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 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 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.”
Digital Development Manager
Dominique Thomas has lived a life of artistic bliss since he first stepped foot on stage in the 10th grade. He has been a professional multi-disciplinarian since he was 18 and joined IATSE while acting as the Scene Shop Foreman at Western Washington University. Before working for NW Folklife, he worked at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute for six years. He is most proud of his Time With Area of Defect, A nerdcore Supergroup that made a big splash on YouTube in the early 2010s. He lives his best Folklife by wielding this broad knowledge of creative arts to develop and nurture the Digital landscape of the PNW folk scene.
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.”
Bacchus's passion for visual arts and music started in childhood through experimentation with tracing the frames of animations of a CRT screen onto printer paper and dubbing audio from radio and television cassettes to form new compositions. Their current music style springs from this - they perform music sets consisting of distorted and heavily edited cassette tracks running through an effects pedal chain, blended with synth soundscapes. They have displayed their visual work at events throughout the city, including Blue Cone Studios, Cafe Red, and The Central Saloon.
As an event coordinator at Cafe Red, they founded Phonetic Aesthetic, monthly art-music fusion events where beat-makers and live painters set the tone for community members to hop onstage to join a cipher or create paintings of their own with free art supplies. Bacchus lives out their Folklife by allocating resources to bridge the gap between potential and established artists. They believe every human has the capacity - and quite possibly the need - for artistic expression but either lacks the resources to create or the initial internal realization that they can be artists. They are committed to awakening that introspective outlook in others.
Katharina 梁美花 Brinschwitz
Katharina is a Canto-German first-gen American artist. Her interdisciplinary work includes animation, installation, film, performance, images, prose and poetry. Her practice, although fluid, carries the intention to center stories about identity, difference, and belonging that have long been silenced and erased. In doing so, this becomes her intervention on dominant forms of meaning-making within western society. She has an intimate understanding of the way that visual and auditory design can transform our perception of time, space, and self, rippling out to shifting how we understand the world. With a passion for having nuanced conversations about our relationships with each other and the earth, she aims to work collaboratively to produce immersive media that is as thoughtful as it is stunning.
Programs Coordinator Intern
Ali came on to the Programs team in April of 2023. We love her!
Development & Communications Lead
Kenya Shakoor is a lifelong Washingtonian, self-taught visual artist, and arts advocate. In 2019, She held her debut photo exhibition Dreaming in Black, an opportunity for a community historically underrepresented in art spaces to be seen and celebrated as living art. In 2022, Kenya presented an original workshop at Tacoma Art Museum entitled Framing Portraiture as an Act of Love, exhibited a new photo series at Wa Na Wari’s Walk the Block, and was named a finalist for The Current, an artist award from Tacoma Art Museum.
Kenya joined the NW Folklife team in January 2023 as the Communications and Development Lead. Before joining the team, Kenya worked in the rental housing sector for four years in customer-facing, accounting, and management roles while pursuing artistry. This year she also joined the Tacoma Arts Commission and the Commission’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee to illustrate further her love and advocacy for Tacoma’s creative community. She lives her best Folklife by using visual storytelling to facilitate conversations and expand our collective imagery.
Vendor & Sponsorship Lead
She is new to the Vendor and Sponsorship Lead Position and comes from the small business world filled with a robust entrepreneurial spirit. A former business owner of 4 small businesses, she just loves her new professional path, which is challenging, exciting, and full of new and vibrant happenings!
Married to the best guy, stepmom to two wonderful bonus girls, and mama to a four-legged dog fur baby (the best WFO co-worker!) She tries to bring more hygge into her life as she recently moved into a new home and surrounds herself and her family with plants, cozy blankets, and many candles.
Bonnie started event planning in early 1990, and it’s grown from a passion to a profession, and she still loves it! She looks forward to the relationships she will build with the Vendors and the continued long term business interactions with our Sponsors. “I live my best folklife through music! I love all genres of music, but live and in-person shows fill my bucket and bring me the most JOY!”
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 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.”
Volunteer & Office Coordinator
Michelle joined the Northwest Folklife team in December 2021 as an Office Assistant and moved into the Volunteer Coordinator position in March 2022, adding Office Coordinator in January 2023. Moving to the Pacific Northwest during the 90s, she has spent many years bar managing, show booking, show producing, music teaching, stage performing, community building, and volunteering. She is grateful to be part of the Northwest Folklife team to help foster the continued growth of what the future of FOLK means. She lives her best Folklife by using art to promote community and a greater sense of belonging in the world.