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Conference Speaker Series

Folk Alliance International is delighted to announce that the first of this year’s luminaries in the FAI Speaker Series is folk legend Judy Collins, who will speak and perform on Friday February 19th, 2016 during the 28th annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Collins has inspired audiences with sublime vocals, boldly vulnerable personal life triumphs, and a firm commitment to social activism. In the 1960s, she evoked both the idealism and steely determination of a generation united against social and environmental injustices.

With an iconic 50-album body of work, Collins is known for her imaginative interpretations of traditional and contemporary folk standards and her own poetically poignant original compositions.

Her stunning rendition of Joni Mitchell's “Both Sides Now” from her landmark 1967 album, Wildflowers, has been entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Judy's dreamy and sweetly intimate version of “Send in the Clowns”, a ballad written by Stephen Sondheim for the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, won “Song of the Year” at the 1975 Grammy Awards.

She's garnered several top-ten hits gold- and platinum-selling albums. Recently, contemporary and classic artists such as Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, Dolly Parton, Joan Baez, and Leonard Cohen honored her legacy with the album Born to the Breed: A Tribute to Judy Collins.

Judy began her impressive music career at 13 as a piano prodigy dazzling audiences performing Mozart's “Concerto for Two Pianos”, but the hardluck tales and rugged sensitivity of folk revival music by artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger seduced her away from a life as a concert pianist. Her path pointed to a lifelong love affair with the guitar and pursuit of emotional truth in lyrics. The focus and regimented practice of classical music, however, would be a source of strength to her inner core as she navigated the highs and lows of the music business.

In 1961, she released her masterful debut, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, which featured interpretative works of social poets of the time such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Tom Paxton. This began a wonderfully fertile thirty-five year creative relationship with Jac Holzman and Elektra Records. Around this time Judy became a tastemaker within the thriving Greenwich Village folk community, and brought other singer-songwriters to a wider audience, including poet/musician Leonard Cohen and musicians Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman.

Throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and up to the present, she has remained a vital artist, enriching her catalog with critically acclaimed albums while balancing a robust touring schedule. On September 18, 2015, Judy will release her first studio album in four years, Strangers Again. She invited a cast of icons and young talents to sing with her on this fresh collection, from Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne and Jeff Bridges to Glen Hansard, Ari Hest and Bhi Bhiman. Judy delicately soars over a revitalized “Send In The Clowns” and breathes new life into “Hallelujah.” She puts her indelible touch on songs by Leonard Bernstein, Randy Newman, James Taylor and more.

Judy has also authored several books, including the powerful and inspiring, Sanity Grace. For her most recent title, the memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music, she reaches deeply inside and, with unflinching candor, recalls her turbulent childhood, extraordinary rise to fame, her romance with Stephen Stills, her epic victories over depression and alcoholism, and her redemption through embracing a healthy and stable lifestyle and finding true love with Louis Nelson, her partner of 30 years. In addition, she remains a social activist, representing UNICEF and numerous other causes. She is the director (along with Jill Godmillow) of an Academy Award-nominated film about Antonia Brico ‐ PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN, the first woman to conduct major symphonies around the world ‐ and Judy's classical piano teacher when she was young.

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