FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jeanette Lundgren - 2015 FAR-West Conference Co-Chair - 541 485 1540
John Croizat - 2015 FAR-West Conference Co-Chair - 510 501 1450
Steve Brogden - FAR-West Best of the West Committee Chair - 805 358 4970
Peter Krantz - FAR-West Publicity - 805 981 0407
Best of the West 2015 Honors
FAR-West to honor Cris Williamson, Russ and Julie Paris,
and Penny Nichols
The Folk Alliance Region–West (FAR-West) has just announced the recipients of its Best of the West Awards for 2015. This year’s honorees are legendary performer Cris Williamson, house concert pioneers Russ and Julie Paris and performer/music educator Penny Nichols.
The Best of the West (BOTW) awards were established by FAR-West in 2005 to honor individuals who have maintained an enduring presence in the folk and acoustic music scene in the West, and who continue to inspire others by embodying folk values and traditions. The awards will be presented at FAR-West’s conference in Oakland in October.
Cris Williamson, the FAR-West BOTW Performer Honoree, has had a career in music that spans over five decades as a performer, activist and innovator. Born in South Dakota and then achieving her first musical successes in Wyoming and Colorado, the former school teacher reached national attention with the 1975 release, "The Changer and the Changed" on the independent label Olivia Records, the first woman-owned woman-focused record company which was her brainchild. This revolutionary album has long been cited as the beginning of a new genre of music that was primarily for and about women. Over the years Cris has continued to produce exceptional music, releasing over 30 albums and collaborating with luminaries such as Bonnie Raitt and Holly Near. Through all of this, Cris' music and lyrics remain the vehicle for something larger and she is often featured in women's studies curricula, teaching and inspiring new generations.
Russ and Julie Paris are the BOTW Ambassador Honorees. While they didn't invent house concerts, Russ and Julie are widely known for hosting one of the longest-running and most-respected house concert series in the nation, the aptly-titled Russ and Julie's House Concerts. They have held over 200 shows in their living room since early 1997, featuring some of the best-known acts in acoustic music and furthering the careers of many newer acts. While setting the standard for presenting consistent quality performances, they have also been key in helping to establish other house concerts in the western region and beyond and they have been featured in countless national and local articles, as well as radio and TV shows discussing the house concert phenomenon. Their influence on the western music scene also runs much deeper than just promoting house concerts. They founded a website called AcousticMusic101.com to build community and share folk and acoustic music in the Southern California area. Russ and Julie were also members of the original committee that formed the Folk Alliance Region - West chapter of Folk Alliance International, which has become the leading advocacy group for acoustic and folk music in the western part of North America. Their tireless work behind the scenes as members and officers of the Board of Directors, has been instrumental in ensuring the success of FAR-West and in establishing its Music Conference as one of the leading music conferences in the country. In May of 2013, Russ and Julie Paris were honored with the annual "Legend Award" by the Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest & Folk Festival and FAR-West is thrilled to bestow a similar honor on them at this year's Conference.
Penny Nichols will be honored with a FAR-West Lifetime Achievement Award for her years as a world-class performer as well as an inspirational music educator. The Lifetime Achievement Award is only presented when the FAR-West Board wishes to recognize a person whose entire career and dedication has significantly enriched not only the FAR-West community, but also the folk community as a whole. The previous Lifetime Achievement Award was presented in 2009 to Faith Petric, a long-time fixture in the San Francisco music community. Penny Nichols' amazing career began in the mid-60s as part of the Southern California folk scene where she shared stages with the likes of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and John McEuen. Her career continued in the San Francisco area during the "Summer of Love" and the late 60s when she opened for bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon and the Big Sur Folk Festival. It was in this time period when she recorded her first solo record "Penny's Arcade" for Buddha Records. In the 70s Penny was back in Southern California pursuing her songwriting and singing career as well as performing on many commercials and PSAs, eventually earning a Grammy nomination for her work as part of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. Eventually Penny decided to finish her education, earning undergraduate degrees in Music and Psychology and culminating in a Doctorate of Education from Harvard University, while continuing her performing and songwriting career at the same time. More recently, while continuing to write and record her music, Penny has become an in-demand teacher at music camps throughout the United States and she has established four of the most respected songwriting camps in America, SummerSongs East and West and WinterSongs East and West, inspiring and training the coming generation of singer/songwriters.
Cris Williamson joins previous Best of the West Performer honorees: Barbara Dane, Chris Hillman, Eric Lowen & Dan Navarro, Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels, The Kingston Trio, Joe Craven, John McEuen, Laurie Lewis and Barry McGuire.
Russ and Julie Paris join prior Best of the West Ambassador honorees Cassandra Flipper, Ed Pearl and the Ash Grove Foundation, Howard and Roz Larman, Steve Baker, Clark and Elaine Weissman, Mike McCormick, Bob Stane, Cloud Moss, Phil and Vivian Williams and Arhoolie Records founder, Chris Strachwitz.
To receive the Best of the West award, an individual must demonstrate an excellence in one's craft, an enduring presence in the geographic FAR-West folk community for at least a decade, embody or build upon folk values and traditions, promote, nurture, foster, and expand the audience and opportunities for folk music and musicians in the FAR-West geographic region. FAR-West congratulates Cris Williamson, Russ and Julie Paris and Penny Nichols on being this year’s honorees.
The 12th annual FAR-West Music Conference takes place October 15-18, 2015, at the Marriott City Center in Oakland, CA. For details and registration visit: http://www.far-west.org/