Mission & Impact

Founded in 1968, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) assists New York City’s immigrant communities to sustain their distinctive performing arts traditions and promotes cross-cultural understanding by sharing these art forms with audiences across the city. Nationally renowned for programs that combine research, documentation, presentation and education, CTMD assists immigrant communities in passing traditions to new generations.

Formerly known as the Balkan Arts Center and the Ethnic Folk Arts Center, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance has worked closely with dozens of diverse communities over the past fifty years in creating a number of leading ensembles, festivals and community-based cultural organizations. Each year, CTMD serves thousands of New Yorkers through a full calendar of programs that provide unique opportunities to experience and participate in the City’s rich cultural traditions.

The organization’s work has had significant national and international impact. CTMD was a one of the first US-based presenters dedicated to performances of traditions from around the world. In the 1960s, the organization assisted in the development of models for ethnic programming at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Newport Folk Festivals. In the 1970s, our work with senior Jewish musicians in New York helped to spark an international revival of klezmer. A 1980s project with young musicians in the Bronx created Cherish The Ladies, now global ambassadors for women’s involvement in Irish traditional music. CTMD has founded seven 501(c)(3) cultural organizations, including the first youth academies for traditional Mexican and Peruvian music on the East Coast, and New York’s main annual Dominican, Indo-Caribbean, Colombian and Albanian festivals. Our Heritage Sunday Festival (at Lincoln Center Out of Doors) and New York World Festival (at Central Park SummerStage) are among the city’s largest regular showcase events of immigrant performing arts, as were two previous CTMD programs, the Queens Ethnic Music and Dance Festival (1976-1991) and Folk Parks (1993-2000). CTMD co-curated major programs at the 2001 and 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, has produced a number of major documentary films and recordings (including six on the Smithsonian Folkways label), and provided music for a record of the sounds of humanity aboard the Voyager spacecraft. CTMD’s Archive is the largest collection documenting New York’s immigrant performing arts traditions. CTMD is an affiliate program of UNESCO.

CTMD has worked closely to assist twenty recipients of the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship Award, our national government’s highest honor bestowed on folk and traditonal artists. Past recipients include (with year of award): Adam Popovich, Serbian tamburitza musician, 1982; Dave Tarras, Jewish klezmer clarinetist, 1984; Martin Mulvihill, Irish fiddler, 1994; Pericles Halkias, Epirot Greek clarinetist, 1985; Ilias Kementzides, Pontic Greek lyra player, 1989; Giuseppe and Raffaela DeFranco, traditional Calabrian musicians, 1990; Jack Coen, Irish flute player, 1991; Fatima Kuinova, Bukharian (Central Asian) Jewish singer, 1992; Simon Shaheen, Palestinian violinist and oud player, 1994; Liz Carroll, Irish Fiddler, 1994; Donny Golden, Irish stepdancer, 1995; Juan Gutierrez, Puerto Rican bomba and plena musician, 1996; Mick Moloney, Irish musician, 1999 Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Yiddish poet, songwriter and folk singer, 2005; Sidiki Conde, Guinean dancer and musician, 2007; Sue Yeon Park, Korean dancer, 2008; Yuri Yunakov, Bulgarian-Romani Saxophonist, 2011; Andy Statman, klezmer clarinetist/mandolinist, 2012; Michael Alpert, Yiddish singer/musician/dancer, 2015; and Joanie Madden, Irish-American flute/whistle player, 2021. CTMD co-founder Ethel Raim was awarded the NEA’s 2018 Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship for her lifetime of work preserving and educating the public on New York City’s diverse cultural heritage.