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Once described as a patchwork quilt of musical and dramatic offerings and programs, the Rural Musicians Forum (RMF) has brought music, musicians and the community together for more than 26 years. 


In 1985, singer Nancy Giffey and pianist Jack Wilson met to share their love of classical vocal and piano music.  Giffey had recently moved to the River Valley after participating in Madison area musical performances and organizations, and Wilson was music director at American Players Theatre.

The two friends decided to perform the music they had been practicing and secured a date to use the historic United Chapel, a simple and beautiful house of worship long associated with Frank Lloyd Wright’s family, the Lloyd Joneses.  At that time, the building was infrequently in use.  After putting up handmade posters, inviting their friends, and sweeping up the cobwebs, the two musicians were amazed to greet a full house that included the members of the Taliesin Fellowship.


With support from the Taliesin Fellowship and the Lloyd Jones family, Unity Chapel became available as a site for more concerts.  Giffey, who became RMF’s first Artistic Director, created the concept of  a “patchwork quilt of musical styles” at every performance and included both local and guest performers.  Concerts might include folk, jazz, and ethnic music along with the classics, and the summer Monday night concert series in Unity Chapel became a popular event.

As RMF grew, the “Cabin Fever Reliever” held in early February, holiday concerts and original scripts combining music with stories, visual imagery and readings were created.  Choral and dramatic works including Handel’s Messiah, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, and the Poulanc Gloria brought community members together as participants and audience members alike.

Through the years, RMF has been committed to providing performance opportunities, scholarships and outreach concerts in the schools and in local communities for students.  Several young people who first performed at Unity Chapel have become fine professional artists as adults.


Nancy Giffey served as RMF’s first Artistic Director for 13 years, and subsequently returned from time to time to direct special events.  In more recent years, RMF has had the good fortune to have three other talented musicians as Artistic Directors.  Over the years, RMF flourished and grew under the artistic leadership of Nick Ehlinger, Jenafer Lloyd Jones Humphries, and Doug Swenson.

Now, the Forum has named M. Kent Mayfield as Artistic Director, effective July 1, 2012.

Mayfield brings with him resources drawn from a career in teaching, the arts and the management of not-for-profit agencies. What Kent Mayfield brings also to his role as Artistic Director of the Rural Musician’s Forum is a compelling view of the impact that music can have on a community, and an ability to realize that potential through programming, education, outreach, and other activities.


In 1997, the Rural Musicians Forum incorporated under the provisions of 501(c)(3) as a not-for-profit arts organization.  RMF’s mission continues to foster the best in a broad range of musical traditions, to provide all members of the community an opportunity to enjoy live music, to inspire a love of music in community youth, and, through music, to educate members of the community in the rich cultural heritage of the River Valley.