Aengus Finnan, Folk Alliance International’s fourth Executive Director in the organization’s 35-year history, has announced that he will step down from the role in 2022. He has been at the helm of FAI since June 2014.
During his tenure, FAI expanded its definition of folk to be more culturally inclusive, increased attendee representation from nine countries to 42, expanded the conference from 1,800 delegates to 3,300, doubled the annual budget from $800K to $1.6 million, extended its global reach with outpost events in Ireland, Sweden, and Australia, and welcomed its first board members from outside of North America with representation from England, Australia, and Colombia.
“It has been a great honor to bring our organization’s aspirations and potential to life, to center our work in the ideals of the folk community, and to steward our genre into an exciting new era,” said Mr. Finnan. “I can’t credit enough the incredible staff and dedicated board for their trust and collaboration in all we have achieved. We’re in a strong and healthy place as an organization, and I think we have made really important progress in the evolving work to address equity issues and prepare for new leadership.”
Under his direction, FAI became a National Arts Service organization as designated by the National Endowment for the Arts, undertook its first national stakeholder research project conducted by Slover Linett, partnered with Jeunesses Musicales International to introduce the Ethno music program in North America, and was invited to join the national advocacy board of the Performing Arts Alliance.
Finnan is credited with conceiving of FAI’s Artist in Residence program, initiating a Global Summit series, launching the Kansas City Folk Festival, galvanizing the International Folk Music Awards, setting up an annual regional leaders retreat, instigating an Executive Leadership Circle with genre-specific peer music industry organizations, establishing a joint GRAMMY Week celebration of the roots music categories, and supporting the creation of the Nordic Folk Alliance.
Finnan’s hallmark accomplishment has been a sincere and systematic approach to more equitable representation in all aspects of the organization from panels, programs, and showcases, to staff and board roles; ultimately establishing a Cultural Equity council and statement. As part of that process, Finnan formally addressed both the United Nations and the Recording Academy regarding the responsibility of music industry organizations to diversify.
Finnan began his career as a teacher in Indigenous communities in the Canadian Arctic following studies at Pearson United World College (IB), Concordia University (BFA), and Nipissing University (B.Ed). Prior to his tenure at FAI, he was the Touring and Audience Development Officer for the Ontario Arts Council, Program Manager for Community Futures, the founding Artistic Director of the Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and spent a decade as a touring singer-songwriter.
Finnan is the recipient of the Golden Jubilee Medal for cultural contributions to Canada, an Alumni Award of Distinction from Nipissing University, and the prestigious New Folk songwriting award from the Kerrville Folk Festival.
“Aengus has brought Folk Alliance into a new era.” commented board president Amy Reitnouer Jacobs, “While we will miss him as an amazing leader and friend, we are so very grateful for all the strides he has taken to make FAI a more inclusive, welcoming, and professionally prominent organization, and for leaving the place even better than he found it.”
The Board of Directors will officially launch a search for FAI’s next Executive Director in February 2022.
About Folk Alliance International
Folk Alliance International (FAI) was founded in 1989 to connect folk music leaders aiming to sustain the community and genre. Today FAI is the leading international voice for folk music with a network of more than 3,000 members: a worldwide community of artists, agents, managers, labels, publicists, arts administrators, venues, festivals, and concert series presenters.
From its U.S. headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, FAI produces the world’s largest conference for the folk music industry, the International Folk Music Awards (IFMAs), an Artist in Residence program, the Folk ExChange market development program, the Ethno USA gathering (on behalf of JM International), community outreach, and a Finest Folk concert series.
FAI values diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, strives to ensure gender parity in all its programming, celebrates multiple languages and cultures, and actively welcomes participation from marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented communities.
FAI defines folk broadly as “the music of the people” (reflective of any community they are from), and programs a diverse array of sub genres including, but not limited to, Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Old-Time, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional, Zydeco, and various fusions.