About the Arhoolie Foundation

The Arhoolie Foundation is a 501c3 non profit organization dedicated to the documentation, preservation, and celebration of regional roots music and its makers. By our activities, we seek to broaden public awareness of our diverse music history, support the vitality of living traditions, and reinforce the value and sustainability of community-based cultures.

Chris Strachwitz and Big Joe Williams
Chris Strachwitz and Big Joe Williams

The Arhoolie Foundation stems from the work of founder Chris Strachwitz and his seminal independent record label Arhoolie Records. In 1960, Strachwitz recorded Texas songster Mance Lipscomb for what was to become Arhoolie Records’ first album. Since then, he has devoted his life to recording and sharing regional music with a special emphasis on the genres of Blues, Cajun/Zydeco, and Tejano/Norteño. In 2016, Smithsonian Folkways acquired Arhoolie Records and continues to distribute the Arhoolie catalog worldwide.

We strive to carry on this legacy through:

  • Digitally preserving unique archival collections including the Strachwitz Frontera Collection, the largest known gathering of historic Mexican and Mexican-American recorded music.
  • Sharing these historical treasures through physical and online exhibits, public programming, and community outreach.
  • Providing direct support to artists, teachers, scholars and others working to ensure the continued vibrancy and sustainability of tradition-based music.

Our archival website seeks to create broad and equitable access to our rare collections. You can browse photo galleries, interviews, videos, and streaming audio. Our YouTube channel offers a large and ever-increasing selection of recordings from the Frontera Collection. The site also shares news about Arhoolie Foundation projects, events, and other happenings.

The Arhoolie Foundation Board of Directors

  • Chris Strachwitz – Founder

    Bio coming soon...

  • Adam Machado – President
  • Laura DeFreyne - Secretary/Treasurer

    Bio coming soon...

  • Larry Batiste

    Larry Batiste’s career in the entertainment industry spans over 40 years. He has worked with some of the most successful contemporary and legendary artists of all time. Batiste, best known for musical directing the GRAMMY Awards Pre-Telecast and the NAMM’s TEC Awards, has a natural talent for understanding and working in all genres of music.

    Batiste actively serves the community as a volunteer, educator, and youth mentor. He advocates on various boards for rights of music professionals, archival and preservation of traditional art forms, and professional development for youth. “I champion a better life for music creators” says Batiste. He joined the Arhoolie Foundation board in 2018.

  • Tom Diamant

    Tom Diamant is the Director of the Arhoolie Foundation’s Chris Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings Digitizing Project (The Frontera Project.) Mr. Diamant also creates content for the Arhoolie Foundation website, and administers the Frontera YouTube Channel.

    Mr. Diamant worked in the record industry for over forty-five years, most recently as Vice President of Arhoolie Records until its acquisition by Smithsonian Folkways in 2016. He is one of the founding board members and officers of the Arhoolie Foundation. Prior to his work at Arhoolie, he was co-owner of Kaleidoscope Records (1975–1991).

    For over 43 years he has produced the radio show Panhandle Country for KPFA-FM (Berkeley, CA) featuring current and historical traditional country, bluegrass, Cajun, and western swing music.

  • R. Field

    He joined the Arhoolie Foundation board in 2018.

    Bio coming soon...

  • Miguel Govea

    Local SF based musician and music educator.

    Family Band La Familia Peña-Govea with his wife and two daughters 

    Familia played for the Arhoolie records 50th Anniversary concert behind Santiago Jimenez, Jr., and appeared on the subsequent Grammy nominated box set They All Played for Us.

    He joined the Arhoolie Foundation board in 2018.

  • Mike Kappus

    Mike Kappus is a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and founder of The Rosebud Agency. His career in the music business spans 50 years and includes experience as a promoter, club and festival talent buyer, agent, manager and multiple Grammy winning executive producer.

    Kappus, whose focus has generally been on roots and roots influenced music, has also married his passion for music to projects related to environmentalism and social activism as well as founding the HART fund to assist artists in need.  He joined the Arhoolie Foundation board in 2016.

    For a more complete bio with history and credits for Kappus and the Rosebud Agency, click here

  • Laurie Lewis


    For fiddler, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Laurie Lewis, the traditions of bluegrass and folk aren’t so much tools in her hands, but burning sources of inspiration that have guided her through a 30+ year career at the forefront of American roots music.  She has twice won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year. A lifelong resident of the bluegrass backwater of Berkeley, CA, her personal sensibilities and innovation within traditional styles have nonetheless created waves of change throughout the acoustic music world. She is in demand as a producer, writer and performer, with over 20 recordings to her name.Laurie first heard Arhoolie Records artists as a teenager, and the music helped shape her life.

  • Davia Nelson

    Davia Nelson is half of NPR’s Kitchen Sisters, producers of the duPont-Columbia and James Beard Award-winning series Hidden Kitchens heard on NPR’s Morning Edition and two Peabody Award-winning NPR series, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project. Their Webby Award-winning podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present… is part of Radiotopia from PRX.

    The Kitchen Sisters also produce The Hidden World of Girls, heard on NPR and hosted by Tina Fey.  Their latest season of Hidden Kitchens — Kimchi Diplomacy: War and Peace and Food received a 2017 James Beard Award. Their first book Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes & More From NPR's Kitchen Sisters was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

    Their newest NPR and podcast series is The Keepers —  stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians.  Keepers of the culture and the culture and collections that they keep.   Davia is a  member of The Arhoolie Foundation Board and The Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force.

  • Nick Spitzer

    Bio coming soon...

  • Suzy Thompson

    Grammy-nominated performing and recording artist, with numerous releases on Arhoolie Records.
    Director of Berkeley Old Time Music Convention
    Emeritus Artistic Director of Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Port Townsend, WA

The Arhoolie Foundation Advisory Board


When Mack McCormick suggested ARWHOOLIE as the name for Chris Strachwitz’s fledgling record label in 1960, Chris’ initial response was, “AR-what?” The name comes from a word for a field holler, a song sung by laborers to accompany their work. The word, spelled as above by the recordist, appeared on a Library of Congress recording made in Mississippi and apparently was the response of the singer when asked what he called the selection just recorded. Chris says: “I have since heard the word ‘hoolie’ in reference to a field holler, but I think the ‘ar’ in front of it was simply the man stuttering a bit in Mississippi fashion when somewhat nervous!”