Staff and Leadership
Smithsonian Folkways Staff
Paloma Alcalá joined Folkways as a sales associate in August 2021. She studied Spanish and education at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania before gaining experience in music sales at Crooked Beat Records in Alexandria, VA. She has also written for Document Records, a U.K. based blues, jazz, and gospel reissue label. Paloma is a DC-area native who enjoys instant film photography and attending local shows in her free time.
Director of Business Affairs and Royalties
Cecille Chen joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2013 and is responsible for contracts, copyrights and royalties. She brings more than a decade of experience in entertainment law and artist management, having previously handled licensing, publishing administration, digital music distribution, royalties, and bookings. Cecille’s professional interest in arts management stems from internships at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She holds an undergraduate business degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from The George Washington University School of Law. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.
Logan Clark joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2017. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from UCLA in March 2017, focusing on marimba music in contemporary Mayan migrant communities in Los Angeles and Guatemala. She has also conducted graduate research on Mayan traditional dance as intangible cultural heritage, as well as independent radio and tastemaking. She has administrative and programming experience with a variety of organizations, including the World Musical Instrument Center at UCLA, Ethnomusicology Review, the Fowler Museum, and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Logan plays and sings mariachi music, and was a member of UCLA’s official mariachi, Mariachi de Uclatlán, for six years.
Director of Web and IT
Toby Dodds came to the Center in 2001. Since that time he has helped introduce many technology innovations at the Center 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 Masters in Library and Information Science degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
William Griffin joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2013 and works with creative professionals in film, television, theater, video games, and advertising, as well as educators, scholars, and museum curators, to pair recordings from the Smithsonian Folkways catalog with a variety of visual and multimedia projects. 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 DC record label founded by electronic dance music group Thievery Corporation. William earned a BA in English from The 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 DC's Eighteenth Street Lounge.
Seth Langer joined the Smithsonian Folkways marketing and licensing teams in 2017, after many years as a teaching artist and theater performer. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Seth is an award-winning puppeteer and musician, as well as a graduate of Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts program, where he focused on collaborative storytelling projects with queer and gender non-conforming communities. His work as licensing assistant puts him in touch with curators, music supervisors, documentarians, students, the public, and more, and reflects his commitment to generating sustainable streams of income for contemporary traditional artists.
Artist Relations &
Lead Customer Service Representative
Helen Lindsay has worked in the mail order department of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings since 1999. Her duties include artist relations, quality control for artists and domestic accounts orders and overall customer service for any customer.
Director and Curator
Maureen Loughran joined Smithsonian Folkways Recordings as Director and Curator in 2023. A public ethnomusicologist by training, Loughran was the senior producer for the nationally broadcast public radio program American Routes in New Orleans. She wrote and edited radio segments on vernacular American cultural topics and artist interviews with a wide variety of important figures of American music, as well as producing long-feature documentaries on Woody Guthrie, Bessie Smith and John Coltrane, among others. She also 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. 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. As a researcher, Loughran documented the sacred and secular music traditions of Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the Louisiana Folklife Program, 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.
Mary Monseur joined the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 1993. Together with her colleagues at Smithsonian Folkways, she has worked with scholars and artists worldwide to produce more than 300 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.
Prior to joining Folkways in August, 2021, Sahara studied ethnomusicology and law, societies and justice at the University of Washington in Seattle. During her time there, she performed with internationally recognized musicians who specialize in various genres from around the world. In her free time, she enjoys teaching piano and discovering new local bands at small venues.
Curator and Senior Archivist
Jeff Place has been at the Center’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections since 1988. He holds an MLS 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 sixty CDs of American music for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings including the Lead Belly Legacy Series; the Pete Seeger American Favorite Ballads; Jazz Fest; and The Asch Recordings (Woody Guthrie). Place has been nominated for eight GRAMMY Awards and twelve Indie Awards, winning three GRAMMYs and six Indies. He was one of the producers and writers of the acclaimed 1997 edition of the Anthology of American Folk Music and The Best of Broadside, 1962-1988 (2000). He has served on the curatorial team for a number of exhibitions including the traveling Woody Guthrie exhibition This Land is Your Land. In 2003, he co-curated the Smithsonian Folklife Festival program on Appalachian culture. In 2012, he is produced and co-authored (with Robert Santelli) the publication and CD-box set Woody at 100, the Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Collection in 2014, and the Pete Seeger Centennial Collection in 2019.
Curator and Director, Emeritus
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 between. 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 Institution to assume the direction of Folkways Records 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 University of California at Los Angeles, and was appointed Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian. Seeger is the author of four books and over fifty articles on anthropological, ethnomusicological, archival, intellectual property, and Indian rights issues.
Director of Financial Operations
Sayem Sharif joined Smithsonian Folkways in 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.
Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture
Interim Director, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
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 (2010), recognizing a career of excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies, and the Benjamin A. Botkin prize (1997), recognizing major impact on the field of public folklore.
Audio Recording Specialist
Ronnie Simpkins joined Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 1996, serving in Mail Order before taking over duties as dubbing engineer for the archival collection.
John brings nearly three decades of music industry experience and over 20 years of service at the Smithsonian. In his first tour of duty from 1999-2014, he served countless roles in the organization, including head of the sales department, international distribution manager, and manager of operations for the Sales & Mail Order division. Over the years, John produced and compiled numerous albums released on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and has worked under all three directors of the organization since Folkways Records was acquired by Smithsonian in 1987. Outside of his time at Smithsonian Folkways, Smith applied his skills at numerous record labels and radio stations, in addition to co-founding Free Dirt Records in 2006, home to internationally-known artists and multiple GRAMMY-nominated albums.
Jonathan Williger joined the Smithsonian Folkways team as the Marketing Manager in 2018 to expand the label's digital marketing initiatives and reimagine how fans discover music the label releases. Prior to that he worked in New York and Los Angeles as a senior music publicist at Motormouthmedia, where he lead campaigns for a diverse array of artists as well as music festivals. Jonathan got his first full-time job in the music industry at the pioneering independent label Thrill Jockey Records in Chicago. He has been a regular DJ on WNYU and WFMU, and his writing on music has been published by Pitchfork, Noisey, Bandcamp, Resident Advisor, and Tiny Mix Tapes.
Sales and Customer Service Specialist
Brian Zimmerman joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2015. He holds a B.S. in business marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University and spent several years before Folkways working in various facets of the music industry, including independent radio, music marketing and PR, and venue management. He also works for I.M.P Productions at the 9:30 Club and Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC.
Advisory Board Members
Anthropology Professor/Indigenous rights, University of Victoria
Michael Asch is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist in Canada. He is a fellow at the Royal Society of Canada and is a faculty member at the University of Victoria. His research includes the study of treaty relations with tribal peoples. He is also the son of Folkways’ founder Moses Asch.
Artist, West Hollywood, CA
Aloe Blacc is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, businessman, and philanthropist. He has inspired audiences with his fusion of soul, folk, R&B, and pop music.
Associate Professor of Chicanx-Latinx Studies, Scripps College
Martha González is a Chicana artivista (artist/activist) musician, feminist music theorist and Assistant Professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o Studies at Scripps/Claremont College. Her academic interest in music has been fueled by her own musicianship as a singer/songwriter and percussionist for Grammy Award winning band Quetzal.
Ethnomusicologist/Principal, Sandra L. Gibson & Associates
Sandra Gibson has over 25 years of experience leading and consulting in arts management organizations. She is the Founder of Sandra L. Gibson & Associates, LLC, and the Executive Director of the Maryland Film Festival. She has been an invaluable consultant to the Smithsonian over the years, including with the National Museum of American History for a global tour of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Education and Access. She also formerly served as Chair of the Smithsonian Folkways Board from 2014-2015.
Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music
Brian Pertl is the Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. He is nationally recognized for the idea that bringing together a deep liberal arts education and world-class conservatory training will give musicians the best possible preparation. He also serves as an active music educator, performer, and lecturer.
Director Emeritus, Smithsonian Folkways and Professor Emeritus, UCLA
Anthony Seeger has always been a great supporter of world music. He served as Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings from 1988 to 2000. He was also a Distinguished Professor in UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology from 2000 to 2012. His research focuses on music and worldview of the Kisedje Indigenous group in inner Brazil. He has also been heavily involved with UNESCO and the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention of 2003.
Founder, Arhoolie Foundation
Chris Strachwitz is the founder and president of Arhoolie Records. He has established one of the leading labels recording blues, Cajun, and other forms of roots music from all around the world.