2021 FAI Board of Directors Election Candidates

The candidates for FAI’s 2021 Board of Directors election are now available for viewing! FAI voting members in good standing as of November 8, 2020, were sent their secure ballots on that date (per the bylaws) and have until 11:45pm CT on December 8, 2020, to cast their votes. There are five open seats in this election. The top five candidates who receive the most votes will be elected to serve 3-year terms commencing at the Annual General Meeting in February. All directors are elected at large, not representing any specific constituency, meaning they serve as individuals and do not represent the vote or opinions of any organization they may work for or be affiliated with.

One benefit of becoming an FAI member (or renewing your membership) is the opportunity to have your voice heard by voting for who you believe will be the best fit to join the volunteer group of leaders governing our charitable organization for the next three years. Learn more about FAI membership here.

Ayappa Biddanda

Becoming a music fan as a child while listening to the radio as my parents drove around Knoxville, I learned the power of having an Artist’s song on the radio. I volunteered to be on Vanguard Records’ Street Team and then was lucky to be hired to Vanguard’s Marketing team. After 3 years, I moved over to Radio/Promotion and have spent the past 13+ years in that capacity. Now with Concord, we have the honor of sharing the music of some of the most inspiring Artists creating music today. It’s a joy/honor to share their Artistry daily.

Ballot Statement: I’ve learned quite a bit as an FAI member and attending the past 2 Conferences. Serving on the Radio Task Force has informed the ways we can structurally support Artists at all stages of development. I’d like to continue providing opportunities for Artists in our community to reach wider audiences.

Catalina Maria Johnson

Catalina Maria Johnson, Ph.D. is a Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and music curator. She hosts and produces her own radio show, Beat Latino, which airs in Chicago and other US cities as well as Berlin. Catalina also regularly contributes to NPR, Bandcamp, Billboard, Downbeat 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 the global music scene in all its variations, and in particular, music as it intersects with culture, identity and migration.

Ballot Statement: I believe Folk Alliance International offers a unique space for me (and all of us) to bridge borders that artificially divide us, especially because folk music –the music of the people— illuminates the cultural riches that immigrants bring to their country of destiny, an invaluable and often unrecognized gift.

Gary Paczosa

Gary Paczosa is a multi-Grammy winning producer and engineer. He is best known for his work with Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and Sarah Jarosz. He has served on the Grammy board and also works as head of A&R at Sugar Hill Records in Nashville.

Ballot Statement: 2020 has proved to be a difficult and unpredictable year. I want to continue to serve my folk/roots community and this organization to help get us through this tumultuous time.

Amy Reitnouer Jacobs

In 2012, Amy Reitnouer Jacobs co-founded The Bluegrass Situation (BGS) with actor/comedian/producer Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover). Today she serves as the executive director for the company, which encompasses online editorial/content creation, event promotion, and targeted audience marketing. In addition to producing a festival, BGS has curated stage takeovers at Bonnaroo, Newport Folk, MerleFest, Americana Music Fest, Bourbon & Beyond, The Long Road (UK), and others. The website has also become an advocate for change, diversity, and representation within the broader music community. Amy is also an artist manager for Aubrie Sellers, Matt the Electrician, and Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco).

Ballot Statement: If re-elected, I hope to continue the work I’ve invested in during my last five years on the Folk Alliance Board: advocating for diversity and the underrepresented, and speaking up for musicians rights and prioritizing physical and mental health within the broader music industry.

Ashley Shabankareh

Ashley Shabankareh (she/her/hers) is a musician, arts administrator, and music education and creative economy advocate. Ashley currently serves as the Collaborative Action Strategist for Artist Corps New Orleans, Director of Learning and Development for Upbeat Academy, and the Education Specialist for the New Orleans Jazz Museum. She also serves as the Vice President for the Jazz Education Network and Board Chair for the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO). Ashley is a trombonist and vocalist and performs with Marina Orchestra and The Asylum Chorus. Previously, Ashley served as the Director of Programs for Preservation Hall Foundation.

Ballot Statement: My whole life has been rooted in music. From being a musician to working in the industry, nonprofits, and as a DEI consultant, my past experiences make me a strong candidate for the FAI board. I hope to support FAI, its work, and its community. Thank you for your consideration!

Meg Tarquinio

Meg Tarquinio is the Head of Curation Strategy at Spotify, where she previously worked to develop Spotify’s Folk & Acoustic playlist portfolio. Meg’s early experiences with local folk music communities inspired her to pursue studies and a career in music. In 2017, Meg completed a PhD in Literature and Cinema Studies from Northeastern University, where she’d also received her BS in Music Business. Both her academic research and career in music has centered on the ways in which technology changes how we create, consume, critique, and curate music, literature, and film.

Ballot Statement: I would love to leverage my understanding of the board into deepening my participation in committee work and other board service in support of FAI’s mission.

Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas is the agent and owner of ComboPlate Booking, which opened in 1999. In addition to artist-based tour services, volunteerism and community have been integral to Laura’s business. Since 2001, Laura has presented volunteer musicians at a monthly soup kitchen concert in Austin, Texas. In 2002, Laura started South By Soup Fest, a multi-day showcase at the soup kitchen. Since 2005, Laura has organized a day party raising funds for the same soup kitchen.

Ballot Statement: I have been serving on the Board the last three years and would be honored to continue my service and advocacy work on the Board for another term. I have attended the conference every year since 2006 and am proud to be a part of the FAI folk family.