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Our People

Meet the people behind the music! Music Workshop is an ensemble of passionate and talented individuals who serve on our board, staff and as program advisors. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, but music has played an integral part in all of our lives, and we are devoted to bringing that opportunity to young people everywhere.

Program Advisors

Our program advisors enrich Music Workshop’s cultural programming with their deep knowledge and personal connection with the cultures and musical traditions our courses represent. Many of these incredible individuals are musicians, educators and performers themselves, and we are honored that they choose to share their perspectives with Music Workshop students.

Advisors for Native American Traditional Music

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Dr. Cornel Pewewardy

Native American Traditional Music

Dr. Pewewardy served as the Professor Emeritus of Indigenous Studies at Portland State University as well as an Assistant…

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Supaman

Native American Traditional Music

As a member of the Apsaalooke Nation, “Supaman” is a Native American dancer and innovative hip hop artist who…

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Bobby Mercier

Native American Traditional Music

Bobby Mercier, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, was raised near the reservation and…

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Dr. Cornel Pewewardy

Native American Traditional Music

Dr. Pewewardy served as the Professor Emeritus of Indigenous Studies at Portland State University as well as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Leadership, School of Education at the University of Kansas. He teaches courses in multicultural education and Indian education. His adjunct instructor appointments include Harvard University School of Education; Union Institute; University of Minnesota, University of Oklahoma, Cameron University, University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma, Portland State University and Haskell Indian Nations University. Dr. Pewewardy was the founding principal of two transformational, award-winning magnets schools in the Saint Paul (MN) Public Schools District. He is also a former elementary teacher and principal on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. He now serves as educational consultant to numerous school districts across the country on improving the academic achievement of underrepresented populations in education and faculty curriculum development.

Native American man in headress and regalia facing the camera.

Supaman

Native American Traditional Music

As a member of the Apsaalooke Nation, “Supaman” is a Native American dancer and innovative hip hop artist who has dedicated his life to empowering and spreading a message of hope, pride and resilience through his original art form. He was the recipient of the 2017 MTV VMA award for “Best Fight Against the System”. He is also a Nammy “Native American Music Award” winner, “North American Indigenous Image Award” winner, and “Tunney Award” winner. He was awarded “The Aboriginal Peoples’ Choice Music Award” in Canada for best video and was voted MTV’s new Artist of the Week!

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Bobby Mercier

Native American Traditional Music

Bobby Mercier, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, was raised near the reservation and is known by the name given to him by his Grandfather… Beartracks. Along with being a language and Cultural Specialist at The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, he is a well-known traditional carver and is dedicated to preserving the history of his ancestors by recreating historical carvings and securing them for future study by generations to come. Bobby’s artwork is well respected in the Grand Ronde Community and has been sold across the country yet he feels that his proudest moments as an artist are seeing his children carve, paint, and create art to tell their own unique stories.

“I believe that our art tells our stories, tells of one’s journey in life, and tells who a person is or who they are becoming.” – Bobby Mercer

Advisors for Latin American and Caribbean Music

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Bernardo Monk

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Bernardo Monk is an Argentinean saxophonist and composer. Graduating from Berklee College of Music and…

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Luis Santiago-Sierra

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Luis Santiago, from Puerto Rico, is the Commander of the 78th Army Band. Luis is a songwriter, music manager…

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Freddy Vilches

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Freddy O. Vilches joined the faculty of Lewis & Clark College as Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies in 2006.

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Bernardo Monk

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Bernardo Monk is an Argentinean saxophonist and composer. Graduating from Berklee College of Music and Buenos Aires Contemporary Music School, his discography as a soloist includes six albums. His last one, Atípico was nominated to the Latin Grammy Awards and Gardel Awards 2019 as best tango album of the year. He is the author of two saxophone-tango books: The Tango Saxophone Book and Tango for Two. Monk is also is a professor in Buenos Aires at the National University of the Artes, Avellaneda Popular Music School and Manuel de Falla Conservatory.

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Luis Santiago-Sierra

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Luis Santiago, from Puerto Rico, is the Commander of the 78th Army Band. Luis is a songwriter, music manager and producer. He served as the Operations Director for the Grammy Music Education Coalition. As the Operations Director, Luis was the operational and logistical lead for all GMEC events across the US and Project Manager for the Interamerican Development Bank projects in Latin America. Prior to his work at GMEC, Luis was the Assistant Director of Global Programs for Berklee College of Music as well as the assistant director of admissions.

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Freddy Vilches

Latin American and Caribbean Music

Freddy O. Vilches joined the faculty of Lewis & Clark College as Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies in 2006. He is a multi-instrumentalist (charango, Venezuelan cuatro, quena, zampoñas, Afro-Cuban percussion) and singer/songwriter. Originally from Santiago, Chile, Freddy has performed extensively throughout the US and Latin America (Chile, México, Cuba). He has recorded and performed with some of the best Latin bands in the Northwest. Freddy is an experienced teacher and workshop presenter; he holds a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of Oregon.

Advisors for Music from the Continent of Africa

Dr. Abimbola Cole Kai-Lewis

Music from the Continent of Africa

Dr. Cole Kai-Lewis is an Ethnomusicologist with a passion for merging music and arts outside of traditional academic…

Dr. Janine Tiffe

Music from the Continent of Africa

Professor Tiffe received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Florida State University and is a professor at Kent…

Dr. Damascus Kafumbe

Music from the Continent of Africa

Professor Kafumbe is a performing Ethnomusicologist, Professor at Middlebury College…

Dr. Abimbola Cole Kai-Lewis

Music from the Continent of Africa

Dr. Cole Kai-Lewis is an Ethnomusicologist with a passion for merging music and arts outside of traditional academic settings. Kai-Lewis has a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her leadership strengths include cultivating student-community partnerships that enhance learning, instruction, and accelerate professional development. She is currently working as a middle school teacher in New York and brings expertise in student engagement, classroom instruction grounded in strategic curriculum design and program development for diverse audiences.

Dr. Janine Tiffe

Music from the Continent of Africa

Professor Tiffe received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Florida State University and is a professor at Kent State University School of Music, where she directs the KSU African Ensemble and KSU Steel Band and teaches courses on world and popular music. Dr. Tiffe’s research interests include the African diaspora, particularly the Trinidadian steel band, as well as musical migration, transmission, pedagogy and education.

Dr. Damascus Kafumbe

Music from the Continent of Africa

Professor Kafumbe is a performing Ethnomusicologist, Professor at Middlebury College, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, composer and instrument technician from Uganda. He holds a B.A. in Music from Makerere University as well as an M.M. and Ph.D. in Musicology from Florida State University. Professor Kafumbe specializes in the music of East Africa. His research interests span diverse fields, including African studies, Ethnomusicology, performance, history, politics, ritual, and social organization.

Staff

Our staff are the heart and soul of Music Workshop. From developing programs and producing course materials to raising support and advocating for our teachers and students, these devoted individuals drive Music Workshop’s mission forward every day.

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Amy Richter

Founder/Executive Director

Amy Richter was born and raised in Portland Oregon. She has an educational background from Whittier College…

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Amy Hall

Program Manager

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Amy Hall has lived in several parts of the country including Washington, New York…

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Imani Rose

Program Facilitator

Imani Rose was raised in Sacramento, California and moved to Long Beach, California to attend undergrad at…

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Marvin Kaiser

Program Advisor

Marvin A. Kaiser is Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State University, Portland…

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Melanie

“Maestro Girl” and Virtual Assemblies Host

Melanie is currently a high school student that has been working with Music…

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Amy Richter

Founder/Executive Director

Amy Richter was born and raised in Portland Oregon. She has an educational background from Whittier College in Music Therapy and has been a musician since the age of six. Amy also has 20 years of marketing experience with a strong emphasis on project management. During a 10 year career at adidas, Amy directly managed marketing initiatives that contained budgets between $3-12 million. Amy served as a board member for Camp Ukandu, a camp for children with cancer for 5 years and volunteered at the camp for 13 years. In 2010/2011 she participated as marketing committee member for Salud, an organization who supports medical care for seasonal vineyard workers. Amy has two children in the public school system and has volunteered at her children’s schools for the past eleven years. Amy has taught over 800 Music Workshop classes for students K-8th grade.

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Amy Hall

Program Manager

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Amy Hall has lived in several parts of the country including Washington, New York and South Carolina. She holds an Associate’s degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Seattle and a BA in History from the University of Puget Sound. A varied history of working experience, including marketing, accounting and self-employment, help make her an all-around “team player”. Additionally, Amy has given her time and talent on working committees of multiple charitable organizations. She has two teenagers that keep her busy and inspired. Involved with Music Workshop from its inception as a volunteer, she joined the payroll part time in 2016 as the Program Facilitator. After transitioning to full time in 2020, she is currently working at Music Workshop in the Program Manager role.

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Imani Rose

Program Facilitator

Imani Rose was raised in Sacramento, California and moved to Long Beach, California to attend undergrad at California State University, Long Beach. During her time as student she worked as a Social Media Manager for the department of Journalism and Public Relations. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 2021 she moved from California to Portland, Oregon in search of new adventures. Her passion for the performing arts guides her life. Throughout her life she has studied piano and vocal pedagogy. She also enjoys thrift shopping for vintage clothing and antique home goods.

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Marvin Kaiser

Program Advisor

Marvin A. Kaiser is Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon where he served for 17 years. He followed this work by serving as the CEO of Mary’s Woods at Marylhurst, a Life Plan Community located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, for five and one-half years, retiring from that position in 2016. He served as an Encore Fellow for Music Workshop through June of 2019 and continues to support Music Workshop as our program and board advisor.

Dr. Kaiser has served as staff fellow and consultant to the United Nations Office at Vienna, Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, as a staff fellow and consultant to the United States Agency for International Development and to the House Select Committee on Aging, United States House of Representatives.

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Melanie

“Maestro Girl” and Virtual Assemblies Host

Melanie is currently a high school student that has been working with Music Workshop as the voice of Maestro Girl for over 5 years. While continuing her work as Maestro Girl, she is taking on a new role as the host of our Soundwaves series. She is active in her school in academics, theater and sports.

Board of Directors

Join us! We are looking for enthusiastic and bold music-lovers to help direct our organization on the Music Workshop Board of Directors. Will you lend your talents and ideas to our cause? Contact amy@musicworkshopedu.org for details.

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Ann Gerson

Director

Ann Gerson is originally from Winnipeg Canada. Ann attended the University of Manitoba for graduate school…

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Mary Stein

Director, Treasurer

Mary Stein has been a bookkeeper for many local businesses in Oregon for over 35 years. She is the grandmother…

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Kevin Corcoran

Director

Kevin Corcoran has been in the Employee Benefits and Health Insurance industry for over 15 years and is currently the…

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Dave Squire

Director

Dave was raised in the small Southern Oregon town of Ashland and is a third generation Oregonian. He bought…

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Amy Richter

President

Amy Richter was born and raised in Portland Oregon. She has an educational background from Whittier College…

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Laura Strickland

Director

Laura Strickland was born in Portland, but spent most of her formative childhood living on Maui. Exposed to a…

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Jessika Smith

Director

Before moving to Oregon in 2012, Jessika grew up in Spokane, Washington and learned early on that music was going…

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Alicia Sansom

Director

Alicia has a strong background in performing arts, including vocal/choral performance, piano, and musical…

Akshay Gupta

Director

Akshay Gupta has spent his career in high tech, including building Corning(R) Gorilla(R) Glass into a global ingredient…

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Ann Gerson

Director

Ann Gerson is originally from Winnipeg Canada. Ann attended the University of Manitoba for graduate school obtaining her PhD in Clinical Psychology. After practicing for 4 years, she moved into school psychology and eventually administration. She spent the last 25 years as a public elementary and middle school principal in Salt Lake City, Portland Public Schools and Lake Oswego. Ann is the mother of 2 and grandmother of 2. Other volunteer work includes Urban Tour Group treasurer ; Rosemary Anderson High School advisory board; Kizamani fundraising group and serves on multiple committees at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

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Mary Stein

Director, Treasurer

Mary Stein has been a bookkeeper for many local businesses in Oregon for over 35 years. She is the grandmother of two children who are currently in elementary and middle school. She was a teacher in the public elementary school system for six years and substitute taught for three years. Recently, she has been a volunteer in the public elementary school system.

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Kevin Corcoran

Director

Kevin Corcoran has been in the Employee Benefits and Health Insurance industry for over 15 years and is currently the Regional Sales Director for Pacific Source Health Plans in Washington. Kevin also serves on Community and Industry Boards at a local level including his role as Board Chair at Summit Dog Services. Kevin lives in Bellevue, Washington with his wife and two teenage children, one in high school and one in middle school. Kevin is passionate about the role music plays in our lives, throughout our life’s journey.

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Dave Squire

Director

Dave was raised in the small Southern Oregon town of Ashland and is a third generation Oregonian. He bought his first guitar in 1961.

From high school Dave went to Oregon State University where he met and married his wife Carol in 1966 and graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1967. Dave started his professional career as a design engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Ames Research Center in California. He quickly returned to Oregon with his wife and three kids in 1969 as a design engineer for Tektronix. He went on to work as an engineering executive at many local high-tech companies.

Dave partially retired from high tech in 2014 and does some business development consulting but mostly volunteers on several boards of non-profits involved in STEM education.

Dave’s guiding light, Carol, passed away in 2015 but he is supported by his three children’s families (including four excellent grandchildren) and his friends. His hobbies are anything with kids and grandchildren, music (guitar, banjo and singing) and hanging out with friends at his small ranch in Tygh Valley, Oregon.

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Amy Richter

President

Amy Richter was born and raised in Portland Oregon. She has an educational background from Whittier College in Music Therapy and has been a musician since the age of six. Amy also has 20 years of marketing experience with a strong emphasis on project management. During a 10 year career at adidas, Amy directly managed marketing initiatives that contained budgets between $3-12 million. Amy served as a board member for Camp Ukandu, a camp for children with cancer for 5 years and volunteered at the camp for 13 years. In 2010/2011 she participated as marketing committee member for Salud, an organization who supports medical care for seasonal vineyard workers. Amy has two children in the public school system and has volunteered at her children’s schools for the past eleven years. Amy has taught over 800 Music Workshop classes for students K-8th grade.

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Laura Strickland

Director

Laura Strickland was born in Portland, but spent most of her formative childhood living on Maui. Exposed to a plethora of musical genres from an early age, her parents and older brothers instilled in her a deep appreciation for the positive role music can play in a person’s life. Laura enjoyed a 15 year career in Graphic Design at Nike. She has two children who attend schools in Beaverton School District and is an active volunteer in her community. She is passionate about the role music plays in connecting people and their cultures, and is a firm believer that music enriches the soul.

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Jessika Smith

Director

Before moving to Oregon in 2012, Jessika grew up in Spokane, Washington and learned early on that music was going to be a vital part of her life going forward. She earned her bachelor’s degree in K-12 Music Education from Eastern Washington University while simultaneously performing and recording on saxophone regularly with the Bob Curnow Big Band, Latin band Milonga, the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, and more.

Jessika and her partner Kyle moved to Eugene Oregon in order for her to earn her master‘s degree in Jazz Composition. As a teaching fellow at UO she had opportunities to continue teaching, and had the opportunity to perform abroad at the Montreux, Umbria, and Vienne Jazz Festivals. In 2015, Jessika released her first album of original compositions and arrangements for large jazz ensemble with the PJCE (Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble) record label.

From 2015-2019 Jessika taught K-8 general music and band in Eugene while also organizing and writing for the Eugene Composer’s Big Band and the Jessika Smith Big Band, and while writing and arranging for the PJCE, The Shedd Institute, and for personal commissions.

In 2019 Jessika accepted a position teaching in the Parkrose School District and relocated to Portland, Oregon. She currently teaches 6th-8th grade general music and band, and directs the Parkrose HS Jazz Band. Jessika firmly believes that music can change a child‘s life and that relevant and vibrant music education is an essential and vital part of all students’ education.

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Alicia Sansom

Director

Alicia has a strong background in performing arts, including vocal/choral performance, piano, and musical theater. She graduated from BYU-Idaho with a degree in Social Studies Education and spent her early career teaching high school Honors History. She is currently working on her MBA with an emphasis in Executive Leadership at Whitworth University, and works for PacificSource Health Plans handling Account Management for WA and the Inland NW. Although she is no longer in public education, her passion for music and education are a centric piece of her home life as in her spare time she teaches piano to her four children, and volunteers with the schools supporting them in their performances and musical endeavors.

Akshay Gupta

Director

Akshay Gupta has spent his career in high tech, including building Corning(R) Gorilla(R) Glass into a global ingredient brand. During his tenure at Corning Gorilla Glass he integrated music as a key element to connect the brand to consumers in a meaningful way that can have a positive impact. That led him to discovering Playing For Change with whom he built a multi-year relationship across the world. He also worked with artists like Gin Wigmore and the Imagine Dragons. Akshay’s belief is that music is a universal language and bringing it to children and young adults can make a positive difference in this world.

Join our community

Let’s work together to make inspirational music education accessible for all.