Apr 25, 2023 - News

Fayetteville festival organizers turn attention to music education

The historic Walker-Stone House already had vibrant artwork on its walls. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

Organizers behind the music- and food-focused Fayetteville Roots Festival will start a new venture after announcing plans last October to close their headquarters and take a break from the event after 13 years.

Driving the news: The Folk School of Fayetteville opens next month, setting up shop at the historic downtown Walker-Stone House on West Center Street. There, they'll host jam sessions for local musicians and workshops for artists to fine-tune their skills, as well as private lessons, co-founder Bernice Hembree told Axios.

Why it matters: Teaching lessons is a common way for musicians to supplement their income, and NWA lacks affordable space to host them, Hembree said.

  • The school will charge for workshops, allowing instructors to use the space for free and keep all their fees.

Details: The move will allow more time and space for jam sessions, Hembree explained, adding the festival's co-founders needed a break from hosting the large-scale event. Experience Fayetteville, the tourism bureau operated by the city's Advertising and Promotion Commission, owns the Walker-Stone House and is renting it to the Folk School for $1 a year.

  • The former headquarters on East Mountain Street off the downtown square had a rental fee of $8,500 per month, which the organization could not afford without revenue from the festival.
  • Hembree described jam sessions as professional development for musicians and said she's witnessed artists grow from such experiences, mentioning a particular solo artist who learned to switch chords faster when playing with an ensemble.

Background: While commonly known as The Roots Festival, the organization was always registered as The Folk School of Fayetteville. In addition to hosting the event, Roots had a tradition of offering education and jam sessions at its former headquarters.

Zoom in: The Folk School will offer vocal and instrumental lessons for both kids and adults. Workshops and jam sessions will vary by skill level.

  • Brett Ratliff of KUAF plans to teach banjo, fiddle and guitar. He says he's looking forward to being part of a community music space, adding that he doesn't teach anywhere right now. "I don't because I can't afford to," Ratliff explained, adding, "It's really difficult to establish yourself as an independent music instructor and pay the overhead that studios cost."
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