Blue Sky Folk Festival Finds New Home at Fine Arts Association in Willoughby

Sat 8/17 @ noon-9:30PM

The fun aspect of musical improvisation and jamming is not only the acceptance of musicians willing to try new things, but also the discovery and exploration of different sounds and worlds.

That’s in part why after spending the better part of the last decade hosting the Blue Sky Folk Festival at Kirtland’s East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, Northeast Ohio Musical Heritage Association (NEOMHA) is moving the jam-friendly affair to the Fine Arts Association in Willoughby.

“There’s a wonderful presence of tremendous music in Northeast Ohio,” NEOMHA VP and treasurer Nancy Tozer said. “Those musicians want that opportunity to connect, to spend time with one another, as well as the opportunity to learn a little bit more, to broaden their horizons a bit and have those jams with great musicians.

“At the church we often had 500 people for the last few years, so it was getting too large. Now we’ve got this awesome facility with plenty of workshop classrooms at Fine Arts. A tremendous part of who we want to be in the world is to provide opportunities for those spontaneous jams. The reality is, all you have to do is provide the space and a couple of chairs, and people will start playing.”

For the first time the Blue Sky Folk Festival requires two separate admissions. The event kicks off with daytime programming (acoustic, contra dance, guitar, ukulele, banjo, jams and a kids’ tent) from noon to 5pm, including music workshops, jams and concerts.

“Our mission is all about providing opportunities for the enjoyment of this regional folk music,” Tozer said. “And enjoyment can mean a number of different things — to just sit back and listen, you can participate and you just might be inspired to learn how to become a part of that community. That’s what we want to do.”

Madison Violet

A product of new venue is the post-dinner break concert. The separate ticketed affair features Toronto’s multi-genre folk duo Madison Violet, well as Charlie Mosbrook and Matt Watroba.

“Historically we had everything happen in one location — a full day of music and dancing,” Tozer said. “Now the festival appeals to both folks who just want to be there for the jam and workshops, while others who want to have more of a traditional concert experience.”

It’s this broadening of the Blue Sky Folk Festival horizons that has Tozer excited about the endless possibilities going forward. She noted this year’s event will provide insight into future growth.

The most obvious way to expand the festival would invariably be going from one day to a two-day affair. Tozer said this notion has been previously discussed.

“That’s all of our dreams,” Tozer said. “We talked and envisioned that. We don’t know how or when or where that’s going to happen, but we want to get there.”




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