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About Us



  • John Elliott

    A native of New Hampshire, John is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music with a Bachelors in Music. John’s experience as a professional musician includes working as Principal Tubist with the South Bend and Honolulu Symphonies as well as performing with a long list of American orchestras including the Rochester and Buffalo Philharmonics, the Syracuse Symphony and the Boston Symphony and Pops. John has also worked to bring the power of music to a larger community through his work with Austin Soundwaves, an Austin-based youth orchestra program serving low income, at-risk children and was the founder of Austin’s first city-wide instrument drive, Fall Into Music. As a volunteer, John has served on the Board of Directors for the Round Rock Symphony in Round Rock, Texas for two years, first as a board member and for one year as President.

    Since 2015, John has been the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Portland Symphony Orchestra in Portland, Maine where he oversees a wide array of programs that reach more than 30,000 life long learners at hundreds of events each year.

  • Emily Marczak

    Emily Marczak is the Donor Relations Manager at Preble Street, a social service agency in Portland, Maine. Her work is focused on major donors and strategic projects to further Preble Street’s mission of providing accessible barrier-free services to empower people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty, and to advocate for solutions to these problems.  Emily previously worked in International Education with CIEE and for the Libra Foundation at Pineland Farms managing the Marketing and Events program.

    Emily also worked with a number of photographers in New York City producing photo shoots as well as in editorial with Conde Nast Traveler and Healthy Family Magazine.

    Emily received a B.F.A from Syracuse University in Fine Art Photography.

  • Sarah Linet

    Sarah Linet is a policy specialist for the Great Schools Partnership. She works with internal and external partners and stakeholders to advance the mission of the New England Secondary Schools Consortium to close achievement gaps, promote educational equity and opportunity for all students through federal, state, and local policy. Sarah earned her undergraduate degree in Politics from Brandeis University and masters degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. Sarah has previously worked at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine, and the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine studying the impact of policy and community engagement initiatives on students, teachers, district-leaders, communities, and schools.

  • Melinda Irish

    Melinda is a certified public accountant with Baker Newman Notes and has been with the firm since 2003. She is a senior manager in the firm’s audit practice specializing int he manufacturing and distribution and employee benefit plan audits. Melinda is also involved with the firm’s internal training program and a member of the BNN Women’s Committee.

    Melinda earned bachelor’s degrees in accounting and business administration from Husson University.

  • Tim Blackstone

    Tim Blackstone is the Chief Creative Officer at Ethos – a multi-platform branding agency in Westbrook, Maine – where he leads a diverse team of creative and technology professionals developing and marketing authentic consumer brands. Tim brings a multidisciplinary perspective to the creative process, and has more than 20 years’ experience developing award-winning projects across a wide range of industries, with a client list that has included Bank of America, Microsoft, East West Partners, the PGA Tour, Washington Mutual, Thos. Moser, Udi’s, the NFL, and others. In addition, he has worked extensively in marketing for social change with Federal and state 529, SNAP and DHHS programs, with a focus on creating campaigns that positively influence consumers’ behaviors and improve education and health in their communities. Tim is a graduate of the University of North Florida with a BFA in Graphic Art & Design, and is an HFI-certified Usability Analyst.

  • David E. Currier

    David has practiced law at Warren, Currier & Buchanan (or its predecessor) as a principal since 1988. Before that he was an associate at the Portland firm of Murray, Plumb & Murray.

    David received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1982. He was an editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1980-1982. He received his A.B. from Brown University in 1979.

    David is currently President of The Portland ESL Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to immigrants and refugees seeking to improve their English language skills. He served as Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the RSU5 (Freeport) Student Aspirations Partnership from 2007-2012. He served on the board of directors of The Iris Network from 1996-2005 and served as Chairperson of that board from 2002-2003. He also served on the board of directors of the Maine Civil Liberties Union from 1990-96, and was President from 1993-1994.

    David is a member of the bar of Maine and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court.

  • Harro Jakel

    Harro has a master’s degree in engineering from Darmstadt University in Germany. Since 1995, he has been principal owner of a wood products company. Harro develops and promotes wood products including wood flooring, decking and truck flooring from plantation or sustainable forests around the world. Harro is also a director and president of Youth in Action Incorporated, a Maine nonprofit corporation that is a public charity under IRC section 501(c)(3) which is the fiscal sponsor for Side x Side’s grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

  • Kimberley Niles

    Kimberley Niles, CPA, Treasurer, is the founder of VC CFO Services, LLC, a business consulting firm providing interim CFO and financial support services for start-up and established companies, as well as venture firms. She has over 25 years of experience as a finance professional, including 17 years as CFO for North Atlantic Capital, a Portland based venture firm. Earlier in her career, she held various roles in private industry and in public accounting. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and a licensed CPA in the State of Maine. Kimberley is currently a board director and treasurer for the Maine Venture Fund, a board director for Katahdin Bankshares Corp. (OTCQX: KTHN), a student mentor for UNH’s Mel Rines Angel Fund and a volunteer for the Preble Resource Center.

Advisory Board

  • Gretchen Berg, Lead Teaching Artist & Curriculum Consultant

    Gretchen Berg is a teaching artist/educator with more than 30 years of experience. She is known for her collaborative approach, working with educators and students to integrate theater, dance, visual arts and classroom curriculum in New England schools, community centers and museums. She received the Maine Alliance for Art Education’s 2007 Bill Bonyun Award for her contribution to the arts in Maine schools. Gretchen has taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education (“Learning & Teaching about Diversity through Performance Art”), Bowdoin College, Bates College and the University of Southern Maine and holds an EdM Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • Gibson Faye-LeBlanc

    Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a writer and teacher. His first collection of poems, Death of a Ventriloquist, was chosen by Lisa Russ Spaar for the Vassar Miller Prize and published by the University of North Texas Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in magazines including 32 Poems, Blackbird, Guernica, Linebreak, MaineMagazine, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, The New Republic, Poetry Northwest, Western Humanities Review, and Verse Daily, and in the anthologies Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great. His articles and reviews have appeared in Boston Review, Guernica, Pleiades, Publishers Weekly, and Time Out New York. He has received awards for his poems from the Bellevue Literary Review and UC Berkeley. With graduate degrees from UC Berkeley and Columbia University, he has taught writing and literature in public and private middle schools, high schools, and colleges in California, Vermont, New York, and Maine. In 2011 he was named one of Maine’s “emerging leaders” by the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media for his work directing The Telling Room, where he still occasionally teaches writing. He lives in Portland with his family and is at work on a novel.

  • Donna McNeil

    Donna McNeil - Side x Side, integrated arts education programming in Maine

    Donna McNeil is the Co-Director of Artists in Context and the former Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. She has served as a juror for the National Endowment for the Arts, Baker Artist Awards, St. Botolph Awards, MacArthur Foundation, and Piscataquis Artist Advancement grant, and she has worked extensively with the Creative Capital Foundation. She holds a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University, an MLA in Art History from Harvard University, and an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the Maine College of Art. Donna has devoted a lifetime to the arts in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, holding directorial and curatorial positions in galleries, museums, and the performing arts.

  • Ashley O’Brion

    Ashley O’Brion is a graphic designer and art director for After working at BostonOprah, and Maine magazines, she became a freelancer in 2011, collaborating with clients from her farmhouse studio in Raymond, Maine. Ashley designs identities, branding systems, print materials, websites, and—her greatest love—publications, for which she has received multiple awards from The Society of Publication Designers.