Board of Directors
Melissa Walker, President & Founder
An acclaimed jazz vocalist and recording artist, Melissa has performed internationally for close to 20 years. In addition to recording five solo albums and appearing as a guest artist on numerous CDs, she is the featured vocalist on bass virtuoso and band leader Christian McBride’s 2012 GRAMMY-winning album The Good Feeling.
In 2002, Melissa’s passion for performing and working with young people led her to found Jazz House Kids, and she has proved to be a visionary leader whose work has been recognized nationally. Melissa was recently chosen as a 2014 Best 50 Women in Business Honoree in New Jersey and in 2013, the Jazz Journalists Association presented her with a Jazz Hero Award, given each year to “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities.” The previous year, she and McBride received the African American Classical Music Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the Spelman College National Alumnae Association. In 2011, Melissa was honored with a Red Cross Award from the Montclair, Glen Ridge and Nutley, New Jersey Chapter for “significant impact on the quality of life through volunteer and humanitarian efforts, ” and she received the Community Service Award from BlueWaveNJ.
Walker is a graduate of Brown University and in 2013 completed The Prudential Foundation Nonprofit Executive Fellows Program at the Institute For Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School. Originally from Alberta, Canada, Melissa lives in Montclair with her husband Christian McBride and their two dogs, Ella and Jesse.
Christian McBride, Artistic Chair
An internationally acclaimed bassist, composer, and arranger, Christian is also an active and avid jazz educator and arts administrator. With over 350 recordings to his name, Christian is one of the most sought after and widely recognized jazz musicians of his time. Christian has worked with the best of the best in the world of jazz—Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Betty Carter, McCoy Tyner, and Pat Metheny, among them. He’s collaborated with Sting, James Brown, The Roots, Queen Latifah, Bruce Hornsby, Kathleen Battle, Paul Simon, Isaac Hayes, Renée Fleming and many other luminaries of the pop, rock, R&B and classical worlds.
Christian has recorded 12 albums as a leader, including the 2012 GRAMMY Award-winning The Good Feeling, his first big band debut on Mack Avenue Records. He followed up with People Music with his Inside Straight quartet and Grammy nominated Out Here with the Christian McBride Trio, featuring two rising jazz stars, drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. and pianist Christian Sands.
Christian is artistic advisor of the James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, which debuted in 2012 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and he currently serves as NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor. He is the artistic director of the Montclair Jazz Festival, produced by Jazz House Kids.
Fred Smagorinsky, Board Chair
Fred is the CEO of Arctic Glacier, a leading producer of packaged ice in Canada and the United States. Prior to joining Arctic Glacier, he was CEO of Marcal Manufacturing, which produces 100% recycled household paper products, and Schofield Stone, a quarrier, fabricator and marketer of natural stone products.
After earning a BSE at Princeton and an MBA from Yale, Fred was a management consultant with McKinsey & Co. for four years and then spent 14 years with Sealed Air Corporation, a global market leader in food/specialty packaging, in operations, sales/marketing and general management roles. He then was named Chief Operating Officer of Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that addresses the dramatic under-representation of minorities in leadership positions in corporations, entrepreneurial ventures and nonprofit organizations. Fred, who has served on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations, plays bass and has participated in Jazz House Kids adult ensembles. He is married to Holly English, has two daughters and has been a resident of Montclair since 1992.
Margarethe Petro Laurenzi, Vice Chair
Margarethe is Director of Leadership Grantmaking and Engagement at the Community Foundation of New Jersey. Prior to joining the foundation in 2014, she served as a development officer at Rutgers University Foundation. Previously, she led a successful writing and communications consultancy, helping corporate, educational and non-profit organizations and their leaders achieve their strategic and development goals. Her clients included Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Fordham University, The Asia Business Council, The Central Park Conservancy, Princeton University’s Alumni Council, and East Side House Settlement, among others. Margarethe has managed and executed projects ranging from books, studies, and annual reports to grant proposals, bylined articles, and speeches. She was the editorial assistant and project manager for Jeffrey Sachs’ New York Times bestselling book, The End of Poverty (2005).
Margarethe comes to Jazz House Kids with more than 12 years of experience on the board (including four as president) of the Medical Needs Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial relief to families in distress from catastrophic medical conditions. She has also been active in promoting historic preservation, oral history and cultural arts locally, and in alumni affairs for her alma mater, Princeton. A classically trained pianist, Margarethe lives in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, with her husband Mark and their son Alex, who plays alto saxophone and is a Jazz House Kids musician. Their daughters, Christina and Isabelle, are also musicians who play classical piano and jazz guitar and violin, respectively.
Susan Korones Gifford, Secretary
Susan is a freelance writer and editor whose byline has appeared in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Parents, Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, among others. A graduate of Princeton University, she joined Cosmopolitan after college as an editorial assistant, eventually becoming a senior editor and music editor at the magazine. She worked as an entertainment editor at the Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Florida, and as a senior editor at Redbook magazine. Susan also serves on the board of Succeed2Gether, an arm of BlueWaveNJ. She and her husband Chris live in Montclair, where they raised their daughter Katie and son Henry.
Anuj Uppal, Treasurer
Anuj is Vice President, Client Services at Xybion Corporation.
Hilary Lane Apicella
Hilary is the Senior Vice President of Litigation and Information Governance at NBC Universal.
Roberta is Co-Owner of Keller Williams Realty, NJ Metro Group.
Sandor is the President of Remote Digital Media (RDM).
Currently an independent consultant, Amy is a seasoned executive with a track record of success in health care and not-for-profit cultural institutions. Amy’s 30 years experience in health plan leadership and employee benefits has been predominantly with United Health Group, where she served as the Regional CEO for both the Southeastern and Northeastern United States, and as the National President of Key Accounts (middle market) customer segment.
Amy, who holds a BA from Pomona College and an MBA from the University of Southern California, recently worked at Jazz at Lincoln Center with responsibility for international business development. In that role she led the opening of the first Lincoln Center branded venue outside of New York, in Qatar. As an independent consultant, Amy now works on projects in the health care and arts worlds, specializing in business development and strategic partnerships. She is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Affinity Health Plan, a Medicaid health plan in the Bronx with a billion dollars in annual revenue, and Assistant Secretary on the Executive Trustee Board of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, an 800-bed teaching hospital in Miami Beach. Amy recently moved to Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, jazz saxophonist Myron Walden.
Neal is the Owner / President at Manhattan Mechanical Contractors.
D. Nicholas Miceli
D. Nicholas Miceli has worked at TD Bank for 16 years. He is currently President of the bank’s Central New Jersey market consisting of Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties. He is responsible for Regional Banking and Small Business Banking.
During his 26 year banking career, he has been featured in numerous financial articles and has also appeared on PBS/13WNET spotlight “Inside Trenton”, “One on One” and “NJ Capitol Report” discussing the State of Banking in New Jersey. He hosts the TD Bank/Star Ledger Road to Personal Wealth Conference focusing on financial literacy. Active in the community, Miceli is Board Chairman of Family Intervention Services, a Board Member of Rutgers Business School Advisory Board, WBGO Radio, Boys and Girls Club of NJ, St. Joe’s School for the Blind, NJ Performing Arts Center Business Partners Committee, NJ Ballet and a Trustee of The Newark Museum. He is also a Board Member of the NJ Bankers Association. He is a resident of River Edge, NJ and a graduate of Rutgers University.
Doug is a Senior Vice President at North Coast Brewing Company.
Bryon is the Director of Macy’s Big Ticket Visual.
Terry is the Managing Director of Private Banking at JP Morgan Chase.
Rose Cali, philanthropist
Chris Gifford, creator and executive producer, “Dora the Explorer” and “Dora and Friends Into the City”
S. Epatha Merkerson, award-winning actor
Nader Tavakoli, Chairman and CEO, Eagle Rock Capital Management
John Werner, screenwriter/director and creative director/owner, Howl at the Moon Creative
Monty Alexander, jazz pianist
Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz singer/songwriter, NPR show host
Chick Corea, jazz pianist, keyboardist, composer
Al Jarreau, jazz singer
Angelique Kidjo, singer/songwriter, activist, UN Goodwill Ambassador
Tommy LiPuma, music producer
Christian McBride, jazz bassist and composer
Pat Metheny, jazz guitarist and composer
Maceo Parker, jazz and funk saxophonist
Dianne Reeves, jazz singer
David Sanborn, jazz saxophonist
Wayne Shorter, jazz saxophonist and composer
Esperanza Spalding, jazz bassist, cellist, singer, composer
Fred Wesley, jazz and funk trombonist
Ondine Landa Abramson
Mary Curtin Creaser, Community Health & Communications Consultant, Clara Maass Medical Center, Barnabas Health
Jason DeSalvo, CEO, Clear Mountain Partners LLC
Bruce Heckman, MD
Roseann Shaiman, psychotherapist