Diane Austin, President, Board of Directors, has been a member of the Project STEP Board of Directors since 2012. She is in her 23rd year at Lasell College (Newton, MA) where she is the Vice President of Student Affairs. Prior to that position, Diane worked at Bentley University for 18 years: eight years in the Office of Counseling and Student Development; and ten years serving as a student development administrator. Diane earned both her B.A. in English and her M.S. in Counseling from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, where she was honored as a Distinguished Visiting Alumna (2004). A frequent member of regional accrediting teams for institutions of higher education, in her 44 years working in higher education, she has made in excess of 125 professional presentations, and has worked as a consultant to various college and university campuses.
A long-time subscriber to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Diane is an Overseer Emerita of the BSO, having served as an Overseer for the maximum of 12 years; she also served for three years as the President of the Boston Symphony Association of Volunteers. She is the Immediate Past President of the SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association; and she recently joined the Board of the Bidwell House Museum (Monterey, MA).
Gabriella Sanna, Executive Director, began working at Project STEP in 2016. Sanna’s particular expertise for the last 19 years has been in music education and cultural administration. In her previous role at the Dedham School of Music, Sanna built the program from the ground up, strengthening the organization’s community relations, fiscal support, and artistic programs and partnerships. Prior to Dedham, Sanna worked at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, MA from 2004-2010 as the Chair of the Chamber Music Department. She was the Artistic Director of the Steinway Society of Massachusetts Piano Competition from 2003-2010. Sanna herself, a classically trained pianist, has performed extensively in Europe and in the USA as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles, although recently her focus has shifted to arts administration.
As Executive Director of Project STEP, Gabriella concentrates on sustaining and growing the program’s financial strength and public presence in order to continue to provide the finest opportunities for Project STEP students. She is responsible for all operational, financial and managerial aspects of the organization and works closely with the Board of Directors to help set policy and direction. She works with the artistic staff to plan and implement programs, and with the Communications & Administrative Coordinator to maintain open lines of communication with our supporters and with parents, faculty, Board, and students.
Mariana Green Hill, Artistic Advisor and violinist, began studying violin at the age of four. At age nine she auditioned into Project STEP, and under its auspices Ms. Green Hill studied at the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory School. Her teachers included Farhoud Moshfegh, Marylou Speaker Churchill, then Principal Second Violin of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Tamara Smirnova, Assistant Concert Master of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Green Hill received Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the Juilliard School, and a Professional Studies Diploma from the Mannes College of Music. Ms. Green Hill is a Second, Third and Best Tone Award Winner of the Sphinx Competition and placed First in the Boston Symphony Orchestra Youth Competition, the 17th Annual NAACP Act-So Competition, and the Chinese American Art Society Competition. Ms. Green Hill has been a featured guest soloist with the Memphis, New Jersey, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, the Boston Pops, Symphony Pro Musica, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Civic Symphony, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and the Cape Ann Symphony.
Ms. Green Hill is a member of the Young Eight, a group of emerging African American artists who perform chamber music throughout the country. She is concertmaster of the Soulful Symphony in Baltimore. For eight years she was the second violinist of the Amaryllis String Quartet. She currently teaches at the Boston Arts Academy and Orchard Gardens Pilot School, as well as privately. She is Artistic Advisor of Project STEP where she consults with the Artistic Director and Executive Director on issues pertaining to the Youth Preparatory, Preparatory and Pre-College Divisions. She also assists with content and student selection from the FOCUS program. In conjunction with the Artistic Director and the Executive Director, she helps develop curriculum for the program. She is a resource for parents and faculty.
Ali Fessler, Communications & Administrative Coordinator, joined the team at Project STEP in the fall of 2014. Originally from the Boston area, Ali grew up playing the cello and participating in a variety of music education programs including the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. She then went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and Anthropology from Brandeis University before completing her Master’s degree in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Past arts experiences include working with and researching several El Sistema-inspired programs in the Boston area, as well as interning with the Boston Public Schools’ Visual and Performing Arts Department. She also spent two summers working for the Five Week Program at Berklee College of Music. Ali’s role at Project STEP includes working closely with the Executive Director and Artistic Director to facilitate all communication with parents, faculty, Board and students.
Matthew Smith, Artistic Coordinator, joined the team at Project STEP in the fall of 2015 and is equally active as a performer and educator. His recent activities include a lecture and recital at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing and a recital and masterclass at the Tianjin Conservatory. In the U.S., he has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is a musician-in-residence at the Boston Center for the Arts as a member of the musician-led chamber orchestra, Palaver Strings. As an educator, he has served as a Teaching Assistant at The Boston Conservatory, and most recently as a Music Educator and Teaching Artist Fellow through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. He received a Master of Music degree in Cello Performance from The Boston Conservatory, where he studied with Andrew Mark, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Arizona State University, where he studied with Thomas Landschoot and graduated summa cum laude.
Leigh C. Kelter, Director of Institutional Relations, served as Project STEP’s Executive Director from 2001-2005, and moved on to specialize in non-profit fundraising in her subsequent position as the Director of Development at the Conservatory Lab Charter School. Her own interest in music began at a young age, when she studied piano and later percussion. In college and graduate school, she studied and performed music from Ghana, West Africa, and completed a master’s degree in ethnomusicology. Leigh’s passion for children’s arts education stemmed from her experiences teaching Ghanaian drumming and dance for groups of 2nd graders in Compton, CA and seeing the positive impact that these activities had on them. Since 2010, Leigh has shared her expertise in grant/development writing and fundraising with non-profits, schools, and individuals who run youth arts and youth development programs, while focusing the majority of her work on Project STEP.
Jodie McMenamin, Manager of Individual Gifts, joined Project STEP in the fall of 2014. For the last seven years Jodie has worked in the arts and culture sector of Boston in development, event planning, and design for various non-profit organizations including the USS Constitution Museum and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her role at Project STEP includes working with the Executive Director, Board of Trustees, and the Communications & Administrative Coordinator to lead a successful campaign of individual support for the organization’s continued growth and stability. In addition to her position with Project STEP, Jodie is a successful urban landscape painter and has exhibited work in over 30 exhibitions in New England. Her art has been featured in Daily Artspace, Apartment Therapy, Boston Weekly Dig, Big Red & Shiny, and Abstraks Magazine. Jodie’s work is on permanent reserve at the Boston Public Library and permanent exhibition at Factory 63, Boston. In addition to her paintings, Jodie is a member of the Fort Point Arts Community and is the Co-Founder and Volunteer Creative Program Director for Glovebox, a non-profit arts organization that brings free and discounted exhibitions, festivals, and programs to the Boston community. She studied Industrial Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, and a Master’s of Science in Art Administration from Boston University.