OUR STAFF

Khris Dodge

Executive Director


Khris Dodge is a versatile musician, educator, and Tucson arts advocate for more than 30 years. He was recently appointed Executive Director of the Tucson Jazz Festival and continues to serve as director of Jovert, Tucson High Magnet School’s steel band. In addition, he also runs Khris Dodge Entertainment (KDE), a full-scale concert production company.

Educated at the University of Arizona, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Percussion Performance, Khris used the skills learned under Gary Cook – as well as jazz piano instruction from Jeff Haskell – to craft a versatile music career. Khris has played everything from orchestral percussion with Tucson Symphony and Arizona Opera (the latter of which he played with for 20 years) to keyboard for Broadway National Tours (Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys). Additionally, he has played featured performances at the Sedona Film Festival, Musical Instrument Museum, Austin Cabaret Theatre, and New York’s Metropolitan Room, to name a few. Khris also arranged and conducted Hot Stuff: A Symphonic Tribute to Donna Summer, which debuted in 2019.

In his spare time, Khris works with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, and the Rotary Club of Tucson.

Andrew Birgensmith

Artistic Director


Andrew Birgensmith is an arts and entertainment professional with nearly 25 years of experience in the music business. Andrew gained most of his leadership experience working in the orchestra industry as President and CEO of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and nearly a decade with the Kansas City Symphony where he held the post of General Manager. As a classically trained musician himself, Andrew always puts music first with the goal of making things better and thinking outside the box. His programming experience started when he moved to Kansas City to work alongside the executive team to open Station Casino Kansas City where he served as the entertainment manager focused on venue management and talent buying for the multi-venue gaming facility. Working for and with several other multi-million-dollar entertainment destinations in the Midwest solidified his passion for working in the entertainment industry. In 2014 Andrew opened Green Room Entertainment – created to assist regional organizations in the areas of revenue enhancement, facilities management, programming and organizational development. Working for/with the Fox Tucson Theatre since 2014 and the Tucson Jazz Festival since 2017 in various capacities has been a highlight in Andrew’s career.

Andrew attended Shenandoah University and Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Virginia where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and Trombone Performance. He later attended Florida State University for Arts Administration and Public Administration.

Chita Stevenson

Administrative Assistant


Christy “Chita” Stevenson is the Administrative Assistant. Her experience includes Management, Marketing and Music – not necessarily in that order. Chita organizes the chaos that can come with working with creative types, as she is one herself.

The 25 year Tucsonan landed here to start her music biz career in radio music promotions after attending West Virginia University’s School of Journalism. Her experience as the Underwriting Director, Jazz Music Director and Station Music Director at WWVU became the foundation for her 20 year involvement with Southern Arizona’s music community. She also worked with the performance rights organization, BMI, as a writer liaison, organizing artist showcases.

She continued the support of Tucson’s local artists in media, initially at 104.1 The Point, as afternoon air talent, then as on air talent at KFMA doing weekends. Soon after moving to AZ Lotus Corp radio, Chita became afternoon drive host and music director at 96.1 KLPX, where she formed Live & Local – one of the first multi media entities created to promote local artists on radio, television and online – as well as at live performances in the community.

During her 10 year career in radio, which included being Program Director at KLPX, she worked with hundreds of musicians, event organizers, and local community members and non profits. She went on to open her own business, Hoopla Management, a Marketing and Event Management then returned to radio as a Promotions Director and Account Exec at 94.9 MIXfm.

Chita played flute, sax, and oboe in high school and guitar as an adult. She is most notably touted as the master of the slide whistle a skilled she learned while attending Bunker Hill Elementary School in WV. She is also funny. Very funny. Just ask her.

OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Elliot Glicksman

President


Elliot Glicksman conceived the idea of “Jazz in January” in January 2014. He had the good fortune of being put in touch with Yvonne Ervin, who had the expertise to put what together what became the Tucson Jazz Festival. With the steadfast assistance of then Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and the enthusiastic support of the business leaders and community arts enthusiasts, the festival became a reality just one year later in January 2015. Elliot is the Past President of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, a past President of Homicide Survivors Inc, and previously sat on the Advisory Board of the National Crime Victims Bar Association. In over 40 years practicing law in Tucson, Elliot has been certified by the Arizona State Bar as a specialist in personal injury by the Arizona Bar Association, and is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers. Elliot was the 2015 Recipient of the Judge Learned Hand Community Service Award, the 2017 Steven M. Gootter Foundation Philanthropy Award, the 2020 Homicide Survivors Inc Kautz Family Foundation Award.

He has also performed stand-up comedy opening for Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried and Phyllis Diller. He routinely takes Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s money at poker. His greatest accomplishment is his 35 marriage to wife, Lorraine, and being the father of Jill, Ben and Zach.

Photo by Steve Meckler Distinction 2021

Dan Gibson

Vice President


Dan Gibson is the senior director of communications for Visit Tucson, primarily overseeing domestic, culinary and local media efforts. Previously, he was editor of the Tucson Weekly, a music journalist for Apple Music, Gawker and elsewhere, the manager of a bakery, a graphic designer for publications including California Tomato Grower and Mini-Storage Messenger, and a four-time game show contestant. He is co-founder of the intergenerational dance troupe, Beat on the Street.

Laura Liewen

Treasurer


Laura Liewen, CPA and Shareholder, Tax and Accounting at R&A CPAs in Tucson, has more than 20 years of experience in public accounting specializing in income tax return preparation, compliance, and research for individuals and businesses. Laura graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arizona, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, majoring in accounting. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants (ASCPA), and the Tucson Tax Study Group, Inc. Her musical background includes five years as manager for rock group the Gin Blossoms. In 2019 she joined the Tucson Jazz Festival board. Laura also serves on the board of Homicide Survivors, a nonprofit victim assistance organization dedicated to meeting the crisis and long-term needs of families of murder victims. Laura enjoys spending her free time with her family, including her pets, and traveling the world.

Brandi Haga-Blackman

Secretary


Brandi Haga-Blackman has been working on transforming Downtown Tucson for over 15 years. Getting her start with the Tucson Downtown Alliance in 2004, she began partnering with community members and key stakeholders to usher in the revitalization of Downtown Tucson. As the Director of Operations for the Downtown Tucson Partnership she provided leadership and support for the business improvement district. She placed a special emphasis on Downtown events, running the Downtown Parade of Lights, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and providing support to cycling and marathon events. After more than ten years with the Downtown Tucson Partnership she moved into the role of Administrative Director of the Rio Nuevo District providing expertise in operating a tax increment finance district. She continues to work for the Downtown and Tucson community, providing leadership to community events, including the Arizona Bowl Game Downtown Block Party, Second Saturdays, Tucson Jazz Festival, Dia de San Juan, Agave Heritage Festival, and many more. Brandi was honored to receive the Woman of Influence 2017 Rising Star Award.

Mary Ellingsen

Volunteer Coordinator


Mary Ellingsen is a longtime jazz lover. She holds a B.A in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Temple University, a M.A in Linguistics from the U of A and National Certification by the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Mary has owned and managed Ellingsen & Associates, Inc since 1980, employing numerous professionals and support staff which provide speech and language therapy, social skills and occupational therapy to schools around the country. She is a member of the Tucson Jazz Society and has attended numerous Jazz festivals in the United States and Canada. Her daughter, Myra, and son-in-law, Joe, live in Phoenix. Mary is proud to be a board member of the Tucson Jazz Festival to help continue the successful jazz scene in Tucson.

Jonathan Rothschild

Board Member


Jonathan is a native of Tucson, born at Tucson Medical Center. He attended Harelson Elementary and Canyon del Oro. He is a graduate of Kenyon College where he majored in Philosophy and Theater. After graduating from Kenyon, Jonathan received his law degree from the University of New Mexico. Jonathan returned to Tucson where he practiced law at Mesch Clark Rothschild for 30 years. Jonathan took a sabbatical from the practice of law to serve as Mayor of the City of Tucson from 2011to 2019. Jonathan has now returned to lawyering where he concentrates his practice on Estate Planning, business matters, and mediation. Jonathan attended his first concert at the Tucson Community Center where he saw Chuck Berry open for The James Gang. That experience made an indelible impression on Jonathan who has been a lover of great music of all kinds ever since.

Photo by Steve Meckler Distinction 2021

Steven Pope

Board Member


Steven K. Pope has a background including significant managerial, training and consulting experience. Pope is a veteran of the print and electronic media industries and has also done consulting and training in the internet and financial arenas. Immediately prior to his retirement at the end of 2016 Pope managed the activities of Tucson Local Media in the position of Publisher for the Explorer, Inside Tucson Business, The Foothills News, the Marana News, Tucson Weekly and the Desert Times. Earlier in his career, he has worked in senior management positions for Gannett, Knight Ridder, the Tucson Star, Swift Communications, Media News Group and Huckle Communications and Freedom communications with regional and national responsibilities including the COO position of Huckle Communications. Pope has also operated his own newspaper and internet consulting company. Pope believes in community service and has served in leadership positions on numerous Boards in every location he has lived. Pope has a special affinity for the arts and has served on the boards or advisory boards of the Paradise Center for the Arts, (MN), the Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, (CO), the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival, Vail, (CO), the Houston (TX) Theatre Under the Stars, the Arizona Theatre Company, and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance. Not for profit governance, marketing and capacity building are key knowledge areas for Pope and he currently serves on five not for profit boards including SAACA, Round Up River Ranch and the BRAVO Vail Valley Music Festival. Pope holds a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, San Bernardino, California in economics and a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a concentration in marketing and finance.

Louis Salute

Board Member


Louis Salute’s service to and results for organizations has spanned from coast to coast. The impact realized through his involvement has transformed nonprofits at the financial, programmatic, and service delivery levels. Recently retired from a distinguished 37-year career with the Boy Scouts of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Lou continues to work with non-profits, professionally and as a volunteer to make the community a better place. Having raised annual, capital and endowment dollars from the community over his career gives Lou a unique perspective of not only fund raising, but friend raising. With a motto of “Good enough isn’t good enough,” Lou has always strived to be “The best of the best,” in all his endeavors with the organizations he guides. Challenges Lou has accepted and results he has attained include successful capital campaigns, retiring substantial organizational short and long-term debt while adding needed staff, establishing balanced operations and initiating an endowment program that secured more than $20-million in commitments in its first five years. Lou has also successfully taken operating funds to new heights. Lou serves on two non-profit boards in Tucson. He is currently Vice President of Development for the Catalina Council, Boy Scouts of America and Board Member for Jazz in January. His love for Scouting and passion for jazz continue to motivate Lou’s involvement in the community. Lou is a graduate of Valparaiso University, with a degree in political communications and a minor in journalism.

Angelo Versace

Board Member


Jazz pianist Angelo Versace, a native of Indiana, Pennsylvania, has been the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Arizona since 2014. He attended William Paterson University from 2004-2008, studying with Mulgrew Miller, a seminal figure in jazz and a man whom Versace cites as being a main musical influence. He subsequently earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Miami, studying jazz piano, jazz pedagogy, composition and arranging. During his time in Miami, Versace was on faculty at the Superior Academy of Music – an award-winning institution backed by the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. He also was on faculty at the CGCC Community Arts Program and Dillard High School – high school jazz band programs that found success at the prestigious Essentially Ellington competition. He began to work for the Tucson Jazz Institute (the two-time winner of the Essentially Ellington competition) after his move to Arizona in July of 2014.

Versace has performed on twelve studio albums: two as a leader and ten as a sideman, including Jazz Hymns with guitarist Jerry Hahn and Kristian 3.0 with Take-6 vocalist, Khristian Dentley. He has also had the privilege of working as a sideman with several internationally recognized artists: Lewis Nash, Warren Wolf, Terell Stafford, Brice Winston, Joe Saylor, Troy Roberts, Dave Stryker, Roxy Coss and Chuck Israels. Versace travels yearly to Taipei, Taiwan where he is on faculty at the Fu Jen University Jazz – a camp which coordinates with the American Institute of Taiwan Jazz Outreach Program. Most recently, he has been a member and appointed board director of the newly minted Tucson Jazz Collective (TJC). The group, which has performed for the SAACA Jazz Legends Concert with vocalist, Becca Stevens, continues to perform in and around Southern Arizona.

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