Every year, Folk Alliance International members nominate and elect board members who represent folk music industry leadership and help shape the future of our organization. The upcoming annual election opens November 8 and closes on November 23 with the final slate posted online with photos, bios, and platform statements and a secure online election ballot distributed by email to all voting members of FAI. There are five open seats in this election for three-year terms commencing February 2024.
Meet Your Candidates
Here are the current eight candidates on the ballot, recommended by the FAI Nominations Committee and approved by FAI’s Board following an open call for expressions of interest, in alphabetical order by last name:
Senior Director, National Grass Roots, Video, & Tour Promotion, Concord
Nashville, TN, USA
“I am eager to serve Artists in ways that matter most to them. I’d be honored to continue the FAI Board/Advocacy work of the past 2 years. Let’s continue platforming Folk Artists and Partnerships thereby increasing the reach of our Community.”
Having worked at Concord since 2004, Ayappa now leads the Folk/Roots division of the Concord Label Group—serving Artists in both traditional and innovative spaces. A large part of his work has been highlighting the vitality of Folk music in today’s culture and ensuring our foundational BIPOC Artists are properly recognized and credited. He graduated from The University of Tennessee with degrees in American Studies and Political Science and received his Master’s of Public Policy from UCLA (with a concentration in Art & Social Action). He adores (in chronological order) his wife, daughter, and son.
“As a member of the music industry community, my aim is to work collaboratively to create an environment that serves music and all the people who make their living in that space. I’d be honored to bring that spirit to my work with FAI.”
Molly Nagel Driessen started in music at Sugar Hill Records. In 12 years, she moved from mailroom to project manager, eventually managing their Nashville office and staff. Working with artists from Doc Watson to Dolly Parton, she developed a deep appreciation for Folk, Bluegrass and Americana music and artists. After relocating to her hometown of Asheville NC, she consulted in project management, tour management and marketing. In 2014, she joined Mmgt and is a leader on that team providing artist management and marketing services for clients including Della Mae, Jeffrey Foucault, Phoebe Hunt, and Margo Cilker.
Catalina Maria Johnson
Music Journalist and Radio Host/Producer, Beat Latino
Chicago, IL, USA
“Folk Alliance International offers a unique space for us to bridge divisory borders, as folk music shares the invaluable cultural riches that we all carry within and that immigrants gift the country of destiny. And especially in these times, FAI amplifies folk music’s power to offer solace, healing and strength.”
Catalina Maria Johnson, Ph.D. is a Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and music curator. She hosts and produces the radio show, Beat Latino, which airs in Chicago and other US cities. Catalina also regularly contributes to NPR, Downbeat, Songlines and other outlets. Thanks to the tenacious insistence of a Mexican mom and a German/Swedish dad, Catalina received the gift of a bilingual and bicultural heritage. Her cultural journalism explores the immensely rich diversity of global music scenes in all their variations, and in particular as they intersect with culture, identity and migration.
Music Industry Business Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Amazon Music
Los Angeles, CA, USA
“I’ve spent my life and career in love with independent music, particularly folk. I admire the FAI community and all the people I’ve met through it. It would be my pleasure to contribute my skills in furthering its mission.”
A dynamic music industry leader with over two decades of experience, Lauren Kasper currently serves as Business Affairs & Strategic Partnerships Lead at Amazon Music, focusing on driving industry growth with artists, labels, and promoters. Previously, she played pivotal roles at The Orchard, serving as Vice President in Nashville, overseeing client business in the southeast region, and at Apple Inc. as the Independent Label Relations Manager, nurturing partnerships in the indie community and expanding Apple Music’s catalog.
Songwriter, Writer/Publisher, and Co-Executive Director, Songwriters of North America
Los Angeles, CA, USA
“Having worked alongside the organization in past years, I am a huge fan of the FAI’s work to uphold and broaden the vibrant Folk community. It would be an honor to join FAI to help build upon the sturdy foundation.”
Songwriter, publisher, and artist advocate Erin McAnally has always been a part of the music business. Born in Muscle Shoals, AL, and raised in Nashville, she has extensive experience in A&R, production, music supervision and scoring, publishing, and concerts and festivals. Now in Los Angeles, she co-owns a publishing company with her husband, Mick Utley. She is currently the Co-Executive Director and Vice-Chair of Songwriters of North America. She also works as a consultant and writer, helping artists, brands, and non-profits with communications, fundraising, education, events, and operations. She has worked for many years to educate and empower artists and music creators through educational initiatives.
“Folk is a flexible term, connected to many intersecting legacies + communities. I believe FAI’s future lies in exploring connections across borders + boundaries while helping artists + their supporters pursue sustainable, innovative lives in music.”
In the ten-plus years she has worked at NPR, Ann Powers has championed undersung and overlooked voices from many genres as well as anchoring the coverage of Americana and folk music for the NPR Music website. Previous positions inclued chief pop critic at the Los Angeles Times, critic for the New York Times, senior editor at the Village Voice, and curator at the Museum of Popular Culture. She has written or edited six books, including the upcoming TRAVELING: ON THE PATH OF JONI MITCHELL, out in March 2024 from Dey Street Books. She lives in Nashville.
Director of Operations and Programs, Trombone Shorty Foundation
New Orleans, LA, USA
“It has been a true pleasure serving as the President of the Board for FAI. I hope to continue my work of supporting the folk community by fostering an environment of equity, diversity, inclusion, and access. Thank you for your consideration!”
Ashley Shabankareh (she/they) is a New Orleans musician, music educator, and arts administrator. Ashley is the Director of Operations and Programs for Trombone Shorty Foundation, and they also work as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Xavier University. Ashley has worked with numerous arts organizations during her career, including Artist Corps New Orleans, Upbeat Academy Foundation, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, New Orleans Jazz Museum, and Preservation Hall Foundation. Ashley currently serves as the Board President for Folk Alliance International. Ashley is an avid performer and has performed alongside Allen Toussaint, Aretha Franklin, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Theresa Anderson, and in her own group, Marina Orchestra.
Found/Executive Director, Decolonizing the Music Room
Fort Worth, TX, USA
“I have gotten my feet wet during my first term, and I look forward to more learning and deeper service to FAI. I hope to continue using my skills to support our collaborative work with folk communities through the lenses of equity and innovation.”
Brandi Waller-Pace (she/they) is a Fort Worth-based musician, educator, and scholar-activist. She is Founding Executive Director of Decolonizing the Music Room. Brandi holds a bachelor’s and master’s in Jazz Studies from Howard University and is pursuing a PhD in Music Education at the University of North Texas. An eleven-year veteran music educator, she co-wrote district music curriculum, participated in racial and systemic educational equity work, and 2019 and 2020 served on the Texas African American Studies Course Curriculum Advisory Team which helped formulate curriculum standards for Texas’ first state-approved African American History course. As a musician she most often performs jazz, neo-soul, and old time. Brandi created and runs the Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival, which highlights blackness in early American music. She has co-produced and curated artist lineups for events with Bluegrass Pride, The Bluegrass Situation, and PineCone.