BOARD & STAFF

Board of Directors
Susan Smith Leland President and Treasurer at Key to Change

Susan Smith Leland

President, Treasurer

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.

Alex Diaz

Vice President

By Day: Alex Diaz is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for the web development platform, Webflow (previously Global Marketing Manager at Uber), with 9+ years working across a wide range of industries — from startups, ad agencies, and Fortune 500s — focused on go-to-market strategies, driving the strategic marketing framework among internal groups, and executing growth marketing tactics for products and brands.
By Night: creative cooking enthusiast, amateur mixologist, and observer of global cultures + social behavior around tech, motivation, and communities.
In-between: Executive Committee member for Minds Matter Seattle, member of the UW Communication Department Alumni Board of Advisors, and (previously) a long time advisory board member to Key to Change Studio before joining the Board of Directors.
Brenda Barnes Board Member at Key to Change

Brenda Barnes

Board Member

Brenda Barnes has been a leader in public radio for more than 30 years, serving as CEO of stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Seattle, among others. She has served on the boards of National Public Radio, the public radio think tank Station Resource Group, Greater Public, and other national organizations in the field. She came to Seattle in 2018 to serve as CEO of Classical KING FM after 20 years of leading the classical stations in Southern California and the Bay Area. She is a member of the Community Development Roundtable, Seattle Rotary, the Seattle Chapter of the International Women’s Forum, and a proud member of the board of Key to Change Studio.

Leah Bradford Francis

Board Member

Leah Bradford Francis is a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this role, she focuses on the Education investment portfolio in Washington state. Prior to the Gates Foundation, Leah served as Managing Director, Synergos Advisory. She led Synergos’ global social impact advisory practice guiding foundations, philanthropists and corporations on philanthropic strategy, program design/delivery, and public/private partnerships in developing markets. She oversaw client engagements in South America, Africa and South/Southeast Asia.
Prior to joining Synergos, Leah was President of the Kraft Foods Group Foundation. She led the company’s philanthropic strategy in community partnerships, humanitarian aid and employee civic engagement with a focus on food access and nutrition. In 2014, she was appointed by the Governor to the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. Leah’s philanthropy journey started at the Chicago Community Trust. She served as Program Officer in Community Development overseeing investments in affordable housing, workforce development, community organizing, justice system reform and economic development.
Leah’s career began in management consulting, having worked for both Deloitte and Accenture’s Human Capital practices. In these roles, she provided organizational development, change management, culture transformation, and strategic communications counsel to Fortune 500 companies and federal government clients. Leah also worked with several NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa on growth strategy and program development.
Leah currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cause Strategy Partners and MCE Social Capital. She holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her undergraduate studies in Sociology were completed at the University of Virginia.
Leah Bradford Francis Board Member at Key to Change
Calandra Childers

Calandra Childers

Board Member

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.

Staff
Noah Geller holding a violin

Noah Geller

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.

Geoffrey Liu

Music Instructor and Coach

A software engineer by trade and a musician at heart, Geoffrey Liu began studying piano at the age of 7, and three years later, picked up the violin. He found his passion for classical music at the age of 13, after listening to a recording of Beethoven’s Waldstein piano sonata. Since then, Mr. Liu has been active in his musical community as a pianist, violinist, and violist. In high school, he was the recipient of numerous awards, including a three-time honorable mention at the Northwest Chopin Festival, and a first place prize at the 2012 WMEA Solo and Ensemble Contest. As a result of winning the latter competition, Mr. Liu was invited to perform his solo at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, an experience he still cherishes as one of his most memorable performances.
Mr. Liu continued his music education at the University of Washington, graduating in 2016 with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Music. During his time at the university, he studied piano with Dr. Dainius Vaicekonis, and regularly performed with the UW Symphony Orchestra on violin and keyboard. He was twice the recipient of a music scholarship, and was a finalist in the 2013 UW Concerto Competition.
After college, Mr. Liu moved to California, where he was an accompanist at the Community School of Music and Art (CSMA) in Mountain View, regularly accompanying students of all ages and for a diverse variety of musical styles. He was also a keyboardist, violinist, and violist with Redwood Symphony, an all-volunteer orchestra in the Bay Area known for performing and premiering ambitious works across the musical repertoire.
Aside from his career aspirations, Mr. Liu enjoys hiking, photography, and travel. He currently resides in Seattle, a place he has considered home for the majority of his life.
Geoffrey Liu Music Instructor and Coach at Key to Change
Beth Chu Music Instructor and Coach at Key to Change

Beth Chu

Music Instructor & Coach

Ms. Chu is one of the most sought after young violists of her generation. Before joining the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 2013 as principal, she was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and enjoyed a varied career as a chamber musician and recitalist. Chu still has an avid chamber music career in addition to her role as principal viola, and collaborates with many artists including Gil Shaham, Itzhak Perlman, Joseph Kalichstein, Menahem Pressler, Jaime Laredo, James Ehnes, and members of the Guarneri, Emerson, and Orion quartets. As a recording artist, she has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Tzadik, Naxos, and the CMS Studio Recordings. Chu has performed as soloist with many distinguished conductors including Hannu Lintu, Bramwell Tovey, David Robertson, and James DePreist. During the summer Chu performs and works with young musicians at the Aspen Music Festival and School, National Youth Orchestra-USA, and at the Marlboro Music Festival. In recent years, she has also performed at festivals in Seattle, Washington, Lake Champlain, Vermont, Portland, Maine, as well as Luzerne, Bridgehampton, and Skaneateles, New York.
Beth Guterman Chu received her Artist Diploma at the New England Conservatory studying with Kim Kashkashian, and her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School studying with Masao Kawasaki and Misha Amory. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Jonathan, another violist, and their three children.

Kellen Cribbs

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. 

Kellen Cribbs Headshot
Curtis Stewart with a violin

Curtis Stewart

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.

Shelby Denckla

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

Grants Manager

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).

Advisory Board
 

     Bernard Ablola, Founder, Think Strategy

 

     Stephanie Ellis-Smith, CEO Phila Giving

 

     Vivian Phillips, Arts Consultant

 

     LeAnne Moss, Executive Director of the Renton Regional Community Foundation

 

     Vincent Hernandez, Senior Credit Analyst, PACCAR Financial

 

     Peter Drury, Chief Strategy Officer, Wellspring Family Services

 
 

     Chris Tugwell, Be Well Consulting

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