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Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Artistic Director Talks With The Reel Can

by / No Comments / July 4, 2016

by Michelle O’Keefe – Music Editor/Assistant Publisher

Michelle and Joel sat down with Kerry Clarke, Artistic Director of Calgary Folk Music Festival, the second in a series of articles based on interviews with the Festival’s management team.

Readers have shown interest in the differences between an Executive Director and Artistic Director for a festival or arts organization. At the Folk Festival, the Artistic Director has overall responsibility for programming, which covers everything related to artists – booking, curation, contracting, scheduling and logistics. As well, Kerry has overall accountability for the festival’s marketing operations. Executive Director, Debbi Salmonsen, is charged with running the business operations, taking the lead on the administrative aspects of a successful festival.

Ms. Clarke, who has been with the Calgary Folk Music Festival for 20 years, discussed opportunities the Festival creates for aspiring artists already on the road to success as well as new musicians looking for guidance to launch their careers.

A significant number of artists performing at the festival over the years have benefitted from meeting and networking with other artists. Their unique collaborative programming model means they’re able to expand their reach and repertoire through joint performances and productions. Many performers’ music careers expanded as a result of being part of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s programming.

Opportunities are plentiful for “up and coming” musicians. The festival operates a Folk Boot Camp annually at the National Music Centre. Here, burgeoning artists learn how to improve their guitar playing, songwriting, and voice skills over a period of three days from festival artists. For 11 years they produced the Song Contest where Alberta songwriters competed for $25,000 in five categories.

The festival regularly advises local artists and helps them with outreach and recommendations to other festivals, presenters and often writes support letters. Kerry is on the board of Music Calgary, which presents SoundOff, a bi-annual showcase of Calgary artists to influential national and international industry delegates.

The Reel Can, being dedicated to home grown performances, asked Ms. Clarke about the importance of Canadian talent for the festival. What we found that was most inspiring was the level of dedication the festival had for Canadian artists. Half the musicians in this year’s lineup represent the best of Canada. Among the performers from our great country that attendees can see and hear are the foot stomping, fiddle playing Braden Gates; our Music Director Michelle O’Keefe’s favourite, intimate minimalists The Weather Station; experimental deconstructionists BRAIDS; bare chested Calgary based harmonizers and swooners  The Dudes; The Sadies known for their mind-blowing psychedelic expeditions; and the legendary Ian Tyson.

The Reel Can will be asking each member of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s management team what their personal performer picks are for this year. Kerry Clarke’s selection includes Nashville artist and mandolin virtuoso Marty Stuart; bluegrass, country, and blues artists The Sadies; and Yemen Blues Band with Ravid Kahalani, which present a complex fusion of Israeli, Arabic, West African and African American music.

Our next interview will be in approximately one week. The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs July 21 – 24.

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