Folk Festival returning to University of Chicago campus


Staff Writer

The 55th University of Chicago Folk Festival hopes to attract fans from every corner of its musical genre with this year’s lineup.

“This year’s theme is balancing between a bunch of different crowds,” said Chris Kyriazis, president of the Folk Festival. “There are people who come to see virtuosos but a lot of people aren’t at a level that they’ll sit down and listen to any instrumental sound. Some people are more interested in being exposed to a few different styles of music.”

The Folk Festival will be held Friday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 15 at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.

This year, Kyriazis said, the festival shied away from calling in bigger acts like Bobby Hicks, last year’s headliner, so they could focus on bringing a more diverse set of acts.

John Lilly, Friday night’s headline act, is a Chicago born but West Virginia-based vocalist who accompanies himself with acoustic guitar and mandolin.

Lilly’s music has been compared to the early country sound of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers but with a sunnier disposition and plenty of yodeling.

Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, is multitalented enough that Kyriazis said he isn’t sure exactly what instrument he will play.

Paxton is skilled on the banjo, ragtime piano and fiddle. His sound his reminiscent of folk music from the 1920s and 1930s.

“It’ll be difficult to do in a 30 minute set,” Kyriazis said.

Paxton will play one set on Friday night and a second set as Saturday night’s headline act.

Other acts include more traditional Folk Festival acts, with Irish fiddle, bluegrass, blues, country and Balkan accordion acts.

Saturday and Sunday will also see a variety of workshops focusing on a range of topics including “Jamming on Recorder” and “Yodeling for Everyone.”

Workshops will run continuously from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.

Other workshops include the family-friendly “Wiggleworms,” an imaginative musical play session hosted by the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Workshops based on Irish dance and the basics of Middle Eastern hip movements, including the differences between Turkish and Egyptian styles are just a few of the events available.

Sunday’s musical workshops include a noon performance by Paxton, explaining how he came to master blues, jazz, old-time and ragtime before he was 25 years old.

Tickets can be purchased at the Logan Center or Mandel Hall box offices, or online at For more information visit or