The Blues Foundation Reveals New Board of Directors and Officers

The principal task ahead of the Foundation and its new Board is to complete the Technology upgrade and awareness campaign for the Blues Hall of Fame.  

By: Nov. 15, 2023
The Blues Foundation Reveals New Board of Directors and Officers

 The Blues Foundation has announced the elections of a new Board of Directors and officers. Scott Fitzke, whose tenure as Chairman of the Board is ending due to term limits, will be succeeded by Terika Dean, who served as Vice Chairman under Fitzke. Under Dean’s leadership, the Board will continue the efforts under Fitzke to build upon a solid base of successful programs and financial stability.  

The principal task ahead of the Foundation and its new Board is to complete the Technology upgrade and awareness campaign for the Blues Hall of Fame.  

The newly elected Board, to be led by Dean, will consist of: 

Vice-Chairman: Janice Johnston, Phoenix, AZ 

Treasurer: Bruce Morel, Dartmouth, NS, Canada 

Plus the following Executive Committee members: 

Paul Benjamin, Rockland ME 

Kathy Bolmer, Nashville TN 

Scott Fitzke, Littleton, CO 

Newly elected Board Members are: 

Shemekia Copeland, Oceanside, CA 

Terrie Odabi, Oakland, CA 

Atiba Berkeley, Greensboro, NC 

The rest of the board consists of returning members: 

Peter Astrup, Pandrup, Jylland, Denmark 

Dr. Dina Bennett, Overland Park, KS 

Billy Branch, Chicago, IL 

Wayne Goins, Manhattan, KS 

Ric Whitney, Los Angeles, Ca 

Biographies

Terika Dean is the new Chair of the Blues Foundation. With a heritage deeply rooted in the world of music and community advocacy, Terika is a passionate advocate for the preservation and celebration of blues music, and her journey is an extraordinary testament to the enduring legacy of this genre.

  Terika Dean's connection to the blues runs deep. As the great-great-niece of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, a renowned figure in the blues and folk music scene, Terika carries forward his legendary artistic excellence and cultural significance. Her involvement extends to her pivotal role in managing the estate of Lead Belly, where she dedicates herself to upholding the contributions of her great-great-uncle. Her unique perspective as a descendant of a beloved musical icon will add depth and authenticity to her efforts in facilitating the growth of the genre both nationally and globally.

   Terika is not only an advocate for blues music but an active participant in the broader musical community. She is a proud member of the Americana Music Association as well as Folk Alliance International, where her passion for music and cultural preservation shines brightly. Beyond her role in the Blues Foundation, Terika contributes to her community through various avenues. As a member of the Board of Directors of the MTSU Alumni Association, she actively engages with her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, to foster connections among alumni and support the institution's growth and success.

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   Atiba Berkley is president of Piedmont Blues Preservation Society, Director of NC Blues Week & Carolina Blues Festival, and owner of HUMbl Media Svcs. He is a former corporate manager and freelance audio engineer with twenty-plus years experience with "everything live," as he likes to call it. His experience in both micro & macro arts, special event production, and curation, is extensive. His volunteerism and visionary arts leadership have been assets to the National Folk Festival, North Carolina Folk Festival, Art of Cool Jazz Festival, Juneteenth GSO Executive Committee and more. Atiba hails from Brooklyn, NY and is a married father of five children living in Greensboro, NC with his wife, Selena Wolf Berkley, MFA, who works as an assistant director of a university learning and writing center. Atiba's vision focuses on building a 21st Century model for the growth and sustainability of, and healing within, Blues communities through the sharing of Blues as folk culture.

   Shemekia Copeland has performed thousands of gigs at festivals and concert halls all over the world, and has appeared in films, on national television, NPR, and in magazine and newspapers. She sang with Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Dr. John, James Cotton and many others. She opened for The Rolling Stones and entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. Jeff Beck calls her “amazing.” Santana says, “She’s incandescent...a diamond.” In 2012, she performed with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Gary Clark, Jr. and others at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama. She has performed on PBS’s Austin City Limits and was recently the subject of a six-minute feature on PBS News Hour. Currently, Copeland can be heard hosting her own popular daily blues radio show on SiriusXM’s Bluesville. Her latest album, Done Come Too Far, has been named Blues Album of the Year by DownBeat Magazine, MOJO Magazine, as well as garnering her fifth Grammy nomination for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.  The Chicago Tribune’s famed jazz critic Howard Reich says, “Shemekia Copeland is the greatest female blues vocalist working today. She pushes the genre forward, confronting racism, hate, xenophobia and other perils of our time. Regardless of subject matter, though, there’s no mistaking the majesty of Copeland’s instrument, nor the ferocity of her delivery. In effect, Copeland reaffirms the relevance of the blues.” The Philadelphia Inquirer succinctly states, “Shemekia Copeland is an antidote to artifice. She is a commanding presence, a powerhouse vocalist delivering the truth.”

  Terrie Odabi is a seasoned musical artist who has traveled the world and has been proclaimed by Lee Hildebran to be the and is an educational professional with over two decades of dedicated service as a case manager within the Oakland Unified School District. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and African American Studies, a testament to her commitment to education and cultural awareness.

  Now retired from education, Terrie has embarked on a vibrant new journey as a full-time touring blues artist, songwriter, and recording artist. Her powerful voice and storytelling prowess captivate audiences far and wide.

   Terrie’s passion goes beyond the stage, as she ardently champions equality for women and African Americans in the blues genre. She strives to ensure that the authentic history of blues is shared, particularly with children, so that its rich legacy endures for generations to come. Terrie Odabi, is a true force for change and preservation in both music and education.

  Paul Benjamin is a prominent figure in the blues music scene, known for his extensive contributions as a blues promoter, festival organizer, and music producer. His journey began in 1978 when he started booking blues acts, and over the years, he has played a pivotal role in shaping the blues landscape. Currently, he produces an impressive 50 shows each year at a club in Rockland, ME, featuring national touring blues acts.

In 1990, Paul initiated a festival in the parking lot of his club with a modest attendance of about 50 people. Fast forward to the present, and the North Atlantic Blues Festival, established in 1994, is now in its 30th year, drawing over 10,000 attendees. The festival's success has been recognized on a national level, with the Blues Foundation of Memphis, TN, voting it as the best in the nation in 2002.

   Paul's influence extends beyond the festival circuit. He has been a guest speaker at various blues summits, including the Toronto Blues Summit, Cutting Edge in New Orleans, and the New England Blues Summit in Cape Cod, MA. Additionally, he has shared his expertise on festival management by participating in panels for the Blues Foundation of Memphis, TN. In 1999, Paul Benjamin launched North Atlantic Blues Records, contributing to the production of records for several artists. His dedication to the blues was further demonstrated when he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation in 2003. Subsequently, in 2005, he assumed the role of president of the Board for the Blues Foundation, serving for four years.

   Paul's impact on the blues community is also evident in his role as the music producer for the 25th and 26th Blues Music Awards in Memphis, TN. He continued his involvement with the Blues Foundation by being re-elected to the Board of Directors from 2013 to 2017 and serving as Chairman of the board during that time.

Beyond the music realm, Paul Benjamin has contributed to the arts as a commission member of the Maine Arts Commission from 2013 to 2019, a position appointed by the Governor of Maine. His influence has extended to festival consultation, where he has lent his expertise to festivals associated with the Robert Johnson family and the Lead Belly family.

  In addition to his various roles and accomplishments, Paul is also an author and publisher, having documented the 25 years of the North Atlantic Blues Festival in a book. Benjamin remains actively involved in the blues community, producing or assisting with several notable blues festivals, including the Blues Bash at the Ranch in FL, the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, ME, the Gloucester Blues Festival in Gloucester, MA, Camping With The Blues in Brooksville, FL, the Blues Heaven Festival in Denmark, and the Bradenton Blues Festival in Bradenton, FL. His continued dedication and influence in the blues genre make him a respected and essential figure in the industry.



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