Wisdom of the Elders

Sonny Ochs first created the Wisdom of the Elders program at a NERFA conference. In 2013 it spread to both the Folk Alliance International Conference and to SERFA. Wisdom of the Elders provides a structured opportunity for us to learn from and about our senior leaders and for the elders to share their experiences with each other. Wisdom of the Elders has rapidly become an essential feature of our Folk Alliance gatherings. Elders over age 70 participate in a panel with questions posed by SERFA historian Art Menius, each other, and audience members.

Folk music is a stream into which we are called to float along for all or part of our lives. The folk music community values tradition while using our art to push for social change. We appreciate in the folk community that we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors whether they were known internationally or worked in obscurity.

2018 Elders

Coming soon.

2017 Elders

On Saturday, May 20, from 10:45am to 12:15pm in the Assembly Inn Convocation Hall, dlders Doug Orr, Reggie Harris, and Patrick Sky share their wisdom and experience.

  • Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College, founded the Swannanoa Gathering in July 1992. Doug and wife Darcy have been performing music together for more than 30 years, from their days in Charlotte with their Celtic/Appalachian band Maggie's Fancy and while Doug served as president of Warren Wilson from 1991 to 2006. With Scotland’s Fiona Ritchie, Doug authored 2014’s Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. A New
    York Times’ best seller, the book became the fastest sell-ing publication from UNC Press. 

  • Rabbi Jonathan Kligler wrote that “Reggie Harris is part of the solution. His marvelous music, his hard-earned wisdom, and his loving presence lift up any room he enters. Reggie reaches across all boundaries and makes strangers into friends. Give yourself and your community the gift of a trans-formative visit with Reggie Harris.” Known for more than 40 years as one-half of Kim & Reggie Harris, Reggie continues to crisscross the country, carrying the message of joy, unity, tolerance and peace through the powerful medium of live music. You can read more about his musical career in the Thursday showcase section.

  • Patrick Sky first gained note in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s, selling our Carnegie Hall and releasing the first of several well-received albums in 1965. His songs “Many A Mile” and “Love Will Endure” gained a good deal of popularity. He appeared with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell and produced albums by Mississippi John Hurt, Rosalie Sorrells, and Seamus Ennis. By the time his misunderstood satirical album The Songs That Made America Famous appeared in 1973, Pat had moved on the Irish music, founding the fabulously successful Green Linnet label and becoming an acclaimed Uilleann Piper and pipe maker, often performing with wife Cathy, a student of Irish fiddling. Their most recent album, Down to Us, appeared in 2009. In addition to his own book, A Manual for the Irish Uilleann Pipes, Pat has republished five classic books of piping and tunes. 

Past Elders at SERFA

  • 2017: Kathy Mattea, John McCutcheon, Sundilla Concert Series & Radio Show
  • 2016: Peggy Seeger, Lowell "Banana" Levinger, Freebo
  • 2015: Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin, Marian Leighton-Levy, Alice Gerrard, Si Kahn
  • 2014: Alice Gerrard, Margo Blevins, John McCutcheon
  • 2013: Sonny Ochs, Ralph Lewis

Video by Jim Nuttle