Alka Sharma: the exit interview, as she departs as leader of Folk Music Ontario
Alka Sharma started working for Folk Music Ontario in 2013.
Back then, the organization’s name was The Ontario Council of Folk Festivals, and they were in the midst of a name change.
After working with Folk Music Ontario for eight years, she will be stepping down from her position because she is starting a new job in January.
“It’s mixed emotions. It’s bittersweet. I’m sad for leaving Folk Music Ontario, but I’m very excited to be starting a new chapter in my life,” Alka said.
Alka has been a lover of the arts and involved in arts communities for 20 years. She started out in campus community radio and went on to work for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Toronto Real Asian Film Festival, where she was an interim executive director.
This led her to apply to be executive director at Folk Music Ontario.
Alka has a major passion for music in general, and she said working with the organization was a great opportunity.
“I love the fact that it’s music of the people, and it comes from a roots-oriented type of community,” she said.
Folk music is appealing to her because she said it can incorporate different music from around the world while still being connected to various communities.
Some of Alka’s favourite folk artists include Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, she said.
When it comes to newer artists, she enjoys music from Quique Escamilla and the Strumbellas, who have played at Folk Music Ontario’s annual conferences.
“The conference has always been amazing,” Alka said. “I remember my first time when I went to the conference, I was blown away by what was going on because I’d never been to a conference like that, where there’s this music everywhere and also music being played from 11:30 a.m. till 3 a.m., so that was kind of cool to see.”
The folk community has been focused and very generous, she added.
“To be a part of that has been amazing, and just sort of bringing in different new ideas to the organization has always been something I’ve been proud of,” she said.
Alka helped facilitate Folk Music Ontario’s first Indigenous showcase in 2016.
She has also enjoyed working with the organization’s developing artists program.
“That was another favourite part of mine,” she said “to hear from the artists when they used to go out to seniors homes or schools and just the stories they had coming back from those performances there.”
As a music lover through and through, Alka sits on the board of Folk Alliance International as treasurer and is a board member and former president of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition.
“I look forward to hearing more about the future of Folk Music Ontario as everyone knows there’s discussions with Folk Music Canada to merge, so that I’ll be sort of watching,” Alka said.
She emphasized her appreciation for the members of FMO, without whom the organization wouldn’t exist, saying their passion is amazing to see.