Northwest Folklife

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.”


Dominique Thomas
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.


Sarah Kinney
Programs Manager

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.”

Programs Coordinator 

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
Programs Coordinator

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.

Ali Maunu
Programs Coordinator Intern

Ali came on to the Programs team in April of 2023. We love her! 

Izzy Jo
Special Programs Intern

Izzy finds purpose in acting as an agent for restoration in her community. She delights in serving people, emulating nature, and is inspired by stewardship and simplicity. As a trained Human-Centered Designer, she utilizes her passion, curiosity, patience, and playfulness to build ordinary things differently and to pragmatically cultivate opportunities for the extraordinary. In working with NWFL, her hope is to contribute to and diffuse the positive systemic and embodied change happening in Seattle, and to grow in community-engaged, relational design and co-creation. She is ever curious and passionate about sustainability and the daily ritual of getting dressed and is elated at the opportunity to delve into these interests through the Special Programs Internship with NWFL!


Jenn Ampey
CCWD Program Manager

Jenn is a writer and poet from Maryland who fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and has been building a home here ever since. She values community care and connection and aims to center justice in her life and work. Before Folklife, she worked with startup non-profit SIRUM to get donated medication to patients in need and GiveDirectly, a non-profit revolutionizing direct, no-strings cash as an aid intervention. Jenn holds her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University and her M.S.W. from Columbia University. She loves to fly her kite by the water, take walks with friends and watch every fabulous Seattle sunset. Otherwise, inside or outside, you can find her scribbling a poem in one of her many journals. She lives her best Folklife by enjoying the outdoors and counteracting the rupture of the link between Black Americans and the natural world.


Bonnie Fox
Vendor Sponsorship Sr. 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!”


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.”


Michelle Searle
Volunteer & Office Coordinator   

Michelle began her journey with the Northwest Folklife team in December 2021, initially serving as an Office Assistant. Her dedication and passion quickly propelled her into the role of Volunteer Coordinator by March 2022, and she further expanded her responsibilities as Office Coordinator in January 2023. Having relocated to the Pacific Northwest during the 1990s, Michelle has amassed a wealth of experience in various domains, including bar management, show booking, production, music instruction, stage performance, community engagement, and volunteering. Grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Northwest Folklife team, she is committed to nurturing the evolving essence of FOLK. Michelle embodies her dedication to Folklife by leveraging art as a catalyst for community engagement and fostering a profound sense of belonging in the world.