Tony Furtado

Melissa Schmaedick found a way to relax after a long stressful work day. She was living in Washington D.C., working in a high tension, high reactionary environment at the time.

“I relied on music to support me through my experiences. It expressed feelings that are hard to process or express in words,” she said.

When she moved to Moab in 2002 she chose to share the music that brought her solace.

“Creating the folk festival was a way to give back on an artistic and karmic level,” Schmaedick said. “It’s an art form that is based in people and humanity. Folk music speaks to everyday trials and celebrations of the average person.”

Thus, the Moab Music Festival was born. Celebrating its tenth year, the festival has three days of concerts, two days of concerts, and now, beer.

Earlier this year the City of Moab changed an alcohol ordinance that will allow for a beer garden at the festival’s afternoon concerts at the Moab Ball Fields on Center St.

“You don’t have to have beer to enjoy folk music, but it is part of being able to relax and listen to music and enjoy being outside. It adds to the celebratory feeling,” Schmaedick said. “It’s nice that in our tenth anniversary we will pass our next milestone of having a beer garden.”

The folk festival kicks off on Thursday night at Star Hall. It is a free concert, but donations are welcomed.

“That Thursday night has turned into a benefit concert. We have a small silent auction there for people if they’re interested in doing early Christmas shopping and supporting us at the same time,” Schmaedick said. “We’ll have some really nice items, make it fun and make it different”

Creating and hosting the folk festival became a great opportunity for Schmaedick to meet many the of artists she listened to over the years.

“It has been a real lesson in humanity, I guess. As a listener in the general public it is so easy to make up your idea of this image of a performer and when you actually meet that performer in person you can be surprised by the image you’ve built on their music,” Schmaedick said. “I’ve found most performers to be shy and not outgoing people. They’re kind of introverts, which is funny.”

Due to the intimacy of the venues and Moab’s small town atmosphere, festival artists can often be seen walking around town, eating at local restaurants, or participating in the late night jam sessions. It’s also not unusual to be sitting near someone at one of the performances and suddenly realizing that person was performing onstage the night before or earlier in the day.

There is also an opportunity to hang out and play music with the featured artists. Each night of the festival Eddie McStiff’s will be hosting Folk Jam, a spontaneous creation of acoustic music from musicians, both pros and amateurs. People are welcome to bring instruments and participate or come to hang out and enjoy the music from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night after the festival. The bar will be open and a late-night food menu will be available.

Ellis, who will be performing at Star Hall on Friday and at the Grand County High School on Saturday, is a special performer to Schmaedick.

“First of all she’s this incredible breath of fresh air. So happy and so positive. When you listen to her music you feel hopeful and uplifted,” Schmaedick said. “She’s also the first performer my son ever saw live.”

Schmaedick’s son, Noah, is five.

“She is our performer. ‘Right on Time’, is our song,” she said.

Tony Furtado headlined the first festival 10 years ago.

“We are excited to welcome him back to our stage again this year,” Schmaedick said.

Hailed as a banjo prodigy, he got his first record deal in 1992 and has been making music and releasing records ever since. He has an eclectic approach in playing swing, jazz style, Celtic-folk, and old-timey music.

John Dillon and Viv Nesbitt will interview Furtado for their program Art of the Song on Saturday at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center. “Art of the Song” is a one-hour public radio program heard on over 150 stations across the country.