Huib Schippers Named Next Director & Curator of Smithsonian Folkways
Musician, scholar, educator, and former record store manager Huib Schippers has been named the new Director & Curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings effective June 13, 2016. A division of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Folkways is the nonprofit record label of the national museum of the United States, distributing more than 50,000 recordings of American and international music. Professor Schippers, currently the Director of the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre in Australia, replaces Daniel E. Sheehy, who announced his retirement after 15 years leading the award-winning label.
“Running this unique and historic-yet-progressive record label requires an incredible breadth and depth of talent, and Huib is one of the few people in the world with the necessary combination of skills,” said Sheehy, a musician and ethnomusicologist who has led Smithsonian Folkways to six GRAMMY or Latin GRAMMY awards among many other achievements. “Serving as director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings over the past 15 years has been a dream come true, and one of the greatest learning opportunities of my life. I’m pleased to pass the baton to another music-lover who values artists and their work, and who recognizes the transformative power of music for audiences, performers, and communities of any cultural background.”
“I feel honored to be entrusted with such an iconic label which has exceptionally dedicated staff, artists, and listeners. This position resonates with all the things I hold dear: great music, great ideas, great people, and a great mission that is as relevant today as it was when Moses Asch started Folkways back in 1948,” said Schippers. “I look forward to forging a future for Smithsonian Folkways that continues to celebrate diversity, the voices of the unheard, the sounds that make us learn and think, and the music that inspires a greater understanding of the people, the communities, and the cultures around us. Developments in technology, in the music industry and in societies across the globe make this more possible, more challenging, but especially more necessary than ever before.”
Schippers becomes just the third director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in the nearly 30 years since it began in 1987, when the institution acquired Folkways Records from the family of founder Moses Asch. In that time, Smithsonian Folkways has released more than 400 new albums and acquired 12 other record label collections, including Cook, Monitor, the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, and, just recently announced, Arhoolie Records. The collection now includes more than 3,500 albums and 50,000 tracks, including historic recordings by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Ella Jenkins, and thousands more, all available in CD, digital download, and streaming formats worldwide. Smithsonian Folkways has been at the forefront of distribution models, from on-demand cassettes and CDs in its early years to embracing digital download and streaming services.
“Huib has the vision and experience to guide Smithsonian Folkways as it navigates continued change in the music industry and builds on its rich legacy,” said Michael A. Mason, Director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We are also excited to bring Huib’s impressive research credentials in music education and sustainability to the Center, and know he will energize our own work on intangible cultural heritage.”
A leading voice in arts research, Schippers was the founding director of the innovative Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre at Griffith University in Brisbane (2003–2015). From that position, he fostered a strong, practice-led research culture, resulting in a number of signature events that challenged traditional approaches to musical activities, including the public “iPod opera” iOrpheus: Art Among Us (2007) and the award-winning Encounters – Meetings in Australian Music (2005, 2007, 2010, 2013). Schippers' work stems from a long, diverse, and profound history of engagement with music. A native of the Netherlands, Schippers has had a multi-faceted career including Indian classical performance and teaching, journalism, retail record store management, arts policy, project management, education, and academic research. Over the past 25 years, he has raised over $14 million for visionary projects in the field of music, playing a pivotal role in developing world music schools throughout the Netherlands (1990–1997), leading a government-funded project to embed cultural diversity in the music education curriculum at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (1996–2000), and conducting research for the European Association of Conservatoires and the European Commission (2001–2002), and later the Australian Research Council (2005–2015). He was the driving force behind the establishment of the international World Music & Dance Centre in Rotterdam, opened by the Queen of the Netherlands in December 2006. From 2009 to 2012, Schippers served as Director of the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. He has published numerous articles, chapters, and books, including Facing the Music: Shaping Music Education from a Global Perspective and the upcoming Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures: An Ecological Approach (both with Oxford University Press).
Sheehy will join Anthony Seeger, the founding director of the label, as emeritus and plans to continue to produce albums. He was recently awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 2015 he was named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. Under Sheehy’s direction, the label published more than 200 recordings, including the ten-volume Music of Central Asia series, the African American Legacy Series (co-sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture), and the Tradiciones/Traditions Series of signature music from Latin America and Latino USA (co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Latino Center). During his tenure, Smithsonian Folkways albums earned five GRAMMY awards, one Latin GRAMMY award, 21 GRAMMY nominations, and many other awards and nominations. Smithsonian Folkways is looking forward to continue earning accolades, honoring artists and communities, and engaging the ears, minds, and hearts of audiences in the US and beyond.