People: Our Staff


Meet The Team

Jazz House Kids has a tremendous band of professionals who keep the Jazz House humming. Meet the people who bring the Jazz House to life each and every day.

LEADERSHIP

Melissa Walker President & Founder  

Melissa Walker Founder of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

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

Samantha Way-Lory Executive Assistant to Founder + President

Samantha Way-LorySam joined JAZZ HOUSE KiDS in 2016 as Melissa’s Executive Assistant.  Originally from London, England, she relocated to the U.S. having worked at Sony Music Europe as International Promotion Manager for many years.  Joining her husband, Dave Lory, in New York and later moving to Montclair, where she now resides with Dave and her two daughters Charlotte and Lily.

ARTS + EDUCATION

Ted Chubb – Director of Cultural Programming + Jazz House Summer Workshop

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Ted Chubb - Director of Summer Workshop and Cultural Programming at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

Ted began his career performing in his native Ohio with mid-west legends, organist Bobby Floyd and saxophonist Gene Walker. He received his MM from Rutgers University and studied with master trumpet teacher William “Prof.” Fielder. From 2006-2011, he toured with the Tony Award-winning show “Jersey Boys”. Ted co-led the critically acclaimed quartet “New Tricks”, which released two recordings and toured throughout the U.S. He has performed with artists such as Wallace Roney, Christian McBride, Winard Harper, Don Braden, Melissa Walker, Bruce Williams, Billy Hart, Tia Fuller, Vincent Gardner, Dave Stryker, Josh Evans, Lenny White, Jerome Jennings, and Cecil Brooks III. Ted served as Jazz House Director of Music from 2012 -2015.  Ted continues in his role as the Director of the JAZZ HOUSE Summer Workshop, overseeing the expansion of our flagship program to include students from across the nation and internationally.  He also heads up our various music partnerships to ensure our students receive a rich and comprehensive musical experience.  Ted lives in Jersey City with his wife Rachel.

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Markus Gottschlich – Director Of Music Operations

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Markus Gottschlich - Director of Music Operations at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

Austrian born pianist, composer and Steinway Artist Markus Gottschlich has been an active performer, presenter and music educator in the US as well as overseas. He served as the Artistic Director of the Miami Beach Jazz Festival and as the Executive Director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop before joining the JAZZ HOUSE KiDS family.

Galo Inga – Arts + Education Associate

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Galo Inga - Arts + Education Associate

Allison Russo – CHiCA Power®  Program Manager

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Allison Russo - CHiCA Power® Program Manager at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

Allison joined JAZZ HOUSE KiDS in July 2014, beginning her foray into arts administration. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2011 with a B.M. in music education and a minor in writing, Allison taught elementary school band in Ithaca, New York, for three years. While there, she taught over 130 students each year, oversaw student teachers from Ithaca College, and created three school-wide dinosaur-themed art projects titled “Jurassic Arts.” She also enjoyed three summers working with the NYSSSA School of Orchestral Studies as the Head Counselor, theory teacher, and woodwind quartet coach. Allison completed her Master’s in Music Education through Boston University in 2015. Along with two of her friends, she bakes professionally with Trio Dolce Desserts (triodolcedesserts.com). She lives in West Orange with her husband and college sweetheart, Ben.

Nathan Eklund – Coordinator of Big Bands

Jennifer Verdonck – Director of Event Management

Jennifer has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and in admissions/recruitment for a private high school. No stranger to the world of large events, she spent over ten years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. She has had the pleasure of hosting an experiential marketing tour celebrating the Parade, which appeared all over the country, including Universal Studios, FL, and Superbowl XLI. Jennifer earned a BFA from Montclair State University, where she studied Acting and Musical Theatre and, in 2015, completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. Jennifer is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

Nathan Eklund- Coordinator of Big Bands at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

A masterful trumpeter, Nathan has been part of seminal ensembles of today, including the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, and Roy Hargrove Big Band, among others. Also an accomplished educator, he serves as an adjunct professor at New Jersey City University. Nathan’s journey at Jazz House Kids began as a teaching artist at the Abington Avenue School in Newark, and he later led various ensembles at JAZZ HOUSE KIDS.  Nathan served as Jazz House Director of Music from 2016 -2018.  Today, Nathan is the Coordinator of the Alumni Teaching Assistant program at the JAZZ HOUSE Summer Workshop and serves as our Coordinator of the Big Band program. In these roles, Nathan brings his passion for youth education and this great music, as well as a host of skills, including incredible compassion and leadership.

STUDENT SERVICES

Daniela Gonzalez - Jazz House KiDs Manager of Student Services

Daniela Gonzalez

Manager of Student Services

Daniela Gonzales joined JAZZ HOUSE KiDS in 2019 from Felician University where she led the admissions department and earned her Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She completed her undergraduate studies at William Paterson University.  As JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ manager of student services, Daniela focuses on student recruitment, family engagement, account management and event planning. She is also an integral part of the JAZZ HOUSE Summer Workshop and the MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL teams.

Carlos Juncal 

Front Desk Associate

 

OPERATIONS + EVENTS

JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Senior Director of Operations

Jessica Goldstein

Human Resources

Jessica joined the Jazz House in June 2019. Previously she was the Administrative Supervisor at WithumSmith+Brown, a public accounting and tax advisory firm.  Jessica joined Withum after a merger with Fried & Kowgios LLP in 2016, where Jessica had been Director of Operations for over a decade. She has served on the auction committee for Share Our Strength’s annual “Taste of New York” event as well as worked with other arts non-profits including Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Jessica has a degree in Theater Arts Management from Ithaca College and went to grade school and high school nearby at Montclair Kimberley Academy.

Jennifer Verdonck Director of Event Management at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS

Jennifer Verdonck

Director of Event Management +
Montclair Jazz Festival 

Jennifer is no stranger to the world of large events, she spent over 10 years in various roles for Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group, has worked with the Walt Disney Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival and more.

In 2015, Jennifer completed her master’s degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. She is an advocate for the circus arts and a recreational aerialist, and enjoys traveling with her husband Bill and beloved dog Zoey.

MARKETING

Nancy Klein

PR + Media 

Callie Morton

Callie Morton

Digital Media, Website + Collateral

Sharon Skettini

Sharon Skettini

Social Media

DEVELOPMENT

Eric Delmar

Donor Liaison

Eric has worked in software training and development for the last 20 years, and now finds himself happily in the non-profit world, working on challenges closer to the heart.

“I love the Jazz House. Every day’s assignments are different, and the staff is smart, welcoming and fun. Best job benefit: hearing live music in the practice rooms.”

When out of the office, as a photographer for the last 35 years, Eric is likely to have a camera at-hand, always eager to capture a moment.

David Thomas

Gift Management & Research 

David is a former journalist and editor and is currently a nonprofit development professional. He has interviewed numerous entertainers and politicians, having written for such publications as Inside Music, Chemical Business, CCM Magazine and American Gospel Magazine.  A multi-faceted communications professional, he has developed communications initiatives for organizations such as the Newark Public Schools and the African Entertainment Awards USA. David is also a talented pianist and vocalist and currently plays for several churches in Northern and Central New Jersey.

FINANCE
Khalilah

Khalilah Sharif

Billing + Payroll Coordinator

Rhonda Fitzgibbons

Interim Full Charge Bookkeeper