Our Board of Directors
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.
Alan Stein is a retired business executive currently splitting his time between Tucson, Arizona and Fairfax, Virginia. A native of Phoenix Arizona, he most recently served as the Vice President of Logistics Management at CALIBRE Systems, a logistics and management services firm in Alexandria, Virginia, where his portfolio included several optimization practices in the defense industrial base. He is also a retired US. Army Colonel having served in several worldwide active army command and staff assignments. Alan served on the University of Arizona Foundation Board of Trustees, the University of Arizona Alumni Advisory Council, and he has been the Chair of the UA Alumni Governing Board. He holds a MS degree in Logistics Management from Florida Institute of Technology, a BA from the University of Arizona in Mid East Studies and is a graduate of the Eisenhower College, National Defense University. Besides jazz, his hobbies include cycling, hiking, sailing, and woodworking. His wife, Janet Stein is a Doctor of Optometry, and he is immensely proud of his daughters Casey and Allison.
“I’m incredibly grateful and excited for the opportunity to serve on the board of the Tucson Jazz Festival. It allows me to contribute to two things I love; jazz in Tucson, and a vibrant downtown as a venue to appreciate this unique art”.
Laura Liewen, CPA and Shareholder at R&A CPAs in Tucson, has 25 years of experience in public accounting. Laura graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arizona. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants, 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 as their treasurer. Laura enjoys craft beer, spending time with her family and pets, and traveling the world.
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
Pope is a veteran of the print and electronic media industries and has also done consulting and training in the general management, 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, 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. Most recently Pope has filled the position of Executive Director for the Vail Jazz Foundation.
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, the Tucson Jazz Festival, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance and the Vail (CO) Jazz Foundation. Not for profit governance, marketing and strategic capacity building are key knowledge areas for Pope and he currently serves on five not for profit boards and serves pro bono as strategic consultant for a Tucson community health care organization.
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.
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.
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.
Patricia (Possert) Rybolt’s career spans 25 years in Southern Arizona as a successful executive in the non-profit and for-profit arenas and as an entrepreneur. Rybolt’s track record includes creating and marketing events in Tucson that have attracted thousands over the years as head of her own event management firm. She is also credited with reinventing and revitalizing the Tucson Jazz Society (TJS) a 45-year-old non-profit arts-based organization. During Rybolt’s five-year tenure as TJS Executive Director the organization realized record-breaking increases in attendance, membership enrollment, sponsorship, and financial support. Under her leadership, the organization’s budget grew from $150,000 to $400,000 annually and received the prestigious 2008 LUMIE award. Before this Rybolt spent ten years at Family Life Communications, Inc. assisting with the management of the national non-profit broadcasting, publishing, and conference planning organization. Earlier in her career, Rybolt was responsible for marketing Tucson’s Triple A Sidewinders Baseball Club, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and the Arizona Small Business Association. Rybolt is noted for introducing Tucson’s popular Collabor-Mix Networking events designed to stimulate small business growth and creating Tucson’s popular New Year’s Eve Jazz All-Star Gala drawing sold-out crowds from across the U.S. to Southern Arizona.
“I am especially honored to join forces with Mayor Rothschild, Elliot Glicksman and Khris Dodge in support of such an iconic event for our region. It’s going to be a grand festival you don’t want to miss!” beams Underwood.
Cindy Aguilar, director of communications for Visit Tucson, is a passionate advocate for Tucson and the city’s culture. She directs media members and visitors to the very best of what this region has to offer, whether that’s the best Sonoran hot dog or unique places to stay. Cindy has been with Visit Tucson for ten years, previously working in hotel sales. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young boys, listening to live music, and finding time to read a great book in her limited spare time.