COCA Board of Directors

Laura Thompson – President, board of directors

She is the founder/president of a leading Southern California event production company specializing in fundraising and development for nonprofit organizations. Former Board President, Pasadena (Calif.) Museum of History, also serving on the boards of the American Red Cross, YWCA, and Rotary Club of Los Angeles. An active visual artist, Laura has a long history as an impresario, selecting and hired top-line musicians and actors for a wide variety of performances. Former community development executive. Retired. Lives in Redmond.

Stefanie de Gruyter – Secretary, board of directors

Brings her multi-cultured 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 coordinator for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team, with a passion for inclusivity. She sings with the Central Oregon Mastersingers and is a co-founding member of The Decency Project. Stefanie lives in Bend.

Kevin Barclay

A community leader with experience in operations and facility management. He served on the boards of the Bend Tourism Fund, the Bend Arts and Culture Alliance and the Deschutes Cultural Coalition, and as a panelist on the Oregon Cultural Trust Cultural Development program. Kevin, now retired, worked in the Deschutes Public Library System as assistant director of public services and as adult-services and co-Bend branch manager. He has lived in Central Oregon for more than 20 years and is passionate about arts and culture.

Richard Camp – Marketing, board of directors

Creative Director and president of a leading digital marketing agency. His work includes campaigns, marketing strategy, and website applications for global technology companies and e-commerce brands. He is a former TV commercial director with numerous film, video, and photography credits. Resides in Bend.

John Kish

Horticulturist, actor, director, and business owner, John Kish, has been in the Bend arts community for over 8 years now. He is the founder of Bend’s premier indoor plant shop, Somewhere That’s Green. He also is now the creator and founder of Bend’s newest theater space, The Greenhouse Cabaret, which can be found within his plant shop. John graduated from Circle in the Square Theater School in 2013 and has acted/directed in numerous productions in New York, Portland, Albany, and Bend.

Michael Gesme

Conductor of the Central Oregon Symphony and Professor of Music at Central Oregon Community College for 24 seasons. In addition, he conducts the Cascade Winds, the Central Oregon Chamber Orchestra, and various performances for Opera Bend.

Peggy Kinkade

Peggy has lived in Bend since 1993 with her husband Brent and their three (now grown) children. She serves on the High Desert Education Service District board (currently as Chair) since retiring from the Bend-La Pine School Board. During her 12 years at Bend-La Pine Schools, Peggy was twice board chair and gained experience with bond campaigns, construction planning, policy rewrites, collective bargaining and community outreach. She is a classroom volunteer and teaches an early morning class with high school students from her church.

Valerie Pitts

A 40-year veteran educator and superintendent of schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Has overseen the construction of several performing arts and theater facilities in schools. Sings with Central Oregon Mastersingers. Consults on executive searches, board training, and educational projects. Resides in Sunriver.

Robert D. Schaub

Robert Schaub was Seattle Opera’s Technical Director for more than 25 years. He played a key role in the development and realization of designs for McCaw Hall, the performance home of Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Robert also provided vision and leadership in the concept, design development and realization for the new 60,000 sq ft opera center located on the Seattle Center campus, completed in 2018. Lives in Bend and consults with the Arts Tech Group, in Seattle.

Jon Thompson – Chair, communications committee

Print journalist, author, award-winning reporter and editor; wood carver, photographer, multi-instrumentalist who performs folk and bluegrass music. A longtime choral musician who has performed in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles and the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. He now sings with the Central Oregon Mastersingers. Retired from Los Angeles Times Community News. Lives in Eagle Crest.

Kay Whiting Watanabe

Kay is a communications executive with a focus on dynamic content marketing that includes social media, digital properties, events, partner communications, thought leadership, executive communications and media/analyst relations. She spent two terms as Chair of a Silicon Valley Cultural Commission and as Managing Director for a start-up sustainability app. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s College of California and now resides at Black Butte Ranch.

Board Member Emeritus

Larry Sewell

A retired police lieutenant from the LAPD, as well as a retired English and history high-school teacher. Long-time choral singer who for the past 10 years has sung with the Central Oregon Mastersingers. Three years ago, he spearheaded the idea that the Central Oregon Center for the Arts needs to be built.

As of February 10, 2022

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