Folk Alliance International (FAI), the leading and largest nonprofit dedicated to the preservation, promotion and presentation of folk music held its thirty-sixth annual conference in Kansas City, MO. The artists represent thirty-six countries of origin and twenty-one US states. The conference’s theme in 2024 was Alchemy: A Transformative Force, showcasing the power of music to provide the change we need in the world.

Founded in 1989, and governed by a 21-member board of directors, Folk Alliance International (FAI) is the world’s largest membership organization for the folk music industry and community. Its mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion.

The organization values diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, is committed to gender parity in all its programming, celebrates multiple languages and cultures, and actively welcomes participation from marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented communities. FAI defines folk broadly as “the music of the people” (reflective of any community they are from), and programs a diverse array of sub-genres including, but not limited to Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Old-Time, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional, Zydeco, and various fusions.

The Official Showcases feature jury-selected, tour-ready musicians representing diverse cultures, languages, and sound. These 30-minute sets are performed on full production stages. Private Showcases turn hotel rooms into listening rooms. These performances are more intimate, often without any amplification, and turn each floor of the hotel into its own festival. The showcasing festival and conference was held at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

The second annual Black American Music Summit – which connects FAI 2024 attendees who identified as black, mixed, or of African ancestry – held space for intentional conversation and community building, featuring four days of discussion centered around the theme “Grounded and Growing: Deepening Roots and Reaching Higher.” Each session featured an hour-long expert panel, followed by an hour-long open conversation around challenging narratives, emphasizing inclusion, breaking out of narrow definitions, and sharing best practices for growth and success.

Below are exclusive quotes and photo gallery for American Blues Scene:

Folk Alliance provides true, lifelong connections with talented songwriters and music makers. Folk Alliance isn’t for everybody. It’s only for those who are more passionate about songs and traditions and lyrics and playing your instrument well than they are about all the other stuff in this wild world.

Yes, there is a music business here, but it is more about being present than it is going up a notch or two on the career path, although that will happen to you while you are here because you will make the connections that you were supposed to make.

Well, finally meeting Harry Manx was something. I was walking with a cup of coffee back to my room when I heard somebody call ‘Hey, Doug!’ It was Harry. We have criss-crossed paths for close to 25 years and never met. But we met in that hotel lobby.

Then later that night we did a private showcase at Harry’s room. The way we played together was like we’d been playing together for longer than those 25 years, both guys taking their time and speaking the language. There’s a lot of great music and great folks at The Folk Alliance but that had to be my favorite this time around.

Yella P (Memphissippi Sounds) at Music Export Memphis Official Showcase
Teena May at Black American Music Private Showcase 
Teena May at Black American Music Private Showcase 

This year, like every year since I’ve come, I have left Folk Alliance feeling reinvigorated and inspired. I had the amazing opportunity to not only have my first official showcase, but perform as part of the Black American Music Summit as well as perform my interpretation of ‘Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues’ by Skip James to be part of the Library of Congress collection. Most significantly though are the connections and friendships I gain through the gathering of so many lovely folks!

Rachel Maxann at Music Export Memphis Official Showcase

Music is the ultimate language of freedom and community building is an essential part of that. I had the honor of being an official showcasing artist @ FAI and on both my conference visits I felt like the community embraced me and included me, even in places when I thought I’d just stand out. Thank you for making FAI a home experience, it makes you believe in a better future for the music industry.

Nani at Black American Music Private Showcase
Nani at Black American Music Private Showcase 

A maze of fabulous artists from across the world who exuded nothing but a spirit of love, kindness and energy.  My First FAI conference and definitely won’t be my last. I couldn’t have asked for a more through-out way to introduce anyone to this spectacular conference.  Thank you to FAI, BAMS and all who had any part in putting this together.  What a way to begin a new journey forward as an artist continuing to evolve.

Lady A
Joachim Cooder Official Showcase
Terika Dean of the Lead Belly Estate 
Kaia Kater 
Joy Clark 
Joy Clark 
Kaia Kater and Joy Clark
FAI interim director and Terika Dean of the Lead Belly Estate 
FAI Board President Ashley Shabankareh 
Alynda Segarra 

Attending the Folk Alliance International was a truly heartwarming experience. The sense of communal worship was unmistakable and it was a privilege to be surrounded by individuals who valued the sentiment of music above all else.

It felt like stepping into a world where genuine connection and appreciation was at the forefront — where the focus wasn’t just on the songs being shared, but on the shared joy and love for music itself. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I left feeling deeply touched by the kindness and sincerity of everyone I encountered.

Abraham Alexander 
Alice Howe and Freebo Official Showcase