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Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


Click on the names below for biographies and contact info of staff members.

Greg Adams
Processing Archivist


Greg C. Adams is a processing archivist in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. His work focuses on the preservation processing of archival collections and is supported through the Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF) administered by the Smithsonian National Collections Program. He holds a B.A. in music history from Youngstown State University (2001), a master's degree in library and information sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park (2004), and an M.A. in ethnomusicology, also from University of Maryland (2012). His research, covering the multicultural history of the banjo, includes fieldwork in Senegal and The Gambia with Jola ekonting players (2006, 2008), developing a formal work plan for maintaining data about banjo-related material culture through an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant (2009), and serving as an apprentice to noted Malian master ngoni player and griot Cheick Hamala Diabate through an FY09 Maryland State Arts Council Apprenticeship award.

Betty Belanus
Education Specialist


Betty Belanus joined the Center in 1987 and has curated many Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs including Massachusetts (1988), Family Farms (1991), Working at the Smithsonian (1996), African Immigrants (1997), New Hampshire (1999), Water Ways (2004); The Roots of Virginia Culture (2007); Wales Smithsonian Cymru (2009); Smithsonian Inside-Out (2010); and Campus and Community (2012). She is currently developing programs on traditional medicine and occupations of the film industry. Other past work includes the Folklore Summer Institute for Community Scholars (1989, 1990); teacher seminars during the Festival; education kits such as Borders and Identity and Discovering Our Delta; an on-line Water Ways exhibition; and educational features for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Publications include the novel Seasonal (2002), and co-authorship of the children’s book Caravan to America: The Living Arts of the Silk Road (2002). Betty was formerly the state folk arts coordinator for the Indiana Arts Commission. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University.

Marquinta Bell
Administrative Specialist


Marquinta Bell joined the Center in January 2004, serving as an administrative specialist. She assists the Associate Director for Administration and Finance in the areas of accounting, budget, and finance. Her financial background includes positions at the Smithsonian's Office of the Comptroller, Cellular One, and AT&T Wireless.

Richard James Burgess
Associate Director for Business Strategies, Smithsonian Folkways


Richard James Burgess brings more than forty years of international music business experience to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. As a music producer and recording artist he has many gold and platinum recordings to his name. He has worked as a studio musician, audio engineer, artist manager, and major label consultant, and has owned record labels and booking agencies. Richard authored the book The Art of Music Production (currently being updated for a 4th ed.), and he lectures internationally on the subject of music production and the music business. Educated at Berklee College of Music, Boston; Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, he earned his Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Glamorgan. He played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain and has won awards from Music Week (UK Producers Award), British Arts Council, Park Lane Group, and the Greater London Arts Association.

Olivia Cadaval
Curator and Chair, Cultural Research and Education


Olivia Cadaval holds a Ph.D. in American studies and folklife from George Washington University. Since joining the Center in 1988, she has curated numerous Festival programs including El Rio (2000), México (2010), and Colombia: The Nature of Culture (2011). She has also produced curriculum enrichment materials, exhibitions, and Web sites, such as the bilingual site “Assembling the Festival Program: Colombia.” She has worked extensively on documentation, public programs, and education projects in the Latino community of Washington, D.C. She published a book Creating a Latino Identity in the Nation's Capital: The Latino Festival (1998) and has contributed to such publications as Urban Odyssey, Creative Ethnicity, Washington at Home, New York Folklore, the Journal of Folklore Research, and The Public Historian.

Cynthia Jacobs Carter
Chief Development Officer


Cynthia Jacobs Carter leads the Center’s unrestricted fundraising efforts, which include events, campaigns, planned giving, direct mail, social media fund raising, cause marketing, and the growing of the endowment. In addition, she raises funds, largely through sponsorships, for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Prior to joining the Center in 2012, she served at Africare as chief development/external affairs officer. Before this, she was director of development at InterAction, as well as at Howard University. She has also served as director in institutional advancement at The George Washington University. Dr. Carter has taught at Georgetown University and at The George Washington University, both in Africana women's studies. She is a National Geographic author of two books: Freedom In My Heart and Africana Woman. Cynthia earned an Ed.D. in educational leadership and an M.A. in international education from The George Washington University. Her undergraduate degree is from Virginia State University.

Josué Castilleja
Art Director


Josué Castilleja establishes and designs the visual branding for the Center and provides art direction for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. A graduate of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, he joined the Center as senior designer in 2009 and became the art director in 2012. He brings to this position twelve years of design and art direction experience with Scholastic Publishing, Inc., Bussolati Associates, and the U.S. Department of State. He has designed graphics for the 2009 Wales Smithsonian Cymru, Giving Voice, and Las Américas programs; the 2010 Mexico, Asian Pacific Americans, and Smithsonian Inside Out programs, and the 2011 Peace Corps and Rhythm and Blues programs; and he was art director for the 2012 Creativity and Crisis, Campus and Community, and Citified programs.

Cecille Chen
Royalty Manager, Smithsonian Folkways


Cecille Chen joined Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 2013. She is responsible for royalty payments to the artists and songwriters who have contributed to Smithsonian Folkways’ growing collection of music. She also assists with pre-production by drafting contracts and researching copyright information. Prior to joining Smithsonian Folkways, Cecille worked in entertainment law and artist management, handling contracts, licensing, publishing, copyrights, and tour logistics. Originally from the Philippines, Cecille came to Washington, D.C., to pursue an undergraduate business degree at Georgetown University. She holds a law degree from The George Washington University School of Law and supplemented her academic work with internships at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

James Deutsch


Jim Deutsch has curated several Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs, including National World War II Reunion (2004), Forest Service (2005), (as co-curator) Mekong River (2007), NASA (2008), and Peace Corps (2011). He has worked in many other capacities—including foodways coordinator, accessibility coordinator, program coordinator, researcher/presenter, and sound engineer—on other Festivals dating back to 1991. At other times, Deutsch has worked overseas (including three stints as a Fulbright Scholar), teaching classes on American folklore, film, history, and literature at universities in Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Poland, and Turkey. He is currently adjunct faculty in George Washington University's American Studies Department (where he received his Ph.D. in 1991). Overall, he has held more than sixty different jobs, including newspaper reporter (Indiana and Mississippi); librarian (Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.); park ranger/forest ranger (Alaska, Arizona, and Mississippi); census enumerator (Washington, D.C.); and Monorail operator (Walt Disney World).

Cristina Díaz-Carrera
Production Manager


Cristina Díaz-Carrera joined the Center in 2007. She has worked as a program coordinator/curatorial assistant for several Folklife Festival programs, including Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150 (2012), Colombia: The Nature of Culture (2011), and México (2010). In early 2013, she became the Folklife Festival production manager. Prior to becoming staff, Cristina worked various stints as a Center intern and contractor on Latino music recordings and programs. She holds a B.A. in ethnomusicology from Barnard College, Columbia University and an M.A. in Caribbean/Latin American studies from New York University. She enjoys producing video pieces, content-rich websites, and Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs, and she moonlights as a photographer and video production assistant in her spare time.

Laura Dion
Sales and Marketing Specialist, Smithsonian Folkways


Laura joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2007 after spending sixteen years in the music business doing sales and marketing, A&R, and distribution.

Toby Dodds
Webmaster/Technology Director


Toby Dodds came to the Center in April 2001. Since that time he has helped introduce many technology innovations including the launch of Smithsonian Global Sound and the digitization of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Prior to coming to the Smithsonian, he was employed by the Experience Music Project, a music museum in Seattle. He holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a master’s degree in library and information science from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Claudia Foronda
Customer Service Representative, Smithsonian Folkways


Claudia Foronda joined the staff of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in October 2012. She works with the mail order and marketing teams and brings an extensive background in customer relations. She previously worked in the graphics and customer service departments for the e-commerce site Birthday in a Box. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with an integrative arts degree.

Beshou Gedamu
Production Assistant


Beshou Gedamu joined Smithsonian Folkways in October 2014 to assist with customer service, fulfillment, and a project with Richard Burgess. She holds a B.A. in information systems management from Bridgewater College in Virginia. She previously worked as the marketing director for fashion company Bernos, social media manager for Brooklyn Bodega and the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, and a digital media specialist for D.C.-based production company HedRush Music, working on the D.C. Loves Dilla concert. Beshou was born in the Ivory Coast with family heritage from Ethiopia.

Henri Goodson
Financial Assistant, Smithsonian Folkways


William Griffin
Licensing and Marketing Specialist, Smithsonian Folkways


William Griffin joined Smithsonian Folkways in January 2013 as a licensing and marketing specialist. Previously William worked for nearly a decade in a variety of roles such as A&R, production management, and as director of music licensing at ESL Music—the independent Washington, D.C., record label founded by electronic dance music group Thievery Corporation. William earned a B.A. in English from George Washington University and has worked as a political media analyst and as a professional club DJ playing venues nationwide, including a longtime weekly residency at D.C.'s Eighteenth Street Lounge.

Emily Hilliard
Marketing Assistant, Smithsonian Folkways


Emily holds a B.A. in English and French from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Folklore from the University of North Carolina. She has worked for the American Folklife Center, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and previously at Folkways where she started as an intern in 2007. She most recently was a 2014 Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives Fellow and her writing and media work has been featured on NPR, The Southern Foodways Alliance, and Food & Wine. She also plays old-time fiddle and writes the pie blog Nothing in the House.

Meredith Holmgren
Principal Investigator and Project Manager, Intangible Cultural Heritage


Meredith Holmgren joined the Center in November 2012 after seven years of experience overseas, primarily in Europe and Asia. She currently serves as the principal investigator and project manager of the Smithsonian's pan-institutional Consortia project Intangible Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian. She also serves as education coordinator and managing editor of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine. Her professional interests span cultural heritage policy, ethnomusicology, sociocultural research, area studies, and education. Her work has contributed to international organizations such as the International Institute for Asian Studies, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Council for Traditional Music, and Freemuse, among others. She holds an M.Phil. in Asian & Middle Eastern area studies (Leiden), an M.A. in cultural anthropology and development sociology (Leiden), a PGCert. in Asia-Pacific Leadership (East-West Center/University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa), and a B.A. in ethnomusicology (UCLA). She is a member of several professional organizations and serves as a board member of the East-West Center’s Asia-Pacific Leadership Program Alumni Association.

David Horgan
Marketing, Radio Promotion, and Licensing Manager, Smithsonian Folkways


David Horgan joined Smithsonian Folkways in April 2008 and manages marketing, radio promotion, and licensing of the collection. Prior to joining Smithsonian Folkways, David was the director of marketing and analytics for Musictoday, an online music services company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was an associate for Dean & Company, a strategy consulting firm located in Tysons Corner, Virginia. David holds a B.S. in finance and marketing from the University of Virginia and was the lead vocalist/guitarist for Southwater, a Charlottesville-based bluegrass band.

Elisa Hough
Communications Specialist


Elisa Hough joined the Center in 2013 as an editor and writer after interning in the Smithsonian Folkways web production department. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of California, Davis, where she hosted a radio program at the community radio station KDVS, and an M.A. in arts journalism from the University of Southern California. As an audio and ethnomusicology enthusiast, she has conducted cultural fieldwork in Okinawa, Japan, performed with multiple Indonesian gamelan ensembles, researched extensively gamelan’s significance in the United States, and kept a recording blog, Adventures in Audio.

Joan Hua
Program Assistant


Joan Hua joined Smithsonian Folkways staff in 2012 to support several acquisitions, particularly the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, which comprises more than 100 recordings of the world's traditional music. Together with Mary Monseur, she has managed production of previously unpublished UNESCO recordings and worked with scholars from Romania, Portugal, Uzbekistan, Japan, and more. She holds a B.A. from University of Puget Sound, and has also studied in Vienna, Austria, and conducted ethnographic research in Taipei, Taiwan.

Marjorie Hunt
Education Specialist and Folklife Curator


Marjorie Hunt holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. Since joining the Center in 1982, she has curated numerous Folklife Festival programs, including The Grand Generation: Memory, Mastery and Legacy (1984), White House Workers (1992), Masters of Traditional Arts (1994), Working at the Smithsonian (1996), Masters of the Building Arts (2001), and Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions (2006). She was co-curator of the 2013 program One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage. Her publications include The Grand Generation: Memory, Mastery Legacy and The Stone Carvers: Masters Craftsmen of Washington National Cathedral. She is the author of The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide. Marjorie is the co-producer and director of the documentary films The Stone Carvers, The Grand Generation, and Workers at the White House. She is currently working on a documentary film entitled Masters of the Building Arts.

Aza Issifu
Development Assistant


As the Center’s development assistant, Aza Issifu provides support to the chief development officer in all facets of fundraising. She began working for the Center in 2012 as an intern for the Will do Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity program of the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She earned her B.A. in anthropology, with a focus on African history and cultures, from the University of Arizona in 2011.

Sojin Kim


Sojin Kim joined the Center in 2011. She previously worked as a public historian in Los Angeles, collaborating with diverse local communities on exhibitions, documentation and media projects, and public programs. From 2008 to 2010, she was curator of history at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. From 1998 to 2008, she was curator at the Japanese American National Museum. Sojin holds a Ph.D. in folklore and mythology from University of California, Los Angeles. She serves on the board of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

Robert Leopold
Deputy Director, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


Robert Leopold provides leadership for curatorial research, education, archives, and organizational innovation. Before joining the Center in 2014, he served as director of the Smithsonian’s Consortium for World Cultures and as Senior Program Officer for History, Art and Culture. Earlier, he directed the National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, where he contributed his expertise to digital imaging, knowledge repatriation, and language revitalization initiatives. Robert also serves on the steering committee of Recovering Voices, a Smithsonian initiative that promotes the documentation and revitalization of the world's endangered languages and the knowledge preserved in them. Robert is a former Fulbright Fellow who conducted ethnographic research on social organization, ritual and cosmology in Liberia. His research interests include ethnographic and indigenous archives, digital repatriation, information ethics, and intangible cultural heritage. Robert holds a B.A. in English literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Indiana University.

Helen Lindsay
Lead Customer Service Representative, Smithsonian Folkways


Helen Lindsay has worked in the mail order department of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings since November 1999. Her duties include artist relations, quality control for artists and domestic accounts orders, and overall customer service.

Mary S. Linn
Curator of Cultural and Linguistic Revitalization


Mary S. Linn joined the Center in 2014, working in endangered language documentation and revitalization along with the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative. She is also on the steering committee for the National Breath of Life Archival Institute. From 2002 to 2014, she was the curator of Native American languages at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. There she worked collaboratively with indigenous communities and museum programming, initiating the Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop and the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Her publications include Living Archives: A Community-based Language Archive Model (2014) and contributions in Yuchi Folklore (Jason Baird Jackson, 2013). Mary holds a B.A. in American studies from Wichita State University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Kansas, and credits the Euchee (Yuchi), Oklahoma Seminole, Absentee Shawnee, Osage, and Kiowa, among others, for most of her training.

Keisha Martin
Manufacturing and Inventory Coordinator, Smithsonian Folkways


Keisha Martin joined Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 2005 after volunteering at the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. Originally from Jamaica, Keisha has also lived in New York City and North Carolina, where she received a B.A. in art from the University of North Carolina.

Michael Atwood Mason
Director, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


Dr. Michael Atwood Mason joined the Center in 2013. He began his career at the Smithsonian in 1992, working first at the Anacostia Community Museum and then, starting in 1994, at the National Museum of Natural History, where he served as exhibit developer and later as director of exhibitions. He has developed, curated, and managed more than sixty exhibitions, including African Voices, Ritmos de Identidad/Rhythms of Identity, Discovering Rastafari, and the inaugural exhibition at the Maryland Museum of African-American History and Culture. Since 1987, he has been studying the religions and cultures of the African diaspora, and he is the author of Living Santería: Rituals and Experiences in an Afro-Cuban Religion (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002) and the cultural blog Baba Who? Babalú!. He also teaches courses on the politics of representation and the development of community-based exhibitions in the cultural sustainability program at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. Michael holds  a Ph.D. in folklore, with a double minor in religion, from Indiana University.

James Mayer
Strategic Communications Assistant


James Mayer serves as the assistant to the director and assists with public affairs. Previously he worked as the supply coordinator for the 2013 Folklife Festival and interned on social media and web content at the Center. He has also spent time at the Freer|Sackler Galleries working in public affairs. James studied history and classics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and recently completed a Fulbright in Konya, Turkey. He brings to the Center a commitment to community-building and exploring issues of identity and history.

Eddie Mendoza
Festival Services Manager


Eddie Mendoza started working at the Center as a cashier in the Marketplace at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival from 1993 to 1999. In 2000, he took on the role of food concessions coordinator, working closely with food vendors at the Festival, and since 2006 he has also served as festival services manager. His responsibilities include making sure Festival food vendors meet the requirements of the National Park Service and the Public Health Inspector while feeding thousands of people daily during the event.

Mary Monseur
Production Manager, Smithsonian Folkways


Mary Monseur joined the Center in 1993. Together with her colleagues at Smithsonian Folkways, she has worked with scholars and artists worldwide to produce more than three hundred recordings. She received a B.A. in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona and an M.A. in English with a folklore concentration from George Mason University.

Sabrina Lynn Motley
Director, Smithsonian Folklife Festival


Sabrina Lynn Motley joined the Center in 2013 as director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Previously, she was senior director of programs and exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center, overseeing content-rich public programs and exhibitions highlighting Houston’s expanding connections with Asia. Before the Texas Center, Sabrina was vice president of Vesper Society, a social justice foundation, and program and education director at the Japanese American National Museum (a Smithsonian affiliate). She curated public programs for the Getty Museum and community-based exhibitions for the California Endowment. Sabrina taught anthropology at Art Center College of Design and Otis Institute for Art and Design. She also hosted “The Global Village” on KPFK in Los Angeles. Sabrina earned a B.A. in world arts and cultures and an M.A. in African studies, both from UCLA. Currently she is a doctoral candidate in anthropology, conducting research on the interplay between religious faith, doubt, and social activism.

Diana Baird N’Diaye
Cultural Specialist and Curator


Diana Baird N’Diaye developed and leads The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity, a pan-institutional, multi-sited research project that included a program in the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Her training in anthropology, folklore, and visual studies and her experience as a studio craft artist support over thirty years of fieldwork, exhibitions, programs, and publications focusing on expressive culture in Africa, the Caribbean, and their diasporas in the United States, children’s play and performance, and dress traditions and fashion in Oman, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Japan. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, she led the Smithsonian’s support of Haitian traditional artists at the Folklife Festival. She has served on national and international juries, advisory, policy, and funding panels including UNESCO, the NEA, and the American Folklore Society. She is a graduate of the 2010 Smithsonian Leadership Development Program. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and visual studies from The Union Institute.

Cecilia Peterson
Project Archivist


Cecilia Peterson is a project archivist in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, a position funded by a Save America’s Treasures grant awarded by the National Trust for Historical Preservation. While her primary focus is to organize the digitization of the Moses and Frances Asch Collection papers, she has also developed and implemented the archives’ digitization standards. Cecilia came to the Center as an intern in 2009, when she began doing archival processing on the Asch Collection. In addition to her work in the archives, she is co-manager of the Smithsonian Collections Blog. Cecilia has a B.A. in English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (2007) and a master’s degree in library science from University of Maryland, College Park (2009). Her professional interests include archival outreach and access.

Jeff Place
Archivist and Curator


Jeff Place has been at the Center’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections since 1988. He holds a master’s of library science degree from the University of Maryland and specializes in sound archives. He oversees the cataloging of the Center’s collections and has been involved in the compilation of over fifty CDs of American music for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, including Lead Belly Sings for Children, American Favorite Ballads (Pete Seeger), and The Asch Recordings (Woody Guthrie). He was one of the producers and writers of the acclaimed 1997 edition of the Anthology of American Folk Music, The Best of Broadside, 1962-1988 (2000), and the CD box set Woody at 100 (2012). Jeff has won two GRAMMY Awards our of five nominations and five Indie Awards of eleven nominations. In 2003, he co-curated the Smithsonian Folklife Festival program on Appalachian culture.

Nichole Procopenko
Digitization Technician


Nichole Procopenko is a digitization technician in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. Her primary focus is working with collections that document local traditions and capture social movements of resistance and struggle. She has previously worked with the National Museum of the American Indian, Maryland Traditions, and the Northern Virginia Folklife Archive. Nichole holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from California State University, Long Beach, and a graduate certificate in folklore from George Mason University.

Arlene Reiniger
Program Specialist and Intern Coordinator


Arlene Reiniger has been with the Center since 1982, when she worked with the participant staff for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. As program specialist, some of the projects she has coordinated have included the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings benefit album A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, a lecture series on contemporary South African society, and a multimedia education kit on Iowa folklife. As a Festival program coordinator, Arlene has worked on many music, state, regional, national, international, and thematic programs. In 2012, she curated the Festival program Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt. As intern coordinator, she has overseen the internships of hundreds of people with the Center, many of whom have continued work in the field. Arlene received her B.A. in anthropology from George Washington University in 1979.

Pete Reiniger
Sound Production Supervisor, Smithsonian Folkways


Pete Reiniger is the sound production supervisor and chief engineer for Smithsonian Folkways. He has been involved in numerous award-winning recordings and received two GRAMMYs. His professional affiliations include the Audio Engineering Society, the Washington Area Music Association, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is currently on the Board of Governors for the Washington, D.C., chapter of NARAS. Pete also served for many years as technical director for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Rob Schneider
Festival Technical Director


Rob Schneider holds a master of fine arts degree from Indiana University. Prior to joining the Center in 2000, his work was primarily in the theater where he produced, designed, directed, and served in just about every other position short of wigs and makeup. He has taught in the theater departments of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona as well as Chicago public schools. He has worked on several feature films, television programs, commercial/industrial events, music festivals, and for such events as World Cup Soccer and the 1996 Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta. In addition to his work on the Folklife Festival, Rob has directed production at the dedication of the National Museum of the American Indian, the National World War II Reunion, and two national Pow Wows. He has also provided technical support on two presidential inaugurals.

Sayem Sharif
Financial Operations Manager, Smithsonian Folkways


Sayem Sharif joined Smithsonian Folkways in February 2014 with over 10 years of corporate accounting and business management experience. Prior to joining Folkways, Sayem worked in an outsourcing accounting firm as financial controller. His expertise includes management of staff, strategic planning, budget preparation, financial statement presentation, and tax preparation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in accounting. He is a member of the American Institute of CPA, Maryland CPA, and Project Management Institute. Sayem is actively engaged with the Bangladeshi community of the D.C. metro area. He was involved in forming a nonprofit organization called Ektara, Inc., which provides a platform for upcoming talent through various folk-based cultural programs. Sayem is a life-long fan of the Washington Redskins and the Manchester United soccer club.

Daniel Sheehy
Director and Curator, Smithsonian Folkways


Daniel Sheehy joined the Smithsonian in 2000. Prior to this, he served as director of Folk & Traditional Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts (1992-2000) and staff ethnomusicologist and assistant director (1978-1992). A Fulbright-Hays scholar in Veracruz, Mexico, he earned his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UCLA. He co-edited the South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (1998) volume of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. His book Mariachi Music in America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture was published by Oxford University Press in 2006. The American Folklore Society honored him with the Américo Paredes award in 2010, recognizing a career of excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies, and the Benjamin A. Botkin prize in 1997, recognizing major impact on the field of public folklore.

Ronnie Simpkins
Audio Recording Specialist, Smithsonian Folkways


Ronnie Simpkins joined Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 1996, serving in mail order before taking over duties as dubbing engineer for the archival collection.

Stephanie Smith
Director, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections


Stephanie Smith came to the Center in 1995 as the visual materials archivist. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Scottish ethnology from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s degree in library science from the University of North Carolina. Her research specialties are English country dance; Scottish, English, and Appalachian folk music and dance traditions; and the British and American folk revival. Stephanie’s current project is a documentary film about English country dance co-produced with the Center’s video producer Charles Weber and colleague Daniel Walkowitz of New York University, due for completion in 2014. Stephanie is an active member of the International Council for Traditional Music Ethnochoreology Study Group and presents her research at biennial study group symposia. In her spare time, Stephanie is a community dance caller and organizer, photographer, meditator, and avid traveler.

D. A. Sonneborn
Associate Director for Programs and Acquisitions, Smithsonian Folkways


Before coming to the Smithsonian, Atesh Sonneborn wrote new music for theater, film, and dance in the United States and Western Europe, taught piano to children and adults, managed and produced concerts, festivals, recordings, and artists. His articles, reviews, and photos appear in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and other scholarly publications, and he co-authored Planet Drum (1991) with drummer Mickey Hart and professor Fredric Lieberman. He lectures internationally on applied ethnomusicology topics and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UCLA and University of Maryland. He is chair of the Society for Ethnomusicology's Audio-Visual Publication Committee and a founding member of its Applied Ethnomusicology Section. Current research interests include Garifuna and other Caribbean percussion traditions, folk music of the Veneto (Italy), music in Sufism, intentionality in music performance, digital music distribution, and arts management methodology. He holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UCLA.

Barbara Strickland
Associate Director, Finance and Administration


Barbara Strickland has been with the Center for over three decades, one of seven current staff who came to the Center in 1975 to work on the bicentennial Festival (she was hired to work on the Native American Program). In 1987 she was awarded the James E. Webb Fellowship to pursue an associate degree in business. In 1996 she received the Unsung Hero Award for her outstanding service, and in 2004 she was awarded a certification of recognition for her extraordinary administrative work for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in helping people from all over the world represent themselves. She is one of the longest-serving Smithsonian employees of Native American heritage. She is a native of North Carolina and a member of the Lumbee tribe.

Claudia Telliho
Administrative Specialist


Claudia Telliho began her long relationship with the Smithsonian and the Center when she served as a participant coordinator for the Massachusetts program at the 1988 Folklife Festival. She spent four years with the National Council for the Traditional Arts as director of National Touring Programs before returning to the Smithsonian as an international program coordinator at Smithsonian Associates. She has been serving as administrative specialist since October 2003.

Sally A. Van de Water
Program Coordinator


Sally A. Van de Water joined the Center in early 2013 as youth access coordinator for the Will to Adorn research initiative. Soon after she added the role of program coordinator for The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Aesthetics and Identity Smithsonian Folklife Festival program. Formerly Boston’s city folklorist and the regional folklorist for the Mid-Atlantic, she has also worked with state and local folk arts programs in Georgia, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, and has organized or volunteered at folklife festivals around the country. She is the editor of the American Folklore Society Review and is an elected member (2012-2014) of the AFS Executive Board Nominating Committee. She holds an M.A. from Western Kentucky University and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, and in high school was voted “Most Likely to Join the Circus.” When not folking around she can usually be found officiating weightlifting meets.

Dave Walker
Audio Digitization Specialist


Dave Walker joined the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections in 2014 as an audio digitization specialist, a position funded by the Collections Care and Preservation Fund administered by the Smithsonian National Collections Program. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, he holds a B.S. in audio engineering technology and B.A in art history from Belmont University; he is currently finishing an M.A. in museum studies at The George Washington University. His primary focus is the preservation, conservation, and digitization of historic audio media such as open-reel tapes and instantaneous discs. He has also performed audio mastering on commercially released albums and independent films and served as technician at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sandy Wang
Web Designer and Developer


Sandy Wang joined the Center in 2011. She holds a degree in communication and interactive design from Northern Virginia Community College as well as a master’s degree in economic sciences from Université d’Orléans, France.

Charles Weber
Media Specialist


Charles Weber joined the Center in 1996. He produces, directs, and edits educational, documentary, web, and exhibit films. As a workshop instructor, he teaches field research documentation methods and history. His work has won numerous awards, appeared in film festivals the world over, and has been broadcast regionally on public broadcasting stations, internationally, and via networks such as the Smithsonian Channel. He has covered the Smithsonian Folklife Festival extensively since 1996 and produced video projects in locations across the United States and the globe. He holds a B.A. in television and radio with a minor in cinematography from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and an M.A. in creative writing from George Mason University.

Jonathan Wright
Customer Service Representative, Smithsonian Folkways


Emeritus Staff

Richard Kennedy
Curator Emeritus


Richard Kennedy was deputy director of the Center from 1994 to 2008 and served as acting director until April 2009. He co-curated Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs Hawai'i, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Russian Music, Tibetan Culture, Silk Road, Oman, and the Mekong River and coordinated larger institutional efforts such the Smithsonian's 150th Birthday Party. Previously he was assistant director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts. His film on Cambodian refugees won Best Documentary at the San Francisco Film Festival. For twelve years he was chair of South Asian Area Studies at the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute. Kennedy earned a Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Connecticut College. He has taught courses at the UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz and has been on the boards of several non-profit organizations.

Richard Kurin
Director Emeritus, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture


Richard Kurin is the Smithsonian Institution's under secretary for history, art, and culture and for over two decades served as the Center. Richard is a former Fulbright fellow with a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, Reflections of a Cultural Broker: A View from the Smithsonian, and Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Culture Of, By, and For the People, as well as scores of scholarly chapters and articles. He was a keynote speaker for International Council of Museums at its triennial meeting in 2004 and gave the Founders Lecture at Harvard's Peabody Museum in 2007. He has been awarded the Smithsonian Secretary's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service and the American Folklore Society's Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public sector folklore.

Diana Parker
Director Emeritus, Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Diana Parker was director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival from 1985 until 2010. She had worked on the Festival since 1975, prior to which she worked in various public program positions at the Smithsonian and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. She served as a consultant on several Cultural Olympiads and an array of public events, including the Smithsonian 150th Birthday Party, the Los Angeles Festival, and every public presidential inaugural celebration since Carter's in 1976. She served as producer for the World War II Reunion on the Mall and The First Americans Festival celebrating the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. She worked closely with sponsors, public officials, and educational, cultural, and arts organizations in numerous states and over forty nations. Diana graduated with distinction from George Washington University and received a Rotary Fellowship to study anthropology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Anthony Seeger
Curator Emeritus, Smithsonian Folkways

Anthony Seeger is an anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, archivist, and musician. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago. His research has concentrated on the music of Amazonian Indians in Brazil, where he lived for nearly ten years. In 1982 he returned to the United States as associate professor of anthropology and director of the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music. In 1988 he moved to the Smithsonian to assume the direction of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and to become the curator of the archival collections of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. In 2000 he accepted a position as professor in the department of ethnomusicology at the UCLA. Anthony is the author of four books and over fifty articles on anthropological, ethnomusicological, archival, intellectual property, and Indian rights issues.

Peter Seitel
Folklorist Emeritus

Peter Seitel joined the Center’s staff in 1978 and served as senior folklorist, webmaster, acting director, and director. Prior to service at the Smithsonian, Peter was an assistant professor of anthropology at Princeton University. He earned his Ph.D. in folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, writing a dissertation based on eighteen months of fieldwork in northwestern Tanzania on the conversational use of proverbs and logical structures in metaphor. He has written on metaphor, narrative, and the concept of genre as a method in interpreting oral literature. He was project co-coordinator for the UNESCO/Smithsonian World Conference on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.

Tom Vennum, Jr.
Senior Ethnomusicologist Emeritus

Tom Vennum is a graduate of Yale and holds graduate degrees from Harvard and the New England Conservatory of Music. He has specialized in the music of American Indian peoples of the Western Great Lakes and is the author of a classic study on wild rice in Indian culture and a book on American Indian lacrosse. He has been active in promoting the revival of lacrosse on Wisconsin reservations.

Research Associates

Rene Lopez
Diana Marsh
Sita Reddy
Jesus “Chucho” Valdes
Erin Younger