COCA Board of Directors

Laura Thompson – President, board of directors ​

Laura is a versatile and experienced leader. A former hospital department director, she branched out from hospitals to become founder/president of a leading Southern California event production company specializing in fundraising and development for nonprofit organizations. She is a former president of the board of directors of the Pasadena (Calif.) Museum of History and served on the boards of the American Red Cross, YWCA and Rotary Club of Los Angeles. Laura has a long history as an impresario, selecting and hiring top-line musicians and actors for a wide variety of performances at fund-raising events, golf tournaments, organization anniversaries and more. She is a versatile visual artist who creates in a variety of media and styles. When she doesn’t have her paints or sketching materials with her, she has her camera. Retired now, when she’s not busy guiding COCA, she spends her spare time on Central Oregon’s many golf courses.  Retired. Lives in Redmond.

Stefanie de Gruyter - Secretary, board of directors

A seasoned project manager, Stefanie, brings her multicultural and international experience, knowledge, and perspective, acquired from her 20-plus years of living, working, and volunteering in Europe, South America, Canada, and Africa. She currently works in the criminal justice system for Deschutes County, and among her many roles, she serves as an interpreter and is the coordinator for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team, with a passion for inclusivity. She is a co-founding member of The Decency Project. Stefanie lives in Bend.

John Kish

Horticulturist, actor, director, and business owner, John Kish, has been in the Bend arts community for 10 years now. He is the founder of Bend’s premier indoor plant shop, Somewhere That’s Green (est. 2018). He also is now the creator and founder of Bend’s newest professional theater space, The Greenhouse Cabaret (est. 2021), which can be found within his plant shop. John graduated from Circle in the Square Theater School, NYC in 2013 and has acted/directed in numerous productions in New York, Portland, Albany, and Bend. He strives to pioneer professional theater and to collaborate in elevating the arts so that Bend can be known for more than just outdoor sports and beer!

Michael Gesme​

Now in his 28th season as the conductor of the Central Oregon Symphony, Michael Gesme serves as Professor of Music in the Fine Arts Communication Department at Central Oregon Community College. In addition to his duties with the COS, Michael conducts the Cascade Winds Symphonic Band, the Central Oregon Chamber Orchestra, and various performances for OperaBend. Michael has taught courses in music theory, ear training, music history, and conducting, and is an active clinician and adjudicator in the region. He received his bachelor’s degree from Luther College and his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Peggy Kinkade​

Peggy has lived in Bend since 1993 with her husband Brent and their three (now grown) children. She served five years on the High Desert Education Service District board of directors after retiring from the Bend-La Pine School Board. During her 12 years at Bend-La Pine Schools, Peggy was twice board chair and focused on visiting schools, bond campaigns, construction planning, policy governance, collective bargaining, and community outreach. Peggy also served several years on the board of directors of the Bend La Pine Education Foundation. Peggy enjoys theatre, art and music from the audience side, though she passed many happy days as a BEAT and Summit High School Theatre stage mom with her daughter, Ali, who is now a professional actor.

Jon Thompson​

A print journalist, author and award-winning reporter and editor, Jon, a member of the COCA board since 2017, is a longtime choral singer who has performed in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles and the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Now retired after a long career, he sings with the Central Oregon Mastersingers and plays folk and bluegrass music on his banjo and guitar. He is an avid traveler and photographer who has far too many images stored on his computer. When he is not picking bluegrass or goofing around with Photoshop, he is at his workbench listening to music while doing wood-carving.

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