Northwest Folklife

Meet Our Community Coordinators

Central to the values of Northwest Folklife is for communities to have voice and agency in the representation of their cultural expressions. More than 150+ Community Coordinators, including prominent artists, educators, culture bearers, and leaders throughout the region work closely with Northwest Folklife throughout the year to collaborate and co-create programs including the Northwest Folklife Festival as well as the annual Cultural Focus and Our Big Neighborhood youth and family program. These relationships are an integral part of our mission and vision. “As the lifeblood of all Northwest Folklife programs, our relationships with Community Coordinators, are the heart and soul of the organization,” says Northwest Folklife Executive Artistic Director, Kelli Faryar.

Adrian Olivas | By Christopher Nelson

“Being a Community Coordinator for Northwest Folklife means a lot to me because it gives me an opportunity to make a connection between regional Mexican folk groups and Folklife. It gives every artist involved the opportunity to meet each other and share a stage but most importantly, we get to build new relationships. I have been performing with Folklife with Bailadores de Bronce for about twenty-two years and, as a performer, it is something we always look forward to. Now, I have been able to share experiences and introduce new organizations to the Folklife family.”- from Community Coordinator, Adrian OlivasMexican Folklórico Community, Executive Director of Bailadores de Bronce, Alum Cultural Focus Member of Echoes of Aztlan and Beyond.

Northwest Folklife is curated in collaboration with Community Coordinators. Thank you to these amazing leaders!

Sean Donovan: Gator Boy Productions

Sean Donovan teaches joyful, exciting dance classes for all skill levels, with a focus on the power of dance to delight and transform us. Sean also brings his creative and effective communication skills to bear as a professional DJ, producing virtual dances/music shows (including his monthly 1st & 3rd Friday “Juke Joint”), special events parties. Contact Sean about private or group lessons and DJ services at 206.860.8714 or, and see ongoing classes and events at or Gator Boy Productions on Facebook.

Learn more on his website here.

Sherry Nevins

Sherry Nevins: Contra dance

My addiction to live music and participatory dancing started in 1974 with old-time square dancing in Seattle (after moving from NY State). House parties led to calling for public dances and private parties. In 1979 I began scheduling bands and callers for the weekly "old-time country" dances, which soon grew to include contras. My repertoire expanded to calling family dances when our daughters were little. It is a pleasure and an honor to continue coordinating the Lake City Contra Dance (online during the pandemic!) and the contras at Folklife.


Skyler Reed: Moved By Words / New Voices of Color

Skyler Reed (Paiute / Klamath Tribes) is a Folklife Slam Champion; recipient of the University of Washington iSchool’s Dean’s Fellowship for Library Science; and the founder of Moved By Words, a platform dedicated to finding and sharing new voices in writing communities. Skyler is the organizer and host of The New Voices of Color showcase at Northwest Folklife—in its 3rd year of hosting poets and writers from around the Pacific Northwest.


Tom Keeney: Bluegrass

Tom has maintained a deep love & involvement with bluegrass since the late 70s. 3 finger style bluegrass banjo is what he's played since then as well. He was in bluegrass bands in the 80s and has hosted the Bluegrass Ramble radio show on KBCS for the past 21 years. Tom has volunteered with Wintergrass and have served on the showcase band selection committee for the International Bluegrass Music Association in Nashville (IBMA). Bluegrass is what he loves and is grateful for this opportunity to serve as the community coordinator of this genre.

Learn more on his website here.

Tomo Nakayama: Japanese Vietnamese American

Born in Japan and raised in Seattle, Washington, Tomo Nakayama is an artist whose melodic, complex and emotionally compelling music has been praised by NPR, New York Times, and The Stranger. After two critically acclaimed indie-folk albums “Fog on the Lens” and “Pieces of Sky” (named "Best Folk Act" by Seattle Weekly), he released the synthpop album “Melonday”. It was named one of the Top Albums of 2020 by Seattle Times, KEXP, and Seattle Met. and debuted at #1 on KEXP's NW Charts. He has toured across the US and Japan and collaborated on recordings with Dave Matthews, Sera Cahoone, Jeremy Enigk, Jesse Sykes, and composer Jherek Bischoff. An active, longtime member of the Seattle music and arts community, Tomo has also curated and produced various events for Forterra (Ampersand Live) and Town Hall, where he also served as Artist in Residence. He also composed music and appeared as an actor in the Lynn Shelton film “Touchy Feely”.

Learn more on his website here.

Wayne Palsson: Chantey Singers and Sea Song Fans

Wayne is the host of the monthly Chantey Sings at Northwest Seaport and leads the band Strikes A Bell who specialize in sea songs and chanteys. He coordinates maritime stage for the Pacific Northwest Folklife Festival and leads the annual chantey sing-alongs at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

Learn more on his website here.

Wes Weddell: Singer/Songwriter

For the past twenty years, Wes Weddell has worked multiple shifts in the engine room of Seattle’s roots music scene as frontman, sideman, writer, teacher, and community-builder. “Always heartfelt and well-constructed” (Seattle Weekly), listeners have come to expect Weddell’s regionally-rooted songs to “speak for themselves” (No Depression). Along the way he has continued to teach a variety of instruments and styles across generations, helping hundreds find the joy of playing and singing with others.


Yasemin San

Yasemin San: Turkish Community

Organized cultural activities involving the Turkish community: formed the Anadolu Turkish Folk Dance Group in 1980; in 2001, co-founded Turkfest, a part of Festal, and organized it for ten years; coordinated the Turkish Showcase at Folklife since 2012.