Diane Austin, President, Board of Directors, has been a member of the Project STEP Board of Directors since 2012. Before retiring in July 2019, she served for 24 years as the Vice President of Student Affairs at Lasell College (Newton, MA). 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 Advisor 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 a member of the SUNY Plattsburgh College Foundation Board of Directors; is a member of the Board of the Bidwell House Museum (Monterey, MA); and served on the Board of the SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association for thirteen years, including two years as the President of the organization.
Alyssa Lee, Executive Director of Project STEP, leads all management and operations of the organization. She works closely with the Board of Directors, the administrative team, and faculty members to develop, implement, and oversee programs to ensure that Project STEP continues to sustainably fulfill its mission.
Alyssa comes to Project STEP with over 15 years of nonprofit experience, including 10 years of executive level experience specifically focusing on community arts programming ranging from positions with community music schools, to arts activist organizations, and professional chamber music ensembles. Throughout her career, Alyssa continues to advocate for local artists in an effort to promote greater civic engagement and economic development.
In between earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Music (applied oboe) from Western Michigan University and a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Boston University, she served in both AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.
Christopher Thibdeau, Artistic Director of Project STEP, is a cellist, conductor, and educator based in Boston, Massachusetts. As the Artistic Director, Christopher works closely with the Executive Director to develop and implement the artistic vision, while leading youth development in line with Project STEP’s mission and core values.
Prior to Boston, Christopher served the metro Atlanta community as the Music Director of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta, the Interim Music Director of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Assistant Conductor of the Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra, the Conductor and Artistic Manager of Orchestras for the Atlanta Music Project, and the Conductor of the Atlanta Chamber Music Festival. He has also served as the Associate Conductor of the Brighton Symphony Orchestra (New York) and the Cover Conductor of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra (Kentucky) and Firelands Symphony Orchestra (Ohio).
Mr. Thibdeau has participated in many conducting workshops and seminars, including the Conductors Retreat at Medomak under the direction of Kenneth Kiesler, the New England Conservatory Summer Institute where he studied under Frank Battisti and Charles Peltz, and the International Conducting Institute with the Round Rock Symphony under Maestro Peter Bay. As a cellist, he has also performed in masterclasses for esteemed cellists, including Steven Doane, Richard Aaron, and Stephen Thomas.
A passionate advocate for music education, Christopher has presented workshops and concerts in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and other areas across the US. He also spent ten days as a guest artist at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul where he taught cello and conducting lessons and also had the opportunity to instruct the first ever female Afghan conductor, Negin Khpolwak.
Mr. Thibdeau began studying the cello at the age of 8 and conducting at the age of 13. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from the Eastman School of Music where he studied cello with Alan Harris and orchestral conducting with Neil Varon, and a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied with Carl Topilow.
Rachel Forbes, Programs and Communications Manager, joined Project STEP in 2019. Rachel is a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in Music Education during the summer of 2019 was the Assistant Head Guide at Tanglewood. Rachel’s role at Project STEP is creating and implementing dynamic enrichment programming for our Core program students and families and provide engaging communication for our community and friends.
Mariana Green Hill, Artistic Advisor, 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.
Leigh 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. She returned to Project STEP in 2010 and has been focusing on foundation, corporate, and government fundraising since then. Serving as Interim Executive Director in fall 2018 strengthened her already deep commitment to the organization. Ms. Kelter received a Master of Arts in ethnomusicology from UCLA and a Bachelor of Arts in music and anthropology from Tufts University.
Jodie McMenamin, Manager of Donor Engagement, joined Project STEP in the fall of 2014. Jodie has worked for over 15 years in the arts and culture sector of Boston in development for various non-profit organizations including the USS Constitution Museum, Arsenal Center for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her role at Project STEP includes working with the Executive Director, and Board of Trustees 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 fine arts painter and has exhibited work in several exhibitions in New England. Her art has been featured in Boston Magazine, Daily Artspace, and Apartment Therapy. Jodie’s work is on permanent reserve at the Boston Public Library, and State Street Bank, and permanent exhibition at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2015 Jodie was nominated through The Boston Foundation for the prestigious Brother Thomas Fellowship and in 2018 and again in 2019 she was honored by The City of Boston as a Fay Chandler Emerging Artist. In addition to her paintings, Jodie is a member of the The National Guild for Community Arts Education, Fort Point Arts Community, and the Dorchester Arts Association. She studied Industrial Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Printmaking and the History of Italian Gardens at the Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence, Italy, 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.