The 38th National Women's Music Festival (NWMF) kicks off July 4, at the Marriott Madison West, with some of the genre's most popular and
enduring performers, as well as a variety of new talents.
Headliners include Cris Williamson, creator of the bestselling album in women's music (The Changer and the Changed, 1975), alt-rocker Melissa Ferrick, and sisters June and Jean Millington, founding members of the first all-female rock band, Fanny.
Voices of Africa and Sharon Katz & the Peace Train are among the musical groups scheduled to perform. Featured comedians include Canadian Elvira Kurt and Last Comic Standing finalist Gina Yashere.
The NWMF also nurtures new performers with a talent competition, planned this year in Kansas City, Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio, and an online contest through the Festival's website at wiaonline.org . Winners of these competitions perform at the NWMF, and Fest-goers vote for their favorites. The most popular act(s) return for a main-stage performance at the next NWMF. Last year's winners, comedian Barb Nelligan and singer-songwriter Ginger Doss, will perform on Thursday, July 4.
Women's music is created by women, for women, and is usually about women. It emerged as a genre during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and incorporates virtually all musical styles, including folk, country, jazz, classical, new age, rock, rap, traditional mountain music, traditional African and African American songs, message music, gospel, and inspirational. Some styles that will be in evidence at the NWMF, as named by their performers, include Afro-Celtic, electronica, and healing percussion rhythms.
A total of 24 musical and comedy acts with almost 47 individuals will perform at the NWMF, at evening concerts on Thursday through Saturday; afternoon concerts on Friday and Saturday; and mid-day on Sunday.
"This is one of the most exciting lineups we've ever had at the NWMF," said WIA board president Linda Wilson. "Musical performances range from folk to rock to rap to reggae. We'll have some of the funniest comedians on earth, and daytime workshops will cover topics from writing to vocal harmonizing to producing concerts to women's spirituality."
Ellen Hart of Minneapolis, author of 28 crime novels in two different series (one featuring sleuth Jane Lawless and the other, Sophie Greenway), will speak on Saturday at 10 a.m. She is a five-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery and a three-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction.
The NWMF is sponsored by a nonprofit organization, Women in the Arts, Inc. (WIA). This marks the sixth year the NWMF has been held in or near Madison, and it was previously held on university campuses around the Midwest.
"The Festival draws women from across the U.S. and even from other countries to celebrate women's creativity. While we welcome anyone who wants to attend, including men, the focus is on women's talents," Wilson added.
The Festival will run from July 4-7 and will be held at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton. Information about ticket prices and details about scheduled performers, workshops, and other Festival activities can be found at wiaonline.org/ .