Maureen Loughran Named Director and Curator of Smithsonian Folkways
Maureen Loughran has been named the director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, effective March 27. Loughran, a career music producer, archivist and scholar, is currently the senior producer of American Routes, a nationally distributed public radio series featuring the diversity of vernacular musical traditions.
Loughran becomes just the fourth director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways since it was established in 1987, when the Smithsonian acquired the legendary Folkways Records from the family of its founder, Moses Asch. Operating as the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution for more than three decades, the label has continued Asch’s omnivorous musical philosophy with hundreds of new releases of music from living artists around the world as well as important archival releases. The Smithsonian Folkways director and curator also oversees the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections comprising an incomparable record of folk and traditional cultural expression from around the world.
“Smithsonian Folkways has an important and colorful history recording the ‘people’s music’ and providing audiences access to a great diversity of musical cultures from around the globe,” Loughran said. “It is our responsibility, as a label, to work together with the communities we document and present to build a creative future for the folk and traditional arts. I am both honored and excited to collaborate with Smithsonian Folkways’ artists, scholars and community partners as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Folkways’ original founding.”
A public ethnomusicologist by training, Loughran has served for over a decade with American Routes, first as its archivist and then as its senior producer. She wrote and edited radio segments on vernacular American cultural topics and artist interviews with a wide variety of important figures of American music, including go-go pioneer Chuck Brown, country music’s trailblazing songwriter and singer Loretta Lynn, music documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and East Harlem “Salsoul” crooner Joe Baatan, among many others. She produced several radio concert presentations of the National Folk Festival, the National Endowment for the Arts’ annual National Heritage Fellows concert, and the Midnight Preserves series at Preservation Hall. She also served as the primary producer for long-feature radio documentaries on Mahalia Jackson, Bessie Smith, Alan Lomax, John Coltrane and Woody Guthrie.
“As a producer, archivist, scholar and educator, Loughran possesses the knowledge, skills and experience to lead Smithsonian Folkways in the years ahead,” said Tony Seeger, chair of the Folkways Advisory Board and a former director of the label. “She brings to the position an in-depth understanding of diverse musical traditions as well as a keen awareness of what it takes to enable broad audiences to appreciate them.”
Loughran’s experience includes work in archives, both internationally at the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, Ireland, and nationally at the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. She served as deputy director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York, where she oversaw grants, managed artist relations and produced public programs, including its annual concert at Lincoln Center.
As a researcher, Loughran documented the sacred and secular music traditions of Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Folklife Program of the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, while her doctoral research explored underground radio, soundscape gentrification and cultural community organizing in her hometown of Washington, D.C. Loughran holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Brown University.
Maureen Loughran Named Director and Curator of Smithsonian Folkways | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings