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Michael Braunfeld – Attorney and Secretary of the Philadelphia Folk Song Society

By Admin | February 24, 2008

Michael Braunfeld is an attorney, but his real passion is folk music. He is an independent folk festival music producer and a Board member of the Philadelphia Folk Song Society.


What type of law do you practice?

General practice, civil defense. I try to focus most in the area of equity, mostly dealing with non-competes in employment contracts.

How did an attorney get involved in the Philadelphia Folk Song Society?

Well, it started with my father Andrew Braunfeld, another attorney, who is involved with the Folk Song Society. He has been involved since the very first Folk Festival.

He is currently on the management team of the Festival and he is a past president of the Society as well. So, I grew up around the Festival and Society since I was a child.

What do you do for the Philadelphia Folk Song Society?

I wear a few different hats. I sit on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors that provides direction to the board and oversight over the various committees we have, both for the Society and the Festival.

As Secretary, I take the notes of all the wonderful board meetings. As chair of the Bylaws committee, I propose the amendments with my committee to fix the governing documents.

Does the Society have an executive director?

We are currently an all volunteer organization. We have been doing this by ourselves for fifty years now. We just had an executive director for a little while who just left to pursue other options. We are back to being on our own.

We have office staff, that is it.

What program of music does the Folk Song Society offer?

We have the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August, that is our biggie. Also throughout the year we have a program called Odyssey, which I am most proud of, which helps introduce children in schools to folk music.

It brings different folk artists into the schools throughout the community. They also put it into hospitals and senior centers and veterans hospitals. And they do a lot of community welfare with that.

Do you have public events at smaller venues?

We sometimes will have membership dinners with events but not so much sponsoring events at coffeehouse or clubs.

Where does your funding come from if it is all volunteer?

Mostly from the volunteers themselves and the Folk Festival.

Who actually plans the Folk Festival? Do you have a professional events organizer?

We have a management team that actually my father is part of. This year they are actually working with Point Entertainment for the first year, so it’s a first year partnership. They will take care of the bookings and bring in all the acts and all the logistics.

And the insurance and the concessions and the like?

That’s all the management team. All volunteer work. It never ceases to amaze when you go out to the grounds. Our volunteers, thousands of them, have built a city out there. And it is all volunteers.

Where is the Philadlephia Folk Festival held?

The Old Poole Farm in Schwenksville. We have been out there since our third festival, coming up on the 48th event now.

How many people attend the Festival?

It depends. I’d say on average probably about 10,000. I’ve seen the crowds get to as big 14,000 depending on the acts.

Do you have the budget to get the top acts?

They are all paid spots. Because of the nature of the organization, it is a non-profit and all the money is to goes back into the Society to contribute to the community.

Hopefully, the artists have an understanding of that because we can’t afford to pay what a Live Nation can bring in or the Mann Center or the Tweeter Center.

Who are your all-time three favorite folk groups?

That’s a tough one. I can tell you who I am listening to now. Its given to change probably tomorrow or the day after that.

Right now, I’m really big into an new artist out of Austin named Seth Walker. He is more of a rhythm and blues act who I am bringing in May to a festival I produce in New Holland called Spring Gulch Festival.

His debut CD is just knock me off my feet. It is fantastic. Gillian Welch will probably always be on the list of my favorites. Slate Cleves I am really big into now.

Where does the Philadelphia Folk Song Society rank in the hierarchy of folk song societies?

In my eyes, this is really one of the mother organizations in the entire world. We have been doing it longer and the most successfully and stayed volunteer longer than anybody else has been able to do it.

What is folk song?

It really depends on who you ask. I am certainly a lot more accustomed to some of the newer aspects of it, which most people would say really isn’t folk music.

But, at the Festival and Society we try to incorporate fold music from across the world and from different cultures.

So, it is anything from bluegrass music and the sounds that come in from Appalachia and the coal mining country which had its roots in Ireland.

It’s blues music, it’s roots music, it’s world music, African folk music, Russian Folk Music. And, really, the national and cultural music of any culture and country just all coming together in a big melting pot.

What’s the demographic of people who listen to folk music. Is it mostly people in their 50s and 60s?

You know, I think that is the perception. It just depends again on the type of music you listen to. I think the music I have in my CD player is actually, I hate to say the word yuppy, but it is more the WXPN crowd, more people my age, the 25 to 35 who are going out and paying a lot of money in the clubs to see this stuff.

If you are talking Peter Paul and Mary, it is kinda that 65 crowd.

What is the biggest problem the Philadelphia Folk Song Society faces as an organization?

If I could say one thing and it is difficult because it also the strength of the organization, but with an all volunteer group that has its roots going back fifty years it is so much of a family.

And after fifty years, some of the relationships, you want to do something that was good from a business perspective that didn’t necessarily match with the family perspective.

We have gotten away from alot of those relationships. And, that is something that has been very difficult. It is one of the things we have struggled to overcome but it is one of the things that makes it is such a great organization.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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