Meet The Team

John Gardner is the current Director of Company of Folk. Music, art, and culture have always been at the heart of John’s professional life, so leading our mission to preserve and promote the local and folk culture of Illinois and the Midwest is a pure pleasure. John received his degree from Northeastern University with a focus on Nonprofit Management, but he is quick to explain that his deepest education has come from traveling the globe promoting international music. In 2012 while traveling in India with Indian Classical musician Pandit Sandip Burman, John became inspired to found The World Music Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting racism and building respect across cultures through the power of music. In his role as a tour manager for international musicians from 2005 through to his entrance into the nonprofit world, John has arranged and managed performances and educational masterclasses in all 50 U.S. states, as well as, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and other parts of the world. In 2018, much closer to home, John became involved with Company of Folk, conducting field work and assisting with duties related to the Ethnic and Folk Arts Master/Apprentice Program offered by the Illinois Art Council.


Bucky Halker

Clark “Bucky” Halker is a founder and the current Board Member of Company of Folk, as well as well-known scholar and musician.   Halker, a Ph.D. in U.S. History, serves as producer-scholar for the Folksongs of Illinois CD series, a Company of Folk project to document the rich and diverse folk and ethnic music in the state.  He also writes and lectures extensively on music and labor history and is also the author of For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-1895

As an Archie Green Fellow with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in 2011-2012, he has been collecting oral histories and documenting the work of Chicago Iron Workers in building the city.  Bucky has also conducted fieldwork on folk and ethnic arts throughout Illinois. Halker serves on the board of directors for the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives and is a twenty-year veteran of the Illinois Humanities Council Road Scholars speaker’s bureau.   In 2016 he served as guest professor of American Studies at Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany.  

In addition to his work with Company of Folk, Bucky Halker is a performer and songwriter who has toured Europe for thirty years and has a dozen recordings to his credit, including Welcome to Labor Land (2002), a recording of Illinois labor songs from the past, and the all-originals Wisconsin 2-13-63, vols. 1 & 2 (2007 & 2009).  His new double-CD release, The Ghost of Woody Guthrie (2012), offers an original music tribute to legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie, and Anywhere But Utah: The Songs of Joe Hill (2015) features the songs of the martyred labor songster Joe Hill.   

From 1996 to 2007, he served as the Senior Program Officer for the Illinois Humanities Council where he worked with grant applicants, conducted workshops, established its speakers’ bureau and teacher seminars, and assisted in its public programming in the state.  

For more on Bucky and his work, visit:


C.S. HendersonC.S. Henderson is a current Board Member of Company of Folk. They grew up in Central Illinois surrounded by local shows and cover bands. After experiencing music on this concentrated, small-town scale, they ventured to Loyola University Chicago to obtain their bachelor’s in Film and Digital Media. While at Loyola, they joined the Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs office as a student leader. This, paired with their experience helping to produce the World Music Foundation Podcast, led them to seek out more opportunities to continue learning about other communities and cultures and to help spread that information.