I am proud that as a talent committee we are willing to take some artistic risks and push our audience a bit, in that they are intelligent music fans and appreciators of great artists, and we trust they will follow. ~ Brad Tisdel, Creative Director, Sisters Folk Festival
by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS
The Sisters Folk Festival set for September 8-10 is known for introducing the Central Oregon audience to new and fresh voices, and we are confident all of these bookings will do just that says Creative Director Brad Tisdel.
If your unfamiliar with the best little festival in West don’t be fooled by the name Folk Festival as the event draws an impressive variety of world-class musicians and songwriters from North America and beyond, many are touring/career artists that much of the general public is not familiar with.
This year’s performers include singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, son of Steve Earle and celebrating the release of his eight studio album, Kids in the Street; Austin, Texas-based songwriter and guitar-player Joe Pug; Alt-country band Western Centuries led by guitar- and banjo-player Cahalen Morrison; Banda Magda, spanning world musical styles and led by Greek-born composer and accordionist Magda Giannikou; Breedlove Guitars-sponsored artist, vocalist and songwriter Amber Sweeney; Minnesota-based songwriter David Stoddard (to perform with Beth Wood) and Bend, Oregon New Orleans-style street band the B Side Brass Band, who will add lively music to the Sisters Folk Festival community vibe.
“There is an abundance of musical diversity and styles represented and we believe there will truly be something for everyone. This year’s Festival lineup includes Toronto-based Afro-Cuban band Battle of Santiago; the Hawaiian swing band Kahulanui; South American jazz improvisation band Banda Magda and Irish super-group We Banjo 3. Between our core songwriting and roots music fans and those who are adventurous musically, it will be an outstanding experience,” says Tisdel.
Event organizers continue to place the music at the forefront, as the small performance venues allow the audience upfront experiences that compel the artists to perform at their best, whether in front of 125 or 1,100 affectionate fans.
“I think the focal point for me are the artists coming to town, the multi-faceted nature of the event and the impact it has on the community,” explains Tisdel. “That is one of the greatest experiences for folks, discovering new music and artists and the intimacy of the experience. Not only do you see great performances in intimate venues, the artists are generally around town appreciating the community vibe we foster and the beauty of Sisters and Central Oregon.”
The model of All the Town’s a Stage is where music thrives in many corners of the community and each stage has its own personality and charm. Patrons decide between the venue and its charm, food, ambiance along with the artist performing and the style of music. Ultimately Festival goers end up many times stumbling into an unexpected positive experience they would have never expected.
“So it’s a discovery process,” suggests Tisdel, “and I think that is why most folks that come, come back each year and hopefully a reason we continue to sell out.”
As creative director we asked Brad how they select the performers for each festival?
Each year it is a combination of artists we have always wanted to work with, a balance of well-known acts and up and coming talent and talent submissions he explains.
“We try to keep our ears to the ground on what is going in nationally, regionally and locally and also be open to new discoveries. The last couple years I have attended Association of Performing Arts Professionals in New York and Folk Alliance International among other conferences, developing relationships with agents and artists, which helps us to continue to broaden our reach. The way that manifests is we are bringing more diverse music each year, but it all still falls in roughly under the umbrella of Americana, folk and acoustic music.
“I am proud that as a talent committee we are willing to take some artistic risks and push our audience a bit, in that they are intelligent music fans and appreciators of great artists, and we trust they will follow. Besides, if they don’t like something on one stage, there are 10 others they can choose from, and each artist and venue is equally important as far as production and the ability to experience something special musically.”
Another focus of the Festival is the way the Americana Project, artists in the schools, the Americana Song Academy and the community support all lead to a creative, multigenerational experience for folks to enjoy and experience. The Americana Project is an innovative music and arts education program with broad community outreach. It is a collaboration between Sisters Folk Festival, Creative Educational Resources and the Sisters School District.
“Sisters is a special, unique community and it is in full display during the Folk Festival,” says Tisdel. “We have been producing the Americana Project going on 18 years, and thousands of kids have participated and continue to be impacted via k-12 in the schools. Many come back to experience the community that helped bring them up.
“Some young people are moving back and starting families which will hopefully build a thriving community where they have their own impact and imprint on for future generations. I’ve always said it’s more of a “movement” than a class or program.”
Tisdel says that the Festival is in a very good place with eleven venues over three days. “We are strategically looking at ways to grow the Festival without losing the special qualities that make it unique,” he says.
“Things also change and we look for opportunities to embed ourselves even more deeply in the community we serve. To enrich lives through arts and music is what we are committed to and we will continue to do that to the best of our ability in the schools and community. Over the course of the last three years, we have solidified the support and collaboration we have with the Sisters School District and we will continue to be creative and strategic in new ways to serve Sisters better.”
For tickets, artist information and a complete listing of the full lineup, visit www.sistersfolkfestival.org. Festival passes are sold out but some tickets remain for Sunday venues…541-549-4979.