BOARD & STAFF
Susan Smith Leland
Susan Smith Leland recently retired from a 33-year career in education serving as the CFO for several school districts and most recently serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Support Services for the Renton School District. She earned her BA from Evergreen College in Liberal Arts and Masters of Education from Seattle University in School Business Administration. During her career she served as a board member and President of the Washington Association of School Business Officials (WASBO), created and served on the Certification Governance Board and was a member of the OSPI School District Accounting Advisory Committee.
In addition, Susan attended the Social Change Institute on Cortes Island in B.C. developing new ideas for school/community engagement in the areas of the environment and social justice. Susan was awarded the Outstanding Student of the Year in the School of Education while at Seattle University. She was also awarded the highest honor from WASBO, their Outstanding Service Award and also received their Unsung Heroine Award, given by the Executive Director of the organization. Susan is a flute player and was a member of the Seattle All-City Band for five years. She is married to the love of her life, her husband Rod and has 3 children. They live in Auburn on Lake Killarney.
Leah Bradford Francis
Calandra Childers works to champion the cultural sector as a vital pillar of a healthy and vibrant community. She prides herself in operating transparently, promoting racial and social justice, and turning visions into action plans. Through positions with the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, the Seattle Art Museum, the Renton Chamber of Commerce and others, she has more than 15 years’ experience in policy and program development, communications and branding, advocacy, change management, and team development. Most recently as the Deputy Director at Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, she oversaw and managed the transformation and cultural activation of ARTS at King Street Station, a cultural hub featuring a 10,000 sq ft gallery, artist studio, meeting spaces, and offices in Downtown Seattle; and the development of relief and recovery programs administered by the City to the cultural sector during the COVID pandemic.
Calandra holds an English degree from Whitman College. She serves on the Boards of Directors for Key to Change and YWCA Seattle King Snohomish, and acts as a Development and Community Engagement Advisor for the DoubleXposure Podcast. Calandra enjoys most non-motorized outdoor activities, and is especially thrilled to find herself in a hammock with a book, in the company of her dogs and husband.
Music Instructor & Coach
Noah Geller is the Concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony. He comes to Seattle from the Kansas City Symphony, where he was Concertmaster since 2012. Prior to this, he held posts in The Philadelphia Orchestra as a first violin section member and later as Acting Assistant Concertmaster. He attended The Juilliard School for both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees and has also performed with many chamber and festival organizations around the U.S. including the Marlboro Music Festival, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center, and here in the Pacific Northwest at the Olympic Music Festival in Port Townsend, Washington.
Geller and his wife, percussionist Mari Yoshinaga, and their dog, Monkey, reside in Seattle. He performs on a violin by Justin Hess made in 2020.
Music Instructor and Coach
Music Instructor & Coach
Intern - Music Instructor
Kellen Cribbs is a third year undergraduate at the University of Washington studying Music Education and History. Kellen grew up in Spokane and has played the Violin for 17 years. Notable violin pedagogues he has studied under include Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, Seattle University professor and Key to Change instructor Dr. Quinton Morris and University of Washington violin professor Ron Patterson. Currently, Kellen serves as an intern at the Key to Change Studio in Renton, where he teaches private lessons and assists with teaching group string classes. Outside of music, Kellen enjoys spending time with his wife Cami and his dog Weilee.
Composer in Residence
Multi-GRAMMY nominated violinist Curtis Stewart enjoys an eclectic career bouncing between various realms of music: from MTV specials with Wyclef Jean and sold out shows at Madison Square Garden with Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and Seal, to stints at the Kennedy center with the Jimmy Heath Big Band and performance installations at the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Curtis has performed as a classical soloist at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, as a special guest soloist/curator with the New York Philharmonic “Bandwagon,” held chamber music residencies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Sawdust, and appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival. His ensembles PUBLIQuartet and The Mighty Third Rail realize a vision to find personal and powerful connections between styles, cultures and musics. Curtis has worked with today’s forward thinking musicians including Henry Threadgill, Jessie Montgomery, Alicia Hall-Moran and Jason Moran, Mark O’Connor, members of International Contemporary Ensemble, Billy Childs, Diane Monroe, the JACK quartet, members of Snarky Puppy, Don Byron, Linda Oh, Ari Hoenig, Matt Wilson, among many others.
An avid teacher, he has taught Chamber Music and “Cultural Equity and Performance Practice” at the Juilliard School, Directed the Contemporary Chamber Music program at the Perlman Music Program, served on the Board of Concert Artist Guild, Directed several orchestras and all levels of music theory at the Laguardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts for ten years, and is currently the Chamber Music and New Juilliard Ensemble Manager at the Juilliard School, in New York City. Curtis graduated magna cum laude from the Eastman School of Music with a BA of Mathematics from the University of Rochester.
Curtis Stewart’s Composer-in-Residence post is generously sponsored by Classical King FM 98.1.
Executive Assistant and Office Manager
Shelby Denckla (she/her) is the Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Key to Change Studio. Fond of solving problems and finding solutions, Shelby has made a career of providing efficient and effective administrative support to executives and teams. While working in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, Shelby has led projects, managed events, and coordinated staff both locally and abroad. Recently, Shelby served as Secretary to the Board of Directors at the Institute for Ecological Civilization.
Shelby is from the Pacific Northwest. She grew up in Everett and attended Everett High School where she was class president – Go Gulls! She went on to attend Franklin University in Switzerland where she studied history and international relations. Now she lives in Seattle and on a sunny day you can catch her painting watercolor by the shores of Lake Washington.
Quenton Baker is a poet and educator from Seattle. His work has appeared in The Offing, Jubilat, Vinyl, The Rumpus and elsewhere. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and the recipient of the 2018 Arts Innovator Award from Artist Trust. He was a 2019 Robert Rauschenberg Artist in Residence and a 2021 NEA Fellow. He is the author of This Glittering Republic (Willow Books, 2016) and we pilot the blood (The 3rd Thing, 2021).