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Talent comes from near and far for the Folk Alliance International Conference Music Fair

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One local performer refers to music as being "the weapon of the future." If that's true, there's an arsenal of talent on display at the Folk Alliance International Conference Music Fair, which continues through the weekend.

Whether you're a singer, a strummer or a songwriter, you're welcome inside the Folk Alliance Music Fair. Over three thousand people are in attendance, where music performers and students are swapping ideas, and there's an effort to provide a chance to play for people who can't otherwise afford an instrument.

It's nearly impossible to roam the Sheraton Crown Plaza hallways without hearing a tune this weekend. Many hotel ballrooms have been transformed into music workshops.

Lawrence resident Linda Tilton has a big passion for a small interest: the ukulele. Her music lessons consist of small groups learning from her nine years of experience with the interest, and typify the instruction being offered at the fair.

"One woman walked into this class today, and said, 'I've never touched a ukulele before,' and she left here playing two songs in an hour," TIlton said. "That's a real accomplishment."

Others came to listen and learn. Johnson County-based musician Joy Zimmerman has been playing music in metro coffee shops and bars for several years, but this fair represents a chance to grow in her craft.

"There are people here who are, are greats in the field, so just being around them and hearing how they've made their way through the music industry, which is kind of difficult," Zimmerman said.

Louis Meyers wants to help future musicians play. He helps operate Meyer Music, a store in the River Market, and he's collecting used instruments as part of a FOX 4 program called Band of Angels. That program takes in donated instruments, refurbishes them and donates them to less-fortunate kids.

"In order for music to survive from generation to generation, people have to play it," Meyers said. "You can teach it in schools all day long, and colleges and universities and liberal arts programs it's not the same as someone learning to play."

Meyers also told said he's seen statistics that suggest music lessons can keep at-risk kids out of trouble. He says that's further proof that one generation of musicians has to foster future players.

The Folk Alliance International Music Fair is in its 27th year. It continues all weekend at the Sheraton Crown Plaza, with featured musicians Bela Fleck and Hal Ketchum scheduled to take the stage.