Elko—After 16 years as Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center, Charlie Seemann will retire July 31. During his tenure, Seemann built a first-class organization, helping the Folklife Center mature into a premiere cultural center dedicated to sharing the traditional arts of the American West with a national and international audience.
Among Seemann’s many accomplishments, he raised funds to renovate the public spaces of the Pioneer Hotel, established literary and program endowments, increased sponsorship funding for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and successfully guided the Folklife Center through the nation’s worst economic recession in more than 70 years. Seemann also worked with the United States Senate to designate the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering as the “National” Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and led the charge to conduct cultural exchanges with cowboy and ranching people from around the world.
"We are truly grateful for all Charlie has done for the Western Folklife Center,” says Gail Steiger, Chairman of the Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees. “He has broadened our horizons beyond measure, honoring traditions we hold dear here at home and showing us how much we have in common with herding cultures around the world. Charlie has shepherded the Western Folklife Center flock through good seasons and dry times alike, and he leaves the outfit in much better shape than he found it. He'll be missed."
Seemann began his tenure at the Western Folklife Center in 1998, after having attended all the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gatherings since 1986, most of those years as a member of the event staff. Prior to joining the Folklife Center staff as Executive Director, he was Program Director and Folk Culture Specialist at the Fund for Folk Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and spent 12 years at the Country Music Foundation’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, first as Curator of Collections and then as Deputy Director for Collections and Research. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from California State University, San Francisco, and a Master of Arts degree in Folklife Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Seemann has authored dozens of articles and critical reviews of cowboy music. He has produced and annotated many LPs and CDs of cowboy, country, Cajun and folk music, and twice won the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum as the producer of two CDs, Back In The Saddle Again: Songs of The American Cowboy, and Buck Ramsey: Hittin’ the Trail. He was also nominated for a GRAMMY® Award for Back In The Saddle Again: Songs of The American Cowboy. Seemann sits on the Board of Directors of the National Council for the Traditional Arts and the Alliance for the California Traditional Arts, and was previously a congressional appointee to the Board of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to exploring, presenting and preserving the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the American West.