Warning!! Extreme levels of gratitude within (and a lot of words)

This is a personal message from me, Conference Director, Annie Capps, and therefore has more “I”s and “me”s than I’m usually comfortable with but I wanted to be clear these words are coming from me and my heart is full.

What can we say, but THANK YOU! Thank you for being part of our community, thank you for the incredible financial support you showed during our fundraiser, thank you for bringing your talent, energy, and enthusiasm to our first real Virtual Connections conference event, and thank you for all the kind words that followed. We will undoubtedly be sending a survey of some sort to dig deeper into the things you liked and didn’t, things we did well and maybe fell short on but given that this was our maiden voyage as a full-fledged virtual conference, we feel pretty darn proud of the outcome. Needless to say, there are a ton of people to thank, without whom The Gathering could not have happened.

Let’s begin with our Virtual Connections team who met nearly every week for the past 18 months, to brainstorm ideas, talk through what our community needs, and offer much-needed encouragement and support – Charlie Mosbrook, Brianna Lane, Nicholas James (Nik) Thomasma, Smitty Smith and Karen Rigotti (who never wavered even through her cancer treatments which she’s on the other side of and doing fine).

As we shifted gears into conference planning, I want to spotlight a couple of people who really stepped up and kept asking “how can I help?” “what do you need?”. Starting with Smitty who took on the Official Showcase organizing, handled communications for Mentor sessions, and was an all-round there-when-you-need-him kind of guy. Also Karen Rigotti, who was more than willing and able to take on some really mundane but necessary admin tasks not just for the conference but for the past 18 months.

A few people came to the rescue as we got closer and closer, including Sue Fink who eagerly learned our registration system and made sure all the important info was transferred properly into Whova. She also offered to help with tech, hosting sessions, and of course the wonderful Not-So-Late-Night Song Squares!!

The aMAZing Tech Team (who patiently dealt with this conference director’s control issues), Chiara Barbier, Kris Stableford, Brandon O’Sullivan, Finn Clemens, Brennish Thomson, and Everest Wittman.

All of our outstanding speakers and moderators (far too many of you to list here) who facilitated some really inspiring conversations, especially Carrie Newcomer (Wow! Just WOW!); the wisdom of Josh White Jr, John Gorka, Siri Undlin (Humbird), Lillian Werbin; and one heck of an interviewer, Matt Watroba.

Louise Baker & Bruce Swan for saying “Yes” when I asked them to take on the Spotlight Showcases. These two have the Zoom concert production down pat and I knew they’d knock it out of the park. We’re super grateful to all of our Spotlight Festivals and Venues for participating!

Sue Kessell for taking the lead on the Folk DJ showcase, and all of the wonderful DJs who presented a terrific lineup of artists!!

Joanne Smiddie-Brush for organizing Private Showcases (and Showcase Free Zone) and the small but mighty group of hosts who kept the wonderful music going well into the wee hours featuring artists from coast to coast, Canada and the UK and probably more…

Mentor sessions and our new Songwriting Mentor sessions were a highlight of the weekend for the lucky few who were able to meet with one of these human gems. We appreciate all our mentors for being so willing to share their expertise and insights with us.

To every performer who shared your heart and talent for being willing to risk the unpredictable, and sometimes unstable ether world to bring us an authentically “live” experience. I was truly blown away by all the outstanding performances.

More thanks go to our Official Showcase judges (who prefer to remain anonymous). You know who you are and you did a great job selecting a diverse and talented line-up.

Special thanks to Reggie Harris for showing us how to graciously and expertly Emcee!

Big kudos to our social media tag team of Brianna Lane, Nik Thomasma and Smitty, and shout out to Lily Werbin (and her Midwest Banjo Camp). She was instrumental in helping us make the decision to use Whova, then offered advice and guidance to get us up and running.

Finally, my gratitude to the entire FARM Board of Directors for their trust and support, enabling me to plow ahead with an evolving vision that quite frankly had us flying precariously into this new virtual world. We all learned so much (frequently by making mistakes) and no, it wasn’t the same, not by a long shot, but we could feel the energy and love bursting through our computer screens!

We made every effort to stay true to our mission of connection through conversation, collaboration, cooperation, celebration, and creativity  ~ all toward a goal of cultivating (growing) our community. I hope you feel that we succeeded and I hope you’ll continue to engage with each other (which you can still do through the Whova app).

So even as we start to allow ourselves to think about gathering in person this time next year, we’ve learned that our annual conference doesn’t have to be the only time we meet and we’ve learned that even in isolation we can feel connected to each other.

Looking back over the past 18 months to our Tuesday Tech Talks, which became more than just a learning opportunity, along with our bi-weekly Community Peer Group meetings and more recently, the monthly DJ and venue peer groups, there was an opportunity to connect with your peers nearly every week and we have no intention of stopping.

After a short break, we’ll be back at it with more Peer Groups, Tech Talks, and maybe a few new Virtual Connections offerings.

Until then, please know how essential you are and how much we appreciate you.

Here’s the big gratitude list (alpha by first name):

Andy Baker, Anne Heaton, Annie Bacon, Bart Moore, Ben Bedford, Bill & Randi Cohen, Brandon O’Sullivan, Brant Miller, Brennish Thomson, Brianna Lane, Bruce Swan, Carla Slates, Carol Obertubbesing, Caroline Barlow, Carrie Newcomer, Charlie Mosbrook, Chiara Barbier, Cindy McSurely, Cindy Morgan, Craig Siemsen, Crys Matthews, Dani Goodband, David Tamulevich, Diane Boston, Don White, Ellen Stanley, Ellis Delaney, Erik Balkey, Ethan Baird, Everest Whitman, Finn Clemens, J Oscar Bittinger, James Combs, Jennifer Jones, Joan Hammel, Joanne Smiddie-Brush, Joe Crookston, Joe Jencks, John Bunch, John Gorka, Jordan Hamilton, Jose Ponce, Josh White Jr, Joy Ike, Joy Zimmerman, Jud Caswell, Julia Davids, Julia Othmer, Karen Rakos, Karen Rigotti, Kari Estrin, Karyn Oliver, Kevin Richards, Kris Stableford, Laura Joy, Lillian Werbin, Lola Tyler, Louise Baker, Marilyn Rea Beyer, Mark Dvorak, Matt Watroba, Max Bloomquist, Michael Kornfeld, Michael R. J. Roth, Michael Stock, Mike Green, Mike Ward, Mj Epperson, Nancy Clark, Narissa Bond, Nicholas James Thomasma, Patty Stevenson, Paul Porzio, Pete Kronowitt, Peter Mulvey, Phil Slates, Randy Styka, Reggie Harris, Rich Prezioso, Rich Warren, Rj Cowdery, Robert Jones, Ron Lewis, Ruth Bloomquist, Samantha Cooper, Sarah Morris, SaulPaul, Seth Bernard, Simeon Peebler, Simon Petty, Siri Undlin, Smitty Smith, Spencer LaJoye, Stephanie Coronado, Sue Fink, Sue Kessell, Susan Bertram, Susan Divine, Tom Coxworth, Treasa Levasseur, Tret Fure, Wanda Fischer, Wayne Greene.

And basically, everyone who showed up – you all made the conference special and it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

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