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Staff and Leadership

Smithsonian Folkways Staff

Sophie Abramowitz
Digital Marketing and Distribution Specialist

(202) 633-6456,

Sophie Abramowitz joined Smithsonian Folkways in 2023. She has previously worked as a college instructor in the fields of English and Music Theory and as an archivist at the Association for Cultural Equity, the University of Virginia, and the Pembroke Center for Teaching & Research on Women at Brown University. She has hosted blues shows on college radio stations WKCR and WTJU and has produced several archival blues releases with her company Americana Music Productions, including the Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969 box set that was released in 2019 by Third Man Records. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Virginia. Her writing has been published in Slate, Artforum, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and American Quarterly.

Paloma Alcalá
Sales Associate

(202) 633-7478,

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.

Cecille Chen
Director of Business Affairs and Royalties

(202) 633-6448,

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 Elizabeth Clark
Executive Assistant

(202) 633-3722

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 also plays and sings mariachi and pan-Latin music with DC-based band Grupo Fénix.

Toby Dodds
Director of Web and IT

(202) 633-6461,

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
Licensing Manager

(202) 633-6457,

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.

Kate Harrington
Production Assistant

(202) 633-7018,

Before joining Folkways in 2018, Kate worked as a freelance production coordinator and editorial writer. Since she’s been at Folkways, she’s worked on over 60 of the label’s releases and reissues. Kate holds a BA in both English Literature & Language and American Culture from the University of Michigan.

Helen Lindsay
Artist Relations and Lead Customer Service Representative

(202) 633-6462,

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.

Maureen Loughran
Director and Curator

(202) 633-6455,

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
Production Manager

(202) 633-6454,

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.

Sahara Naini
Inventory Coordinator

(202) 633-6452,

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.

Jeff Place
Curator and Senior Archivist

(202) 633-6438,

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.

Anthony Seeger
Director and Curator, Emeritus

(202) 633-6443,

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.

Daniel Sheehy
Director and Curator, Emeritus

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.

Ronnie Simpkins
Audio Recording Specialist

(202) 633-6445,

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

John Smith
Associate Director

(202) 633-6458,

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
Marketing Manager

(202) 633-0212,

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.

Brian Zimmerman
Sales and Customer Service Specialist

(202) 633-6450,

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

Jessica Asch
Research Director, Indigenous Law Research Unit, University of Victoria

Jessica has led and supervised Indigenous law revitalization and implementation projects on questions relating to citizenship, gender, human rights, families, governance, dispute resolution, child welfare, lands, resources and water, and has presented and published on this work. She also facilitates workshops, teaches, and presents on Indigenous law revitalization research, methods, and practice to law students, legal professionals, and the broader public. Jessica is the granddaughter of Folkways’ founder Moses Asch.

Michael Asch
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.

Martha González
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.

Margot Nassau
Director of Royalties, WGBH

An innovative leader in media, academic, and non-profit arenas, specializing in royalties, business affairs, finance, and implementation of effective systems and processes. Margot worked as Royalty and Licensing Manager at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings from 2001 to 2013.

Brian Pertl (Board Chair)
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.

John Simson
Program Director for the Business and Entertainment Program, American University

Simson has been involved in the music industry since 1971 when he was signed to a recording agreement as a singer-songwriter. Over the years, he's worked as a producer, musician, music supervisor, manager and entertainment lawyer. He spent nearly eleven years as Executive Director of SoundExchange, the first performance rights organization in the United States to represent recording artists and sound recording copyright owners in collecting and distributing royalties earned from the exploitation of music by internet, satellite and cable music services.