BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The JTVA Board of Directors is a passionate and dedicated group of people working with tremendous enthusiasm to build the organization. Collectively, they bring decades of experience in the performing arts, finance, marketing, and academia.


Chair - Dr. Paul F. Starrs

Dr. Paul F. Starrs is the Regents and Foundation Professor of Geography at the University of Nevada in Reno, and an accomplished teacher (CASE-Carnegie Professor of the Year in 2005). He is the author of 120 articles and six books on varied themes, including A Field Guide to California Agriculture and Black Rock, about the venue where the famed Burning Man festival takes place annually. Paul enjoys teaching and learning from talented people and the remarkably interesting people who are involved with music. His own appreciation of music is born of his affection for well-staged drama, love of his two talented singing daughters, and his enthusiasm for the beauties of voice, emotion, and entertainment. Of his involvement with JTVA, Paul says, "May the voices sing and the music ring!"

VICE-CHAIR - JAMES GEE

James Gee is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and has spent much of the past ten years performing in musical theatre and opera productions.  He met James Toland as a cast member of Miss Saigon, where James Toland was the vocal director.  Gee is currently a voice student of Mr. Toland, and has recently performed the roles of Spoletta (Tosca) and Goro (Madame Butterfly).  Mr. Gee is a vice-president and finance manager in Wells Fargo's Virtual Channels group, providing financial guidance to the bank's internet and mobile-banking business. He calls Clayton home, and lives with his wife Susan and daughter Kamryn.

Secretary - Dorian Kingman Chong

Dorian Kingman Chong was born in Chicago into a family of musicians and composers.  Appropriately, for the past 40 years, she has been immersed in the highest level of international vocal performance without ever having sung a note!  As the parent of a singer (opera) and as a Board Member, Chair of the Board and recent Honoree of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Dorian brings to the JTVA Board the skills of organizational leadership, strategic thinking, branding, Board governance and fundraising. Her ability to work with diverse constituents, to encourage collaboration and her ability to lead through the evolving changes of an organization are among her most appreciated contributions.  For her day job, Dorian has worked in the field of Children’s Literature as a teacher (San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science), as a children’s librarian (Berkeley Public Library, Oakland Public Library), and as a reviewer of newly published children’s books (School Library Journal, Kirkus). In 2001 she served as a member of the Caldecott Committee, charged with selecting the winner and honor books for the prestigious Caldecott Medal. 

Treasurer - Peter Mendiara

Peter Mendiara is a native of San Francisco and resident of Oakland for the past 25 years. He has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, having held management positions at Bank of America and Visa, Inc. in payment card operations, marketing, and product development. After developing a love of opera as a young boy listening to his father's old 78 rpm records of Bizet's Carmen, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from the University of California at Berkeley. Here he first began vocal studies that he later continued with Lillian Loran in Berkeley. He has sung with many Bay Area arts organizations, including: Festival Opera, Berkeley Opera, Verismo Opera, San Francisco Choral Artists, Oakland Symphony Chorus, and the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.

DEBBIE BENNETT

Debbie is a third generation bay area native and identical twin. She has been happily married thirty years, to the best man on the planet. (Sorry Ladies, he is taken) She has two amazing sons and three adorable grandchildren (pictures are readily available). She is retired from the Long Term Care industry. Debbie's interest in singing started in St. Paul’s Church choir at the age of eight. She sang in the Dublin High School Choir and the medal winning Pride of the Pacific Chorus in Pleasanton. She is currently the Assistant Director of the Salvation Army Women’s Songsters and a percussionist in the Concord Corps Salvation Army Band as well as the lead vocalist in her church worship team. Debbie is a founding member and Director of Operations of Pacific Masterworks Chorus, under the direction of James Toland.  She is also an admitted golf addict.

Cheryl Blalock

Cheryl Blalock is Executive Director of the Masterworks Chorale. Her business experience is quite broad, having led global account teams for strategic customers in the electronics industry. A passionate leader in the performing arts, Cheryl served on the board of directors for Lyric Theater (GSSSJ) and as a faculty member for 9 years at the San Francisco’s Girl’s Chorus, and maintains a private voice studio in San Mateo and Santa Clara. Cheryl directed numerous shows, performed over 40 lead roles and toured nationally with two of Ken Malucelli’s productions. She performs both traditional and contemporary chamber music and as a professional soloist with local symphonies and churches.

Leslie Krikorian

Leslie Krikorian grew up in Minnesota and Connecticut in a home filled with music. After working for three years in New York at an investment advisory service, she helped relocate the office to the West Coast and moved to California in 1976. Later, she went to work on the Institutional Trading Desk at Smith Barney in San Francisco. She met her future husband, married, and has lived and raised a family in Lafayette, California for the past thirty years. Regarding her involvement with JTVA, Leslie says, "Music, a steadfast companion on my path, has enriched every aspect of my life."

Helen Sheaff

Helen Sheaff was executive director of Festival Opera of Walnut Creek for 20 years. Raised and educated in England, she was exposed to classical music and opera at an early age by her father, whose love for music sustained him long after he could no longer hit a golf ball 200 yards! After immigrating to the United States, she began a career in the nonprofit world at the Chicago Hearing Society, and later at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of the East Bay. In 1978 she began attending San Francisco Opera, originally standing in the back of the dress circle, and in the mid-1980s she bought season tickets which she has held for the last 30 years. She became a stay-at-home mother raising three daughters, until she was approached by the founder of Festival Opera to take over administration of the company. Now retired, she enjoys staying involved with the performing arts as well as traveling.

Michael Nutter

Michael Nutter made his directing debut with Eugene Opera on a semi-staged production of Cavalleria Rusticana. Since then he has directed over 40 operas including The Crucible, Meanwhile, Back at Cinderella’s, Wuthering Heights, The Old Maid and the Thief, The Saint of Bleecker Street, Susannah, Così fan tutte, The Medium, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, PDQ Bach’s A Little Nightmare Music, The Stoned Guest, Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, Dido & Æneas, Don Pasquale, Mozart’s The Impresario, Riders to the Sea, Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Puccini’s Il Trittico, La Bohème, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd; The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Merry Widow, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and the world premiere of Curtis Bryant’s, The Secret Agent, and most recently directed Gianni Schicchi for Eugene Opera’s Artist Mentor Program.  In 2012, he directed for the Atlanta Opera’s 24-Hour Project where his team won both audience and judges’ favorite for the farcical 10-minute opera Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens, composed by Jennifer Jolley. He has also directed Two From Seuss for the Oregon Bach Festival, a production of The Telephone in Binghamton, N.Y., and the world premiere of Where Music Comes From in Eugene. Michael has worked in opera, classical music and theatre professionally for 30 years, including staff positions for The Atlanta Opera, Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY, Central City Opera in Colorado, Eugene Opera, Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, and served for 15 seasons as Technical Director for the Grammy®-award-winning Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon. He works full-time in the Human Resource department at the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta and is the Artistic Director and Stage Director for the Capitol City Opera Company in Atlanta, Georgia.