(Photo above courtesy of Sisters Folk Festival)
Folk & Americana Musicians Entertain in Sisters
The Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) runs September 7-9. Performers represent an ever-widening sample of Americana and Folk music. Organizers came back strong after last year’s cancellation due to smoke from nearby fires. Creative Director Brad Tisdel and the SFF Talent Committee invited all the 2017 performers to come back – 75 percent were confirmed. “To deliver a world-class experience, we filled the rest of the lineup with dynamic artists and performers,” said Tisdel.
The Festival doesn’t just attract local and world-wide audiences, it’s also highly sought-after by touring professionals. The experience shared by musicians and students at the Americana Song Academy, held at the spectacular Caldera campus is well known. Festival staff and volunteers make sure that artists are treated with respect, understanding and great food during their stay in Sisters. The Sisters Folk Festival has become an important stop for touring musicians who want to establish an audience base in the Pacific Northwest.
Artists understand the unique quality the Festival provides, but it’s an ongoing process to educate people on the elasticity of the term “Folk.” Once thought of as, “Your parents’ Peter, Paul & Mary,” attendees are spreading the word that American Roots music encompasses a vast territory of talent. Artists take traditional Americana instruments like banjos, guitars, mandolins and Dobro’s and breathe new life into them.
Genres like Indie Folk, Alt-Country and cross-genre musical explorations like Hip-Hop Bluegrass all blow the socks off of the old definition. “Americana is many strands of American folk music coming together in contemporary ways,” explained Tisdel.
2018 performers offer powerful, passionate voices that tackle tough social issues and celebrate the joys found in sharing music with an appreciative crowd. The rural town hosts eleven stages ranging in capacity from 120 to 1400. From the charming intimacy found at the Open Door, party atmosphere of Melvin’s By Newport Avenue Market, outdoor beauty at Five Pine and the large tent feel of Sisters Art Works and Village Green Park, the Festival provides many types of listening experiences.
Then there’s the music! New artists booked this year such as Hawaiian blues and soul guitar player, Ron Artis II & The Truth, Indie-Folk songwriter Haley Heynderickx and folk rockers, The Accidentals help to round out an already phenomenal lineup.
Tisdel is proud of acts like Banda Magda, Kahulanui, Tremoloco, Afro-Caribbean, claw hammer banjo player Kaia Kater and Scottish band Talisk. “We booked artists to make it interesting and powerful both musically and culturally.”
With all these captivating options Tisdel suggests doing your research before the Festival. Listeners can look at the SFF website where there’s samples of every artist. “Patrons can map out both venues and the musical experience they want to have.” Tisdel suggests keeping an open mind. “Allow yourself to see something new that you didn’t expect; because you can expect to see that at the Festival,” he laughed.
“We curate the festival intentionally to provide a broad spectrum of Americana music. Most will appeal to a large audience and some will surprise people with acts and artists who are different and innovative artistically,” he added.
Festival-related activities begin before the Friday night opening acts. The week before, musicians perform in all three Sisters public schools. Many musicians teach at the Americana Song Academy, do performances in the schools, and then go back to Caldera for more time with “Song Campers.”
The Festival poster, created once again by local artist and musician, Dennis McGregor captures the idyllic mountain town of Sisters as a destination for world-class music. Entitled, Picker’s Paradise, McGregor’s inspiration came from fruit crate art from the 1940’s and 50’s.
“Between the programming, the festival and the amount of creativity coming out of Sisters, we wanted to get back to what it’s all about, which is the music. When it all comes down to it, it’s about sharing music and being together,” said Tisdel.
To keep all that creative activity going in a small town takes an incredible amount of work by staff members and the SFF board. Steven Remington, the new Development Director for SFF will be experiencing his first Festival this year. He’s enjoying learning just how vast and intricate the organization has become since it began in 1995.
“The interesting thing about SFF Inc. is that many people don’t know about our year-round presence,” he said after a long day writing grants and preparing for the Festival. “They don’t know unless they’re a parent of a student in one of our Americana programs or perhaps a retired person who’s volunteering in the schools. Just as we have many programs throughout the year, SFF has many communities within it,” he added.
Remington explained SFF communities include people of the Song Academy who refer to themselves as “the tribe.” Some have attended for more than a decade. Past and present Americana Project students and those who have built their own ukulele or guitar all share a bond with SFF. There’s also the community of volunteers, sponsors, donors and Sisters Folk Arts Circle members who support the organization in a myriad of ways. “They have an engagement and experience with SFF that the general public doesn’t,” added Remington.
The Thursday night event, was more or less a private concert and dinner to honor sponsors, donors and Folk Arts Circle members will feature information about the SFF Capital Campaign. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to create a permanent center for creativity and community music in Sisters,” said Remington.
“Purchasing the Sisters Art Works building, its property and developing it further will allow us to create even more programs and services to better serve the community. We are able to do this because of the generosity of Frank and Kathy Deggendorfer, who have offered the building at half its current market value,” said Remington.
This represents the largest gift in the history of SFF. Remington wants to celebrate that on Thursday night with all of SFF’s supporters. “We’ll really explain in detail how this opportunity allows us to grow and take the organization to the next level.”
After the short presentation, patrons will be entertained by Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley. The event will be capped off by an evening of dancing to The Dustbowl Revival. Both will be performing throughout the weekend on multiple stages.
Remington will reveal the capital campaign’s progress so far. “We will announce that along with the Deggendorfer’s contribution, our lead donors, as well as the SFF board members, have pledged $700,000 which brings us half-way to the $1.4 million first phase goal. The board is 100 percent committed. All that generosity reflects the theme, “Connected by Creativity.”
Throughout the campaign, Remington is collecting stories from community members about how they’ve personally been connected by creativity because of SFF programming. “We have a link on the SFF campaign website where people can submit their stories and be part of the campaign,” said Remington.
Staff and community members are optimistic about the Festival. It’s the last big infusion of capital for local businesses and a hearty, “goodbye” to summer. There’s still time to purchase tickets to the Festival. Check out their website for current ticket information. Once you’ve experienced the Festival, it’s a good bet you’ll be back every year.