Northwest Folkife

Northwest Folklife Staff


Benjamin Hunter
Artistic Director |

Benjamin Hunter is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer, community activist, social entrepreneur, and educator. His work explores the intersections of music and art, community, policy, and culture. In 2016, Benjamin’s American Roots Duo with Joe Seamons took first place in the International Blues Competition. In 2018, he composed the music for the critically acclaimed production, Black Bois. With his primary instrument the violin, he is as comfortable playing classical as he is blues and jazz. City Arts Magazine wrote, “The music he plays not only spans an array of genres but a huge swath of history.”

Reese Tanimura
Managing Director |

Reese is a fourth generation Japanese American who was born on the island of O’ahu and raised between Hawaii and Illinois. Her passion for music was ignited the moment she began playing the ukulele and has grown steadily through numerous instruments and genres. Reese now serves as the Managing Director of Northwest Folklife, a sublime fusion of her personal endeavors with the organizational vision of ‘Strengthening communities through arts and culture.’ Since 2008, Reese has been the Music Director of Rain City Jazz Orchestra, an 18-piece all female/non-binary Big Band ensemble. She is a founding member of the urban folkgrass group, Lavender Lucy, and plays guitar in the all-female Nirvana tribute band, Heart Shaped Boxes. Reese earned a BA in Music Education from the University of Illinois and a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Washington. In 2021, she joined the Recording Academy as a professional member with a profound commitment to making our region a thriving, sustainable ecosystem for creatives and cultural workers. “My folklife is rooted the spirit of Aloha and the vibrant culture of the indigenous Hawaiian peoples that has been graciously shared with me, the wisdom passed from my family and ancestors, and the strength of the female trailblazers in blues, jazz and rock ‘n roll that have shaped my values of community, compassion and creativity.”


Katie McColgan
Production Manager |

Katie joined the Northwest Folklife team in 2014 after relocating to Seattle to pursue a career working with arts nonprofits. As Folklife’s Merchant & Sponsor Coordinator, Katie enjoys building partnerships with local, regional and national companies and artisans to highlight and celebrate the cultural traditions showcased at Northwest Folklife events. In addition to working with Northwest Folklife, Katie works as the project manager for several local festivals, as well as traveling around the country to assist with larger productions. “In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest and putting new twists on baking recipes passed down from my mother and grandmother.”


Anna Buxton
Programs Lead |

With a strong background in developing programs and connecting audiences to the arts, Anna has worked with organizations and schools such as the Seattle Art Museum, Missoula Art Museum, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of Montana where she received a Masters in Art History. From multidisciplinary dance parties to artist lectures and panels, she loves developing engaging ways for audiences to connect with art. She brings this passion to Folklife as the Program Lead, where she helps to develop community showcases and Visual Arts exhibitions at the Northwest Folklife Festival, as well as youth and family programming through the Our Big Neighborhood program. “I’m honored to be part of a team which empowers artists of all ages, and celebrates the arts, culture, and evolving traditions of the region. It’s truly a community-driven organization and I’m constantly in awe at the breadth of work that is produced each year. When I’m not at Folklife, you can usually find me wandering the galleries of local art museums, running through the streets of Seattle with my dog Tasha, or scaring myself silly in the midst of a horror movie marathon."

Sarah Kinney
Performer Relations and Communications Coordinator |

After spending all her money and time feeding her music obsession in her late teens and early 20s, it seemed like a natural progression for Sarah to pursue a career in the arts. Since then, she was worked across all aspects of the music industry, from management to PR to ticketing, and with a variety of national and local festivals, including Warped Tour, Volunteer Park Pride Festival, Project Pabst, and Snow Day in Denny Park. It was while working toward her MA in Cultural and Creative Industries from Kings College London that she first became passionate about finding creative ways to link culture and commerce. She began working with Northwest Folklife in 2017 while at Hearth PR, where NWFL was one of her clients. “I attended my first Folklife shortly after moving to Seattle, and quickly fell in love with the mission and culture of the organization. Our region has so many diverse cultural traditions, and at Folklife we can celebrate them all. I live my ‘folklife’ by experiencing new food and cultures through travel, and learning as much as I can about the history and traditions of the Northwest – the region my family has lived in since immigrating to the US a few generations ago.”


Natalie Meek
Development Coordinator |

Natalie is a passionate art and music lover who has worked for Seattle-based organizations such as KEXP 90.3 and Seattle Theatre Group. In addition to music and the arts, Natalie has a strong curiosity for language and cultural studies. She received a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and in Instrumental Music from the University of Washington. Blending her two passions, Natalie now coordinates Northwest Folklife’s year-round development and fundraising efforts. “I could not think of a more relevant way to apply two of my deepest interests; arts and culture. Northwest Folklife provides a canvas for all to celebrate, showcase, and share our region’s diverse cultural traditions and I find this not only inspiring but profoundly important in an increasingly globalized world. I continue to live out my folklife through playing violin and piano, learning new instruments, and practicing the French language.”


Rayna Mathis
CCWD Program Coordinator |

Rayna joined the Northwest Folklife team in November 2021 as the Cultural & Creative Workforce Development Program Coordinator. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a BA in History. Since moving to Seattle in 2014, Rayna has dedicated herself to Seattle’s arts and culture scene and is forever in awe/gratitude for the community she has found here and the shared commitment to pushing the arts to be more equitable, empowering, and unapologetic. Rayna was awarded The Washington Art Education Association’s 2018 Outstanding New Art Educator of the Year. That same year, she co-presented at national conferences on the following topics: Questioning the Progress: Millennial Women Discuss Gender, Racial Equity, and Inclusivity (American Alliance of Museums) and Career Days: The Un-Sugar-Coated Version of Working in Art Museums (National Art Education Association). Rayna currently serves on KEXP’s Community Advisory Board and Seattle Music Commission’s Youth + Community Committee. Additionally, she is the Magazine Editor at Earshot Jazz. "I live out my folklife by dancing lindy hop, practicing the Portuguese language, and learning to cook my mother's traditional Filipino dishes."


Tony Icasiano
Accounting & Finance Manager |

Tony and his wife May are huge jazz fans, highly influenced by their son Chris, who is a professional jazz drummer. They are big supporters of the local jazz scene; Earshot Jazz, The Ballard Jazz Festival. They have closea ssociations with founding members, such as Chris, of Table & Chairs Music. Table & Chairs run the weekly Racer Sessions in Ravenna and are prolific producers of music events for local talents. “We have seen many local talents move to the big cities, such as NY, and we strive to create venues for artists here: jazz, otherwise, and both. This incentivizes them to continue creating new and amazing music in our community. I am very excited to work for NWFL as I have always enjoyed being around creative and talented people! My opportunity is to contribute my talents in the realm of finance.” Tony Icasiano’s career in finance and accounting has been many years in banking and partly in tech. His last two big jobs were as CFO for local banks, including a new one that he helped start from scratch. Tony is an avid cycler and skier. He and his wife have 2 sons, Chris and Francis, who is also in the non-profit business. They enjoy lots of time spent with their two grandsons.

Marla Roberts
Accounting Assistant |

Marla is a part of the finance and accounting team as the A/P and Payroll go-to girl. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest Marla has spent her life pursuing her passion for dance. “I love how Northwest Folklife brings our community together. “When I’m not working here, I live out my folklife by attending dance performances, taking the occasional ballet class, going salsa dancing, traveling, and baking cookies.”

Augusta Sedoff
Accounting Assistant |

Augusta is a former IT professional who found her way to Northwest Folklife in September of 2017 as the interim Receptionist and Development Coordinator. Since then, she has helped with the conversion to a new database software for the Development team, and created a myriad of reports. Currently, she works alongside the Development and Accounting teams to provide support on data projects. “I live my folklife by making things by hand – afghans, hats, and scarves for the homeless, little boxes of woven beads, and silver jewelry. At times I can be found wandering in art museums and galleries or watching a dance performance or live theater.”