FAR-West Announces 2023 Best of the West Awards

The Chambers Brothers Honored with the Artist Award and Ellen Harper and The Folk Music Center with the Ambassador Award

FAR-West October 12-15, 2023 at Warner Center Marriott, Woodland Hills, CA

Artists, Agents, Managers, Festival, Venue, and House Concert Presenters, DJs, Educators, Hobbyists & Fans Welcome

Three Days | 27 Speakers | 34 Sessions | Nightly Music Showcases

Los Angeles, CA – (August 31, 2023) – FAR-West—Folk Alliance Region-West— announces the recipients of its 2023 Best of the West Awards (BOTW). This year’s honorees include The Folk Music Center, Museum and Store in Claremont, CA and its owner/operator Ellen Harper with the Ambassador Award, and the influential gospel, blues, psych-soul group, The Chambers Brothers, with the Artist Award.

The 2023 awards will be presented on Saturday, October 14 at FAR-West 18th annual music conference and its first in-person conference in four years, being held October 12-15, at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA. Established in 2005, the Best of the West Awards honor individuals who have maintained an enduring presence in the North American West’s folk and acoustic music scene and continue to inspire others by embodying folk values and traditions.

Best of the West Artist Award – The Chambers Brothers

Growing up in one of the most impoverished parts of rural Mississippi in the 1940s, the Chambers Brothers came from a sharecropping family surrounded by singing in the fields, in church, and around the kitchen table with their beloved parents. In the early 1950s, the family left the “Jim Crow” South for Los Angeles, where the brothers began performing gospel music as a group, eventually finding their way to Ed Pearl and the legendary Ash Grove music venue (BOTW Award 2013).

At the Ash Grove, they were part of a younger generation of performers merging their musical talent and tradition with what they learned from the older masters, including Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Doc Watson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Barbara Dane (BOTW Award 2014), and others. Dane, who became their champion, toured and recorded with them, introducing them to one of the most famous members of Ed Pearl’s musical and political circle, Pete Seeger, who helped get them on the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where they became a sensation attracting national attention. Eventually, they added drummer Brian Keenan, making them one of just a few interracial groups at the time.

Branching beyond their secular roots, the Brothers exploded onto the rock scene in the late 1960s with their psychedelic 11-minute song, “The Time Has Come Today,” which became an anthem for a whole generation, and remains ubiquitous today. The song has appeared in over 160 movies, commercials and television shows and covered by dozens of artists, most notably the Ramones, Joan Jett, Steve Earle, Sheryl Crow, and Bootsy Collins, who cut a funk version in 2015. While the Chambers Brothers stopped recording in 1975, they continue to perform playing and singing with full heart and spirt. Their impact and influence are still felt today.

Best of the West Ambassador Award – The Folk Music Center, Museum and Store, and owner/operator Ellen Harper

Established in 1968 by Charles and Dorothy Chase, The Folk Music Center, Museum and Store in Claremont, CA, has served the greater Los Angeles music community with music education, instruments from all over the world, and live concerts for 60 years. Over that time, the center has influenced, nurtured and hosted many artists, including David Lindley, Pete Seeger, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Doc Watson, Hedy West and John Fahey, among others. Their mission statement reads: “Our focus is to provide families, groups, and individuals with a variety of musical instruments and accessories for making their own music. Our mission is to present to the public a look, touch and play experience with instruments all over the world.”

Ellen Harper is a singer, songwriter musician, teacher, and owner of the Folk Music Center. In 2018, she released her first solo album, Light Has a Life of its Own, a collection of her original songs reflecting the unusual musical heritage that has defined and shaped several generations of Chase/Harpers. In 2014, Ellen and her son, Ben Harper, collaborated on the album, Childhood Home, and went on an international tour together. Their musical journey is the subject of Danny Clinch’s documentary, “A House is a Home.” In 2000, Ellen participated in Ben’s documentary, “Pleasure and Pain, also directed by Danny Clinch.

Steeped in the folk music scene her entire life, Ellen Harper’s mother, Dorothy Chase, performed and taught banjo and guitar at Hecht House in the 1950s in Boston with Bess Lomax Hawes. Her father, Charles Chase, repaired all instruments that came his way. She learned to play, perform, and teach guitar and folk instruments at her mother’s knee.

Ellen runs the Folk Music Center shop, concert series, folk festival, and music classes. In 2021, she released her memoir, Always A Song: Singers, Songwriters, Sinners & Saints, My Story of the Folk Music Revival with Sam Barry. She received a PhD in Education from Claremont Graduate University and taught at California State University San Bernadino.

The FAR-West regional conference gathers the folk and acoustic roots music industry and community. It promotes a diverse mix of traditional, contemporary and multicultural folk music, dance, storytelling and related performing arts in the west. Register here.

Over three days, the FAR-West conference daily programming sessions will feature a variety of tracks that allow conference-goers to connect, learn, discover, and reflect; view the full agenda here.

About FAR-West

Folk Alliance Region West (FAR-West), the western regional chapter of Folk Alliance International, fosters and promotes traditional, contemporary and multicultural folk music, dance, storytelling and related performing arts in the western parts of North America. This area includes California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii, and in Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories. Open to artists, presenters, and music supporters, FAR-West welcomes a wide variety of styles, levels, and disciplines, encouraging musical and cultural diversity and excellence.

Our MISSION is to strengthen the ecology for folk music and build stronger artists, presenters and audiences. Our annual conference builds on that mission with a community and program that includes education, showcases, and networking. FAR-West seeks to strengthen and advance organizational and individual initiatives in folk music and dance through: Education — To increase understanding of the rich variety, artistic value, cultural and historical significance, and continuing relevance of folk music and dance among educators, media and the general public. Networking — To provide a bridge to and from folk music and dance organizations and needed resources, and to help those organizations link with their constituencies. Advocacy — To influence decision makers and resource providers on the state and local levels, ensuring the growth of folk music and dance. Field Development — To support and encourage the development of new and existing grassroots folk music and dance organizations. Professional Development — To strengthen the effectiveness of folk music and dance organizations by providing professional development opportunities. FAR-West, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was incorporated in 2003 in California and is run entirely by volunteers. 

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For more information, please contact Lellie Capwell at LPC Media, Lellie@lpc-media.com

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