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FAI History


The organization began in Malibu, California in 1989 when Clark and Elaine Weissman and the California Traditional Music Society gathered a hundred people involved in the presentation and performance of folk music and dance.

Many people have contributed to the growth of the organization. Volunteers have chaired numerous committees both to produce the annual conference and to further goals throughout the year. The work of FAI takes place under the leadership of a Board of Directors, but every member of the organization contributes to the success of our endeavors.

 Inaugural Membership  /   Lifetime Members  /    Board Alumni 


Looking Back on Where We've Been...

In 1989, 125 people from across the continent traveled to a retreat in Malibu, California, to begin discussions on the formation of a coalition of folk organizers. Invited by Clark and Elaine Weissman and the California Traditional Music Society, they were major presenters and small folk societies, people who’d done business across the continent, but who’d never met face to face. The earthquake that rocked southern California just days before the event was nothing in comparison to how this formational meeting changed the way that the folk music and dance presenters, performers, agents, managers, media, and record companies do business in North America.

A steering committee formed in Malibu and included members of the Philadelphia Folksong Society, Sing Out!, the Vancouver Folk Festival, Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, the California Traditional Music Society, Winston-Salem's Fiddle and Bow Society, International Bluegrass Music Association, Augusta Heritage Center, Woods Music and Dance Camp, Folk Legacy Records, Fox Valley Folklore Society, and Calliope House. The committee worked for a year to craft a set of bylaws and, when the community gathered in Philadelphia in January of 1990, those bylaws were approved and the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance was officially born.

In 2008 the organization’s name changed to Folk Alliance International to address and embrace international opportunities for North American members and the growing list of international members and delegates.

Early advocacy efforts contributed to preserving and acquiring permanent authorization for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. FAI offers a business directory for delegates, and a non-profit group exemption program for U.S.-based organizations. Strategic partnerships with allied organizations are sought to increase support of the arts on a grassroots and international level.

Recent advocacy efforts have included addressing issues related to obtaining visas for international touring, a Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) agreement on behalf of house concert presenters, the release of a white paper on Copyright and Royalties, and a tip sheet for artists traveling by air with instruments.

FAI’s annual international professional development and networking conference is the world’s largest gathering of the Folk music community and industry with over 2500 delegates.


Organizational Structure

A volunteer Board of Directors governs the setting of all policies for the organization. The Board develops strategic objectives and is responsible for strategic planning and future direction for the organization. Day-to-day operations are conducted by a small staff under the leadership of the Executive Director.


FAI's International Headquarters is presently located at:

601 Avenida Cesar E Chavez Suite #100 Kansas City, MO 64108

The annual conference takes place in a city and at a time designated by the Board of Directors and is currently in Kansas City, MO, USA up to and including the 2018 conference, after which it will return to Canada for one year.

Folk Alliance International, 601 Avenida Cesar E Chavez Suite #100, Kansas City MO 64108 • 816-221-FOLK (3655) •

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