Introducing Northwest Folklife’s Managing Director

Today, we officially announce the appointment of Reese (Marissa) Tanimura as Northwest Folklife’s Managing Director!

Reese Tanimura has served as the Program Director for the Rain City Rock Camp for Girls for the past three years and as a volunteer Teaching Artist starting in 2011. With a small-but-mighty team and a steadily growing community, Rain City Rock Camp for Girls empowers girls, women, and gender non-conforming individuals to engage their creative potential through music, champion equity and thrive in a community of allies and activists. Reese is extremely passionate about equity in education and has over a decade of experience teaching music in public schools in Hawaii, and in Washington’s Federal Way Public School District. From 2010 to 2014, she managed education and work-training programs for YouthCare, serving Seattle and South King County youth neglected by traditional school systems and impacted by homelessness and the juvenile justice system.

In her spare time, Reese directs the MoodSwings, an all-female jazz ‘big’ band (that has appeared at past Northwest Folklife Festivals!), teaches private music lessons and performs with her queer, urban bluegrass band, Lavender Lucy. Reese graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Music Education and received a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Washington. Appointed by City Council in 2015, Reese currently serves as the Chair for the Seattle Music Commission—an 18-person council, which advocates for and cultivates opportunities for Seattle’s creative community. She strongly believes that musicians, artists, music business and the creative industries are an integral and irreplaceable part of the social and economic fabric of Seattle. Reese is dedicated to ensuring that the people, places and organizations that compose our City of Music have a thriving future.

Northwest Folklife’s Board of Directors recently restructured the professional management of the organization to include a dual leadership model. This change reflects the organization’s vision and mission as an arts and cultural organization that is community-powered and committed to operating at the highest levels of administrative and financial stability and sustainability.

“With the implementation of our dual leadership structure—having the programmatic, artistic and cultural leader and the administrative and resource development leader working in partnership with one another—in conjunction with our growing staff and Board, we will be able to move forward with interacting and engaging with our communities,” says Rafael Maslan, President of Northwest Folklife’s Board of Directors. “We believe this will create an even stronger foundation for Northwest Folklife as we move into the next phase of fulfilling our mission.”

Recently, the Board appointed long-time programmatic leader Kelli Faryar as the first Executive Artistic Director. Kelli was part of the search team that ultimately recommended Reese as the first Managing Director.

“We are excited to welcome Reese to the team at Northwest Folklife,” says Kelli Faryar, Executive Artistic Director. “Reese’s strong background in management and resource development paired with her enthusiasm for Northwest Folklife’s commitment of cultural inclusion bears a bright future. I look forward to working in partnership with Reese, to serve the artistic and cultural communities of the Pacific Northwest.”

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to champion spaces where our communities’ creatives, and most marginalized voices have a platform to remind us all of our deep cultural roots and of the brilliance that thriving diversity brings to our society,” says Reese Tanimura. “I am deeply committed to the stewardship of this organization and will be focused on making sure we can sustainably support the NWFL mission for years to come.”

Reese will begin her role as the Managing Director on Monday, December 11, 2017. For more information about Northwest Folklife’s dual leadership model, please contact Executive Artistic Director, Kelli Faryar at We thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to the wonderful work ahead!

Cultural Appropriation on Halloween

It is that time of the year when the streets are filled with children in their favorite costumes and our houses are full of pumpkin pies and jack-o-lanterns! But with delights of Halloween also come dangers of cultural appropriation, especially in the form of costumes.

According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.

During this costume-filled holiday, there are times in which cultural attires are worn as costumes without understanding the cultural significance of the attire to those respective communities. As the holiday nears, we want to ensure that our communities celebrate the holiday with awareness and respect.

So before you choose your Halloween costume, here are a few things you should know:

  1. A Native American headdress has great significance to many Native American communities, as this piece is only worn by those who earn great respect within the tribe. There are various types of headdresses, each made from animals that are significant to these tribes.
  2. The afro hairstyle emerged in the 1960s within the African American communities as a symbol of pride and empowerment during the Black Pride and Black Power movements.
  3. La Calavera Catrina, a popular image of a woman’s skeleton, is the popular icon of Dia de Muertos in the Mexican Culture. Historically, the La Calavera Catrina, otherwise known as the Grand Dame of Death, La Calavera Catrina, was created by satirist José Guadalupe Posada to symbolize the privilege of the rich. Today, La Calavera Catrina has become the symbol of Dia de Muertos, a traditional Mexican celebration that honors those who have passed.
  4. A Bindi, originating from the Sanskrit word ‘bindu’ meaning ‘dot’ or ‘drop,’ holds great significance to South Asian cultures, including those of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Mauritius. Spiritually, the Bindi, which is worn between the eyebrows, is associated with the third eye in the Hindu religion. Culturally, the Bindi is worn by women to symbolize marriage. By wearing a Bindi, women are believed to hold prosperity.

Of course, these are only some of many other cultural practices and attire that have deep significance to those respective communities. We believe that it is important to understand these cultures and how these cultural attires play a role in their identities.

Northwest Folklife believes in respecting and celebrating the diverse community we live in, and we aim challenge the issue of cultural appropriation through promoting understanding.

This Halloween, we challenge you, our community, to celebrate respectfully!

Another Year of Family-Fun: Seattle Children’s Festival 2017

Photo by Erinn Hale

The 4th annual Seattle’s Children’s Festival brought together over 211 performers spanning over 27 performances, 15 discovery zone programs, three cooking workshops and families from all over the city together for one day full of community celebration, cultural learning and sharing, hands-on discovery and family-fun!

On Sunday, October 8, the Seattle Center’s Armory and Fisher Pavilion were filled with bright-eyed children and families as we all explored the various performances and activities that represent the various cultures within our Pacific Northwest neighborhood! Having the wonderful opportunity to see our youth and families gather in one place, learning about our various cultures, taking pride in diversity and celebrating one another—these are some of the many reasons why we feel honored to host this event annually. Thank all of you for yet another incredible year of gathering and celebration!

What’s Next?

We are excited to announce the Our Big Neighborhood program, which aims to provide opportunities for families to engage together in sharing and celebrating the vitality of folk, ethnic, traditional and evolving arts. Our Big Neighborhood will fully launch in 2018 to include Seattle Children’s Festival as well as more programming catered for our youth and families, so be sure to sign up for our eNewsletter to stay updated on when the official launch is announced!

Show Your Support

Northwest Folklife is a nonprofit arts organization that creates programs such as Seattle Children’s Festival because of our belief in the vitality of folk and the arts. We are proud to be community-powered, community-centered and community-driven. Programs such as Seattle Children’s Festival are made possible because of your generous donations. If you believe in our mission, please become a valued Friend of Folklife and help us fund our year-round programming!

Did you take any fun photos or videos? Please share them with us by tagging us on Twitter and Instagram (@nwfolklife) or using our hashtags #SeattleChildrensFestival and #Folklifekids! Until next year!

View the full photo album!

Photo by Erinn Hale

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Seattle Center   |   Living Computers Museum + Labs   |   Babyrific   

Delta Dental   |   ETR   |   NRG Insurance   |   Smith Brothers Farms   |   Springfree Trampoline 

Voya Financial   |   Imperfect Produce   |    Super Heroic    |   Kind Base   |   Ladybug Literacy Lab 

Uplift Writing

Thank you to our Media Sponsors!

KCTS 9   |   KING FM   |   ParentMap   |   91.3 KBCS   |   Northwest Asian Weekly

 KSER 90.7   |   The Seattle Globalist   |   Seattle Weekly   |   Northwest Vietnamese Times

 City Arts   |   KEXP   |   South Seattle Emerald   |   Rainier Avenue Radio   |   Seattle’s Child

Thank you to our Community Partners!

206 Zulu

Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Festival

Big Brained Super Heroes Club


Center for Wooden Boats


The Creative Advantage

Dia de Muertos Committee

Diwali Lights of India

Festival Sundiata

Gage Academy of Art


Iranian Festival

Music Center of the Northwest

Nature Consortium

Northwest African American Museum

Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival

Rainier Avenue Radio

The Red Balloon Company

The Robert Chinn Foundation

Seattle Center

Seattle Children’s Museum

Seattle Gymnastic Academy

Seattle Hand Drummers

Seattle Theatre Group

Somali Youth and Family Club

Spirit of Indigenous Peoples Day

Tilth Alliance


Vedic Cultural Center

Wintergrass Festival


Celebrate Our Big Neighborhood: Your Guide to Seattle Children’s Festival

Seattle Children’s Festival, a one-day multi-cultural, intergenerational day of exploration and celebration, is back for its fourth year! Brought to you by Northwest Folklife and Seattle Center, this family-focused festival was built from the ground-up with our youth and families in mind to provide programming that can nurture our youth’s education and exploration of the diverse community we live in. With Seattle Children’s Festival just one day away, we want to share with you some of the tips on how to best navigate the festival!

1. Grab Your Passport and Start Your Trip

Once you arrive at Seattle Center, find the Donation & Information Booth to pick up your very own passport! This is your guide to Seattle Children’s Festival, as it includes a map, the festival’s schedule, fun coloring pages and a quest to collect 6 stamps at specific locations!

Fill out your “About Me” section and drop it off at the station for a chance to win one of two gift baskets complete with museum passes, art supplies and more!

2. Travel the World Through Performances

Take a look at your passport to locate our two main stages, the Fisher Pavilion Stage and the Armory Court Stage. There, you’ll witness incredible performances from a wide variety of artists like the popular family-centric rock band, The Not-Its!, and Tahitian dance group, Te Fare O Tamatoa.

3. Get Ready for Story Time

Head over to Loft 1B to join in on the various story time programs, from learning about stories about inclusivity at Drag Queen Story Time with Aleksa Manila to learning American Sign Language with Visually Speaking.

4. Get Up and Dance

Our Movement Series aims to promote movement and active lifestyles for the entire family! At this festival, you can find a variety of hands-on dancing programming throughout the day!

5. Make New Discoveries at The Discovery Zones

Welcome to the Discovery Zones! These areas promote hands-on learning and discovery for the curious mind. Create your own mini-ecosculpture with Nature Consortium, explore a fun gymnastics obstacle course with Seattle Gymnastic Academy, try out some acoustic instruments with Wintergrass!

New to this festival:
  1. The STEAM Lab on the Armory Balcony is a space dedicated to hands-on science, technology, engineering art and math activities!
  2. The Instrument Petting Zoo in the Discovery Zone in the Armory features hands-on music-making from musical instruments around the world!


6. Grab A Healthy Snack

Eating can be fun, delicious and healthy all at the same time! Visit our snack workshops at the Armory Balcony to learn how to make various foods including 5 grain healthy flatbreads, fry bars and tabbouleh!

7. Take a Break at Our Low Sensory Space

For families needing a little break, visit the Low Sensory Space at Loft 1A for a space with dimmed lights and minimal sound. Nursing parents are also welcome, as there will be a special lounge where you can feed your little ones!

8. Snap a Picture

If you take any photos throughout the day, be sure to tag us (@nwfolklife) and use our official hashtags, #SeattleChildrensFestival and #FolklifeKids!

9. Become a Friend of Folklife

If you enjoy your time at Seattle Children’s Festival, help us make it possible for future generations! Northwest Folklife’s programming is made possible with your generous donations. We are community-centered and community-powered. Make a donation at any of our Donation Booths or make a donation online here. If you give at the festival, you can add your own special colored ribbon to our Giving Gateway to add to the magic!

Give a child the gift of discovery!


Join us in Celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at Seattle Children’s Festival, happening at Seattle Center on Sunday, October 8 from 10 AM to 5 PM. Get ready for a day full of exploration, discover and endless family fun!

RSVP on Facebook Event Page | Website

Seattle Children’s Festival is sponsored in part by Seattle Center, Living Computers Museum + Labs, Springfree Trampoline, Event Technology Rentals, Smith Brothers Farm, Delta Dental, Babyrific, Imperfect Produce, Babyrific, Delta Dental, Voya Financial, Super Heroic, KindBase, Ladybug Literacy Lab and NRG Insurance.

We also want to give a big thank you to our media sponsors: ParentMap, KING FM, KCTS 9, 90.7 KSER, 91.3 KBCS, Northwest Asian Weekly, Seattle Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, KEXP, The Seattle Globalist, South Seattle Emerald, Rainier Avenue Radio, City Arts and Seattle’s Child.

All photos courtesy of Erinn Hale

A Cultural Stronghold: A Chat with Juliet Cheatle of Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival

In partnership with the Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival, we are excited to welcome Juliet Cheatle to Seattle Children’s Festival, where she will showcase the Filipino culture through rural dance, music and attire!

Also known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” the Philippines is a country located in Southeast Asia comprised of 7,107 islands. With a population of about 100 million people, the Philippines is rich with cultural tradition, familial values and a love for the arts.

Since 1987, this festival has spread the beauty of Filipino culture with Washington, through its annual festival full of music, crafts, food and community gathering. As a part of our Movement Series, Juliet Cheatle will be teaching our audiences some traditional rural Philippine dances. Get to know Juliet before you see her at Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8:

What is something our audiences can expect from your performance?

I believe the audience will expect to see a lively and festive Filipino traditional dance and wherein dancers are wearing colorful costumes. And also the audience will see and feel a glimpse of Filipino culture by watching  the dances and by  participating in the workshop and actually will be dancing holding a prop and doing the moves.

What do you think is one of the most beautiful or unique aspects of the Filipino culture?

The most beautiful aspect of the Filipino culture is no doubt its people, the Filipinos.

“Despite of the many influences and colonization from foreign countries, the Filipinos still hold strong with their culture.”

Strong family ties are very important, and [showing] respect for parents and elders is still a strong [value] in the Filipino culture. Filipinos are hospitable and love to smile. They are hardworking people but they also know how to have good fun; they love to sing and dance.

How do you hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance and attire?

I hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance, music and attire by “keeping on” doing it, teaching it and involving more of the younger generation in learning it so they can teach it, too, when teachers like me won’t be around to do it.  The traditional dances are endangered and it’s continued transmission should go on. I hope more of our younger generation will continue on the work in preserving it.

My hope for community is interest and support, such as like financial support, grants and provide free space to teach in order to continue the teaching and transmission of this unique form of art and culture. If there is no support and interest, then there is danger that all of this will fade away.

How did you get involved with the Pagdiriwang Festival?

The late Ms. Florie Motante, founder of the Pagdiriwang Festival, invited my group to perform in Seattle Center (probably 15+ years ago).  The reason I was attracted and started to get involved with it is because it is different from other Filipino festivals that I attended. Pagdiriwang Festival is not only a festival to attend and see entertainment, but it is also a festival wherein you can learn about the traditional culture.

“The Pagdiriwang Festival points out the importance of why the culture needs to be preserve and why it is celebrated.”

It is important for my group and I to go and perform in front of an audience who doesn’t take what we do on stage for granted. I want my audience to not only be entertained but also to learn, appreciate what we are doing, understand the cultural context of what we are performing and to walk out the event feeling proud being a Filipino.  I believe that the Pagdiriwang Festival is also an experience. You will meet all kind of artists who are passionate in what they do in teaching and sharing the Filipino culture.

Can you explain the meaning or story behind some of your performances?

The dance and workshop that we are going to be sharing during the Seattle Children’s Festival are the following:

Binasuan:  This dance originated from the province of Pangasinan in the island of Luzon. During festive gatherings, the women will dance by carefully and gracefully balancing glasses filled with sugar cane wine on their heads and hands before they served it to the guests.

Bulaklakan Dance (meaning Flowering Plants): This dance originated from the town of Bulacan in the island of Luzon. The town derived its name after “bulaklakan” meaning flowering plants because of the abundance of floral vegetation in that area. This dance is traditionally performed during the celebrations of  Santa Cruz de Mayo , a Catholic event honoring the Virgin Mary. But nowadays, it is performed at any festive occasion. Women dance, each holding an arch or ring made of rattan or split bamboo decorated with flowers and leaves.

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Exposing the youth to another culture and identity is teaching cultural diversity. They will be able to identify with other people no matter their [origin], beliefs, religion, language or values.

“Exposing our youth to various cultures, identities and people will teach them not to take their own culture for granted. They will learn and discover how valuable and how unique their own culture is.”

By doing this they will learn to be more respectful of another culture and identity. Exposing them is also like teaching them how to understand, and how to communicate with other culture and identity.

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I believe that we can celebrate all this by incorporating it in our daily life.  At home, at work, in school, in the church, in the community or any place appropriate. 

I use food to celebrate my Filipino culture and other cultures.  When my children were growing up, I had them plan dinner with me, and I let them invite friends over to have dinner with us. We started by going to a market or grocery store to buy our ingredients. My children and their friends enjoyed the food and, at the same time, they learned about it. We talk about where the food originated, the certain kinds of foods that were used in a ritual, why the food is important in someone’s culture, etc.

I do the same thing in my workplace. We have Chinese, French, Italian, Nigerian [folks] in our office and every Friday, we have lunch where we order or we prepare different kinds of foods. Since our company has projects worldwide, our engineers travel a lot, too, and they share their travel experiences with the rest of us.

Anyone of us can celebrate arts, culture, heritage, diversity and identity in many different ways.

Let’s come together and celebrate our big neighborhood at the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival, happening on October 8 at Seattle Center. Pagdiriwang Festival’s special performance featuring Juliet Cheatle will be at the Armory Court Stage at 3:30 PM. A special thank you to the Armory Court Stage sponsor, KCTS 9!

Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Thank You for The Gift of Discovery

The 2016-2017 fiscal year just ended on September 30. We want to thank all of you who contributed this past year–through your financial support, your volunteerism, the sharing of your art and culture, and for your passion and advocacy on behalf of Northwest Folklife.

You understood that for Northwest Folklife to continue creating opportunities for all of our communities’ voices to be heard, shared and experienced with access guaranteed for all, access without financial barriers–that this continuing required the support of everyone who shares that vision. 

Because of your support, we are able to provide programming, such as our annual Seattle Children’s Festival, which was created from the ground-up to meet the needs of the families and children in our community. Together with our community partners and your support, we put together this one-day festival to allow our families to come together to learn more about the various cultures that thrive within our big neighborhood through performances, hands-on discovery zones, cooking demonstrations and so much more! Here is a testimony from a Seattle Children’s Festival attendee and how this program has affected her family:

“My family and I attended the Seattle Children’s Festival last year (2016) for the first time. I made the drive up from Tacoma, hoping that the festival would be everything that I love about the Northwest Folklife Festival directed toward engaging children. 

I was so impressed! The presenters and performances were so engaging, always giving a little lesson or invitation to the children to participate, learn and often get hands on. My daughter was 2 1/2 last year, and was able to participate in many of the activities. I feel like as much as we can make this diverse world familiar to our children, and celebrate every wonderful peaceful contribution, it is our job as parents to do so. 

Thank you to Northwest Folklife and Friends of Folklife for helping my daughter’s heart to grow towards others, and also for the joy of it.” 


Cambria, Haven and Kevin Cordeau

Because of your support, we are entering this new fiscal year refreshed and more stabilized. Looking into the exciting near future, Northwest Folklife needs your continued support as we ignite the launch for 2017-2018. We have so much in store including an exciting new cultural focus and expanded family and children’s programming!

You can show your support by donating online via PayPal or Kind Base. Donations of $50 or more also qualify you to become an official Friend of Folklife and receive special benefits. In addition, if you attend our upcoming Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8, you can visit our donation booths to make a donation. We are proud to be community-centered and community-powered. With your help, we can continue to make all of our programming and community engagement possible–you are Northwest Folklife.

Donate Online | Become a Friend of Folklife

Photo courtesy of Christopher Nelson

Own It Like a Boss with The Big-Brained Superheroes Club

Piece submitted by Ariel Grob of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club

“’Owning it like a boss’ is improvising when you get stuck on a project. Or Googling it.”

– Istanbul, 10 years old

‘Own it like a boss’ is a phrase you’ll hear over and over at the Yesler Community Center’s STE(A)M group, The Big-Brained Superheroes Club. Why? Because we value project ownership and believe that when Big Brains (i.e. any neighborhood kid age 4-18) ‘own’ their projects, they are empowered to try out new skills and exercise their ‘superpowers.’  

We’ve found that this kind of ownership evokes critical thinking and creativity, more so than any assignment they are required or told to do.

We’re guessing you can relate to this:

Can you recall a time as a kid or teenager (or even as an adult) when you were told what to do perhaps a class project, household chore, or a task at work? Now, what about a project you undertook simply because you wanted to, such as taking up rock climbing, practicing a new language, or simply picking up a book to read?

It’s likely that the project you chose, however frustrating or difficult, was more rewarding and entertaining than the one you were told to do.

Don’t get us wrong: guidance from someone more experienced is always good, but we’ve found that by giving the Big Brains the autonomy to choose and lead their own nerdy projects, we’re giving them the chance to sift through their options and find something that is truly interesting to them, exercise creative and critical thinking to get that project off the ground, and then own it: like a boss.

This phrase has become the Big Brains’ motto. Whether it’s Weris’s ‘Welcome Robot,’ Sammy’s mini binary counter, Ibrahim’s math homework, or Muz’s wood-and-water robotic arm, there are plenty of opportunities to own it like a boss.

So, how does one ‘own it like a boss’? In the words of the Big Brains, here are six ways you can own any project like a boss.

  1. Try your hardest.
    This one is as simple as it sounds: all you’ve got to do is simply show up and put in the work.
  2. Be persistent.
    As the adage goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (quote by William Edward Hickson)
  3. Ask a friend for their opinion or help.
    Everyone around you has a different perspective; someone else may just have the answer to a problem you keep getting stuck on.
  4. Improvise & be flexible.
    If you don’t have the right materials you need for your project, try using something else. Or if you keep getting stuck, move on to a different step and come back to it later.
  5. Google it.
    Whether it’s an instructional YouTube video or an article on the topic, Google has an answer for you that will help move your project forward.
  6. Be kind & pitch in, even when no one else is.
    The world of nerdy makers is truly a community: just like others will be there for you when you need it, be ready to help someone else with their project.

And here’s a bonus reminder from Big Brain Justin: “…keep pushing, even when you’re tired.”

The Seattle Children’s Festival is a great opportunity to flex your superpowers and ‘own it like a boss.’ From musical workshops to arts-and-craft projects to the Discovery Zone activities, you’ll find something new, and perhaps a bit challenging but definitely fun, to try out.

Eagerly awaiting the Seattle Children’s Festival, the Big-Brained Superheroes Club can’t wait to rub shoulders with Seattle’s nerdy community, celebrate ‘our big neighborhood,’ and help each other own it like a boss.

Visit The Big-Brained Superheroes Club at the STEAM Lab in the Armory Balcony for some exploration with electricity! The Big-Brained Superheroes of Yesler have built a dynamic, hands-on electricity playground for people of all ages to learn about and create with this fundamental force. Big Brains play to learn and make. A special thank you to the STEAM Lab sponsor, Living Computers Museum + Labs, and to Friends of Folklife for supporting the festival!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Music as a Cultural Portal: An Interview with Mako & Munjuru

Mako & Munjuru, a musical ensemble playing traditional Okinawan music, will be joining us at this year’s 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival, where they will perform special pieces while teaching us about the Okinawan culture they know and love! Wearing  beautifully tailored kimonos, Mako & Munjuru spread Okinawan music through playing traditional instruments:the sanshin and taiko. These songs not only preserve the traditional sound of Okinawan music—they also share stories of love, family and heritage. According to Mako, playing the music of her ancestors helps her feel a connection to her roots and the people who have come before her. That is the beauty of preserving our cultural arts.

We spoke with Mako to learn more about her work in preserving her culture through her music. Get to know her before you see her ensemble live at Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8!

Photo courtesy of Mako & Munjuru

How did Mako & Munjuru come to be?

I actually was performing alone for a while. I started playing out in the public for myself as a mean to learn more about my background.  Then it just led on to sharing and gathering a small number of us seeking the same. Then one day I thought of doing a group performance with some of us, which now Mako & Munjuru. Sometimes we are duo, trio or more.  The term munjuru is a word for ‘straw hat’ in Okinawan. There’s a dance piece with the same name and I always loved the dance and the symbolic meaning of the hat which is expressed in the dance.  

“Munjuru to me is my family & friends who’ll watch over each other.”

We are so excited for your performance at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! What is something our audiences can expect from your performance?

We are creating a program to share music and dance.  The audience will learn an easy song to sing with us; then learn the dance moves to dance all together. It will be a loads of fun!

As Mako & Munjuru is known to play and preserve traditional Okinawan music, what do you think is the most beautiful aspect of traditional Okinawan music?

Music is a part of life—everyone’s life in Okinawa in the past and now. Music is valued and needed in order to live for Okinawans. Our performance typically consists of rather old pieces; music from a few hundreds years old and some lyrics are poems which were written in about 15th century.  Those ancient melodies may sound very simple;  the expression might sound rather simple for those who understand but simplicity and complexity coexist, I think. So I feel it that it’s beautiful because it’s simple yet complex.

Can you teach us a little more about the traditional instruments that you use: the sanshin and taiko?

Sanshin is a 3-stringed fretless lute. The body is hollow inside and covered both front and back with a snake skin; no sound hole. When we perform in a small crowd, I love to show off my instruments since it’s got real python skin!  And also sanshin symbolizes the earth we live on.  The Okinawan taiko drum set consists of oodaiko, a big drum to create low deep sounding beats and shime’daiko, a smaller ones for the lighter higher pitched beats.

Do you think your understanding and love for the Okinawan culture has grown or changed in any way as you have continued to create music?

Yes. By continuing to learn and understand the traditional expression it really connects me with my grandparents, ancestors and even feels as though connected to ancestors few generations back. I understand more and more of our cultural beliefs and values, how my grandparents were the way they were and thought the way they thought. Also by learning the ancient pieces gives us the way to understand the Ryukyu Dynasty of the old days. It’s kind of like having a portal for me.

Why do you think it is important to preserve cultural traditions, and how does Mako & Munjuru play a role in that?

I think it’s more [of a privilege] to be able to [preserve our cultural tradition] rather than to see it as a task, at least for me. Some of the traditional music artists feel [that it is] important to preserve and to perpetuate the tradition to the next generations and I absolutely do not argue with that. I personally feel as though I’m put in a spot where I am so lucky to be able to share my knowledge.  And I’m lucky to have my mates to follow with [me].

What is your favorite aspect of our big neighborhood, Seattle?

I like Seattle for being such liberal and diverse neighborhood. I grew up in Hawaii my young adult age so it’s a bit different but a different diversity. Seattle is getting to be a big city but I’m hoping that the homey feeling will remain.  

In an interview you did with our friends at KEXP, you mentioned that one of your favorite aspects of being a part of Mako & Munjuru is when you can play Okinawan music to someone who has never heard its traditional music or may not even know where Okinawa is on the world map. What are some aspects of Okinawa or its culture that you’d like to share to our audiences?

In the States, especially in the mainland, Okinawa is known by “The Battle of Okinawa” so much.  Many people only know Okinawa relating to the war and or with US military bases. 

“So when I can give the idea to change the view of those  from the perspective of the natives, as native as I can be remotely, it gives me joy.”

I want to tell them “I grew up there and this is the Okinawa I know.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

As different cultures and languages are more widely exposed worldwide, I think introductions to a lot of different views in an earlier age is be vital to understanding and having acceptance. Or even not to feel so “different.” As for my music, I think the audience come to see [us] because they’re curious regardless of their age. If I get to fill that curiosity just a little bit, then I’m happy.   

Photo courtesy of Mako & Munjuru

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

As a part of my childhood in Okinawa, some things [were] just natural “Okinawan stuff” that I could do. Besides music, [an] easy thing is food. I cook and enjoy eating Okinawan food. That means sometimes making everything from scratch rather than going out to get a dish, since there’re no traditional Okinawan restaurant around here. I have to get the basic ingredients and make [it] from that. Then, I think about my grandparents’ life, surrounded by the ocean and working primarily as farmers to eat what they got from the earth and the sea.  

Come and celebrate the Okinawan culture through music with our friends Majo & Munjuru! Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 8, 2017 for the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival at Seattle Center! Mako & Munjuru will be performing at Loft 4 in the Armory from 1:00-1:45 PM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Introducing Drag Queen Story Time at Seattle Children’s Festival: A Chat with Aleksa Manila

This year, we welcome an exciting new program to the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival: Drag Queen Story Time, which will be hosted by one of Seattle’s most respected drag personalities, Aleksa Manila. Sharing stories that celebrate inclusion, acceptance and diversity, Aleksa will provide a fun and lighthearted story time at the Festival for kids and their families from 10 – 10:45am.

Aleksa Manila is known for her extraordinary performances and her work within the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Since her move from Manila, Philippines to Seattle, Aleksa has been taking this city by storm, from performing and emceeing events big and small, to serving on various panels and educating youth on issues affecting our communities.

We had a chance to sit down with Aleksa to ask her about her proudest accomplishments, her love for community and what “folk life” means to her.

Photo courtesy of Aleksa Manila

Hello Ms. Aleksa Manila, thank you so much for talking to us today! How are you doing?

Hello! Thanks so much for this great opportunity to work with you. I am doing fabulously, staying busy with life and staying out of trouble.

Can you describe yourself in just five words?

Oh my…that might be a tough one. Let’s play: Drag Counselor, Political Provocateur, and (Fill-In-The-Blank)

We are so excited to have you at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! This is our first year of having the Drag Queen Story Time program. What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

I’m most excited about meeting new faces and families [at] the festival. And also looking forward to seeing diverse families celebrate with each other and be welcomed in their spaces.

Your list of accomplishments is incredible and ever-growing! You’re a performer, comedian, singer, activist and community leader. Of all of these feats, what is one of your proudest accomplishments thus far?

I have a  couple of proudest moments–the first one is when I won my very first drag title of Miss Gay Filipino in 2001. I won every category, except Miss Congeniality. But the moral of the story is that I was able to share this special moment with my mom who supports me wholeheartedly. Another special accomplishment is singing with the band, Pink Martini while I reigned as Miss Gay Seattle.

Along with that, alongside your work as a notable performer, you are very involved with the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Can you explain why these communities are important to you? What vision do you have for these communities in the future?

As a genderqueer Filipino-American, I am part of diverse and intersectional communities. As a minority, it is very important and critical to unite and work together to ensure everyone has access to all resources regardless of our differences.

“My personal vision is that the unique and special attributes of my communities are celebrated and honored like others and not just positions of power.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Children and youth are very insightful and definitely smarter than most adults assume them to be. I worked at Children’s Hospital for a number of years, and I saw firsthand the strength and resilience of the little ones. They were incredibly inspirational. If we merely shelter children from diverse cultures, identities and peoples–then they are unable to create memories, unable to practice discernment, unable to build coping mechanisms, and so on. This limits the power of the mind, it chains the human spirit, and ails the body.

In relation to that, how do you hope to do this through your program, Drag Queen Story Time?

My hopes and dreams with Drag Queen Story Time is that the little ones realize that pinks aren’t just meant for girls, that blues aren’t just for boys, and that they recognize there are more to just boys and girls–and they know that they have families that love them just the way they are–especially from this Princess Boy!

As a fellow Seattleite, what is your favorite aspect of this big neighborhood?

We’re very lucky to live in Seattle where diversity exists. Being in a coastal city that’s exposed to rich history of migration and honoring of Native American peoples and land is not very common. Just the other day, I heard the great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle speak at a Mayor’s event at the Seattle Center…how cool is that? I am in awe of the natural and architectural landscape… from sunrise to sunset and under the moonlight, Seattle is breathtaking!

How have the combination of your identity, heritage and cultural background played a role in who you are today?

It challenges me to be a creative and compassionate creature! The legacy and history of my descendants influence and shape the person I am today and who I will be tomorrow. I often think about, “what would my mother think of my performances or how I present myself to my audience?”

What piece of wisdom can you give to our audiences who may still be in the process of understanding their self-identity?

“Self-love” is necessary for self-care and community. My mom always told me growing up, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Surround yourself with peers, family (including chosen-family) and community who are smart and loving, and who inspire you to be the best person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I’m just “me” and no more than I expect others to be themselves. “Folk” denotes tradition. 

“That said, as a community, let’s continue to create tradition. Tradition changes over time, let’s adapt to ensure everyone is included in our traditions.”

Her passion for performance and her commitment to making our communities and spaces inclusive for all are just some of the many reasons we are proud to call Aleksa Manila one of our neighbors in Our Big Neighborhood.

Join Northwest Folklife and Aleksa Manila in celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival on Sunday, October 8 at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and Armory. Drag Queen Story Time will take place at the Armory Loft 1B at 10 AM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Aleksa Manila: Website

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Announcing Our New Leadership Structure

Experience Folklife Festival 2017Coming off of a year of tremendous support from the greater Pacific Northwest community, Northwest Folklife, a 47 year old arts and culture non-profit, embarks on a journey forward to envision its future in new and dynamic ways – maintaining the core ideals that have been present since its founding.

Thanks to this support from our community and with the goal of building a strong foundation in which to grow, the Board of Directors of Northwest Folklife is announcing a restructuring of the professional management of the organization, the appointment of Kelli Faryar as the first Executive Artistic Director of Northwest Folklife and the launch of a search for the organization’s first Managing Director.

The New Structure

“Northwest Folklife is evolving its leadership structure to best meet the challenges and opportunities we face today and in the future. We are committed to our role as a community centric organization, working in partnership with artistic and cultural communities to co-create and co-curate opportunities for all to share, celebrate, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest,” said Rafael Maslan, Board President. “By committing to a dual leadership and partnership model, we invest in executive leadership in our community engagement and artistic excellence as well as in administration, resource development and financial management.”

Appointment of Kelli Faryar as the first Executive Artistic Director

Effective August 27, 2017, Ms. Faryar will assume the position of Executive Artistic Director. Ms. Faryar has served as the Programs Director at Northwest Folklife for 4 years in her 9 years working for the organization. Under her programmatic influence and leadership, Northwest Folklife has mounted 9 Northwest Folklife Festivals with the creation of the Indie Roots program and specific cultural focus on the Traditional Roots of Hip Hop, Power of the Human Voice through Song and Festal Turn 20, celebrating Seattle Center’s 20th anniversary of Festal. Ms. Faryar has expanded the programming of Northwest Folklife to now include our annual Seattle Children’s Festival (this will be the fourth year of presenting this child and family centered festival on October 8, 2017) and led the organization’s commitment to be in direct partnership with over 100 cultural and artistic communities.

“Kelli is the perfect choice for assuming the position of the first Executive Artistic Director in Northwest Folklife’s history” said Michelle Demers Shaevitz, Chair of the Outreach Committee. “Her influence on how we have evolved artistically and culturally over the past four years, her passion and vision for the future, her commitment to engaging and partnering with our communities, and her demonstrated ability to make those dreams a reality have inspired the entire organization and we are thrilled to have her assume this role.”

Managing Director Search

At this juncture, Northwest Folklife is embarking on a new Managing Director search. The Board will build upon it’s relationship with the Third Sector Company to manage the search for the Managing Director. The Third Sector Company has been working with Northwest Folklife for the past year to provide Interim Executive Director services and provided support at the 2017 Board Retreat.

“We seek a special person as our Managing Director – someone who has the capacity, passion, and the wisdom to partner with the board, the Executive Artistic Director, and the community to envision a bold, exciting and attainable future,” said Evan Woods, Board Vice President and Chair of the Search Committee. “We are excited to launch this search, find the best candidate to partner with Kelli as our executive management team, and move into the next phase of Northwest Folklife’s amazing journey with our community.”

More information about the Managing Director position can be found here.

Thank You For Keeping Northwest Folklife Alive!

It is with a sense of deep gratitude that we can tell you that you – the community who attends and loves Northwest Folklife and the Northwest Folklife Festival – that when the final counting is done – and that takes a few more days – that we believe we will hit the $350,000 goal we set for donations at this year’s Festival.

We told you that the festival was in danger, that over the years, costs had been rising but revenue had not. We told you that we were worried that people had confused the complete accessibility of this festival – open to everyone in the community without a ticket price or financial barrier – that this had been confused with the idea that the festival was free. We shared, as openly and candidly with all of you what it really takes to put on this festival – including a cash budget of $1.3 million.

We believed that if we were open with you – that if you understood that this treasure you value so highly was our collective responsibility, that you would understand and would become part of the solution. And you did.  We made the goal and now, the Board will meet at the end of June to initiate discussions on how Northwest Folklife should move forward in the future. A new process begins and we look forward to engaging with the community as an essential part of that process.

It is one of the great challenges of Northwest Folklife that so many of our donors are anonymous event attendees. They come to the festival, give their cash donation and we have no way of staying in touch unless they join our mailing list or give us their contact information. We are so glad that they are helping to defray the costs of the event itself but it is impossible to connect with them afterwards.

But we have this amazing group of supporters – our Friends of Folklife who give to us throughout the year because they passionately believe in our mission and vision and they understand that supporting Folklife all year long is necessary. We are so pleased to announce that our Spring Campaign Goal has also been met and we are so very grateful to all of those donors as well. You made it possible for us to get to the opening day of the Festival and the opening day of the Children’s Festival in October. Thank you.

There is the greater point to be made. For Folklife to continue for the next 46 years – it will take a continued concerted effort. It takes the deep conviction and support of the Friends of Folklife who give us the resources to work all year round. It absolutely takes the support of the community and audience that attends the events – that recognize that “Access for All” is not the same as “Free”. We made a good start on that this year and we must keep that message strong and always present.

It also takes the support of institutional funders in the public, corporate and foundation worlds who know that Northwest Folklife is not just a great “EVENT” that occurs once a year but that Northwest Folklife is a “CAUSE” committed to strengthening our communities through the sharing and experiencing of our arts, culture and heritage.

And yes, it will take the continued “daily donations” of the hundreds of thousands who attend the events who must come to understand that the continuation of Folklife will always depend upon their support as well.

So thank you to all who have made the future possible. We are so grateful and so excited.

Rafael Maslan

President – NWFL Board

Mark W. Crawford

Interim Executive Director

Thank you for an Incredible 2017 Folklife Festival!

The 46th annual Northwest Folklife Festival came to a close on the evening of May 29th, wrapping up four days of music, dance, food, art, and celebration. The Festival brought together over 6,000 performers across 22 stages, with the aid of at least 800 volunteers. This year the Festival drew an estimated crowd of 250,000 people to Seattle Center over four days. The crowds enjoyed four full days of sunshine and smiles and spirits were high!

Whether you forgot to give or wish to give more in support of Folklife’s rich tradition of arts and culture programs accessible to all, please take a moment to give, renew, and even increase your support as a Friend of Folklife donor. Thank you to all for sharing our message of building support for this community-powered treasure, and for your many gifts.

Share your experience with us here.