Local Current Blog

Cedar Cultural Center executive director Rob Simonds to retire

Detail of a photo by Joe Bielawa (CC BY 2.0)

Rob Simonds, executive director of the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, will step down this fall. Under Simonds’s leadership the Cedar has become an integral component of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, using music and cultural events to engage the neighborhood’s growing Somali-American population.

Before his involvement with the Cedar, Simonds worked with both Boogie Records in Toledo and Schoolkids Records in Ann Arbor. He went on to co-found Rykodisc, the first independent CD record label, and to oversee the creation of Ryko’s distribution company.

Founded in 1989, the Cedar is a music venue and nonprofit which seeks to promote “intercultural appreciation through music,” according to its mission statement. The club hosts a variety of eclectic shows, including jazz, blues, indie rock and world artists, as well as films, dance, and spoken word performances. Simonds joined the Cedar’s board in 1991, and adopted the role of executive director in 2007. Simonds helped to stabilize the Cedar’s finances and to lead substantial development in the music program’s depth and scale.

In a press release, Simonds said that he believes his retirement will allow the Cedar to continue to grow. “I believe that an important part of a leader’s responsibility is to know when it’s time to ‘pass the torch.’ I’m exceedingly proud of what the Cedar has accomplished in the nine years that I’ve been ED, and believe that my skills were ideal for this phase in the organization’s life. Perhaps the best time for leadership change is when an organization is strong and healthy.”

Simonds has worked with the Cedar’s board over the past year in preparation for the change, and he will continue to maintain a relationship with the organization as an adviser following his departure. The Cedar’s board is currently searching for a new director.

Raisa Elhadi is a student at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.