Programming FAQ

Questions related to booking groups at the Northwest Folklife Festival


1. What is presented at the Festival?
Traditionally, we program music, dance, storytelling, panels and presentations, and films at the Festival.  We also schedule workshops, where community performers can teach others about a particular subject. In addition, we try to make room for any new kinds of performance arts that people in the community can come up with.  If you have an idea for a different kind of program, or you would like to share what you do in your community, just contact us!


2. How does Folklife define “folklife?”

We have several definitions of “folklife”—it’s a hard concept to pin down!  But for our purposes, we like to define it as “what folks do at home to entertain themselves.”  That keeps it broad enough so that we can program as many different kinds of performers and performances as possible.


3. How do you select a group to perform at the Folklife Festival?

Ideally, we would schedule everyone who applied.  But because we have limited space, and we have more applications than we have performance slots, we have several ways we look at an application:  What genre do they represent?  How often have they performed at the Festival in the past? What are their tech needs, and can we fulfill them? When can they perform—is their schedule so limited that we can’t fit them in when they’re able to get here? Are they from the Northwest region?  And we listen to and look at all support materials sent in with the applications to get an idea of what a performance would be.


4. What is a Showcase?

A Showcase, in Folklife-speak, is a one- to three-hour long performance that features a specific genre or culture.  For example, we have the Bulgarian Showcase, with several music and dance groups performing Bulgarian music, and we also have the Family Stories showcase, with several storytellers performing stories that are suitable for family audiences.


5. Why didn’t I get scheduled?

There are many reasons that applicants may not get scheduled.  You may have told us you are only available on a certain day at a certain time, and we do not have a space for you then. Or your technical needs may be such that we cannot supply what you need to perform. Or you may have played for several years in a row, and we need to rotate you to give someone else in your genre a chance to perform. Most often, the reason is that there are so many applications for the genre you represent that we have to limit the number of those performances. For example, we usually have more than 200 applications for singer/songwriters, but we can we only program a small percentage of that particular genre. We try to rotate applicants in order to be fair to everyone.


6. Why can’t I play on a certain stage?

We schedule performers for venues or stages that have the equipment they need. For example, not all stages have drum kits or amplifiers. Only some stages are large enough for dance groups. If you are a singer/songwriter, we want to schedule you in a venue where people can hear your lyrics. By the same token, we would most likely schedule a brass band on an outdoor stage because they’re usually pretty loud!


7. Some of the performances you program don’t seem very “folk-ish.”  Why is that?

One of the truly wonderful things about the Northwest Folklife Festival is that we are a community arts festival.  We program the kinds of art forms that community members are participating in, and we try to respond positively to all kinds of interesting applications. So the end result is that you can see performances that you might call “folk,” and you can also see new, emerging art forms like 8-bit music.


8. Why are there buskers allowed at the Festival?

The short answer is that Seattle Center is a public park, and buskers can perform at any public park.  The long answer is that we value the energy that our Street Performers bring to the Festival. We encourage buskers to donate part of their donations back to the Festival and many do.

9. How can I get my community involved with the Festival?

Give the folks in the Programming Department a call!  We’d love to hear from you, and we’re always open to incorporating new communities into the Festival. Email


10. Can I appeal if I am not selected?

There is no “appeal process” as such. We program all of the available slots, so the only way you will be assigned a slot if you are waitlisted is if someone else drops out. Please let us know if you are interested in being assigned a slot even during the Festival itself—sometimes slots unexpectedly open up.  You can sign up for the waitlist at Performer Registration.


11. Can I apply if I am a visual artist?

Folklife has limited space for exhibiting two-dimensional art and sculptures. Usually that space is associated with the annual Cultural Focus or in partnership with the Ver(a) Gallery.  If you are interested in participating in Folklife as a visual artist, please give us a call and we can determine if there might be a space for you.


12. I don’t know how to fill out an online application, but I am a great musician… can you offer any help?

Sure! We would be happy to send you a paper application. Additionally, if you call the Programming Department by the application deadline, we can fill out the application with you over the phone. But you will still need to send in a sample of your performance and fill out a tech sheet.


13. Can I apply to schedule a showcase?

If you represent a particular genre or community, and you can bring several other groups or performers together to participate in a showcase, we’d be interested in talking with you!  Please give us a call or email us.


14. If I apply and am not selected, does that affect my ability to be selected in future years?



15. How many groups apply each year?

We receive approximately 1400 applications, and there are approximately 850 performance time slots.


16. How many venues?  
23. (This varies from year to year)
Schedule slots?  
850. (This varies from year to year.)
Community-coordinated shows? 

If you have other questions, look at our printed or online Festival schedule for more details!


17. If I miss the deadline, can I still apply?

Yes you can!  BUT—we give preference to those applications that make it in by the deadline.


18. Why isn’t there more ___________________?

If you don’t see enough of your favorite kind of performer at Folklife, let us know!