indigenous acts showcasing throughout the weekend. Buffy Ste. Marie and Tanya Tagaq both contributed tremendously. The Summit’s Summary Circle, convened by ShoShona Kish, included both Indigenous and non-indigenous delegates, and offered clear and useful thoughts for all. That, for me, was the heart and the spirit of FAI 2019.” — David Newland


To learn more about Folk Alliance International, visit

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