Blues Alley Jazz Society
Board of Directors
Harry Schnipper is a native Washingtonian, a resident of Ward 6 and President of the International Realty Group. He was born and raised here in Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD where he attended Walt Whitman High School, Earlham College and the University of Maryland. He received an Undergraduate Degree in Urban Development and pursued his Masters Degree in Finance.
He is a 30-year veteran of the metropolitan real estate community and his most notable projects have included the alternative use redevelopment of historic landmark properties here in our Nation’s Capitol. He has authored numerous articles for the Washington Business Journal, The Washington Times, The Commercial Broker’s Quarterly and the Corridor Real Estate Journal.
Mr. Schnipper is also the owner of Blues Alley Jazz LLC. Blues Alley Jazz is America’s oldest, continuously operating jazz supper club. He is a lifelong resident of Capitol Hill where he lives with his wife Madeline.
Ken Avis is a musician, writer and broadcaster. Raised in the UK, Ken has been based in the DC area since 1996. He performs with the award-winning world-jazz quartet Veronneau. The band tours in Europe and the US and have three commercially and critically acclaimed CD releases.
Ken proposed and co-curated with a week-long festival of Brazilian music, workshops, and film which earned a National Endowment for the Arts award. He co-produced a film documentary Bossa Nova about DC’s Charlie Byrd Trio, and wrote the play “Bossa Fever!” (2015) exploring the explosion of Brazilian bossa nova music in the early 1960’s He is currently working on a movie Anacostia Delta, which spotlights the impact of DC guitarists Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan.
Ken is the on-air host for two weekly music radio programs on WERA 96.7FM and is a contributing writer to Jazz Journal (UK), Capitalbop, Baltimore Jazz Alliance Newsletter, Washington Post and Jazz Times. He is a regular speaker at DC Music Salon and delivered a TEDx talk on improvisation in 2017. He also lectures on the Strathmore Professional Development for Musicians program and serves as a mentor to their Artists in Residence musicians.
Blake Biles is a retired partner with substantial experience as an environmental attorney, including five years with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and over 30 years in private practice. Over the course of his career, he provided a full range of services to a variety of clients encompassing all types of environmental legal matters: counseling, transactions, rulemakings, compliance audits, and both enforcement and appellate litigation. Mr. Biles has particular experience in matters involving the regulation of, and potential liabilities associated with, chemicals and other commercial products. At EPA from 1975 to 1980, Mr. Biles was an attorney in the Office of Enforcement, and in the Office of General Counsel. Thereafter, he was the first Director of the new-chemicals review program in the Office of Toxic Substances.
Mr. Biles has long provided pro bono services to low-income and other vulnerable populations, including representation of tenants to preserve affordable housing; work for AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (including Chair of the LCE Board of Directors); service on the Neighborhood Legal Services Program Board of Directors (including current Chair of the NLSP Board of Directors); representation of homeless individuals, persons seeking social security disability benefits, and residents of substandard nursing homes; and advocacy for mentally-ill persons in institutional settings, including prisons. The DC Bar has recognized Mr. Biles as Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year.
Edward Fisher is a consummate educator having served several decades teaching in the classroom and as an education administrator. His training and teaching, including two Masters degrees, concentrated in history and administration. He is most proud of his many years with the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He also served in numerous leadership positions in professional and community organizations which include Vice President at the Education Licensure Commission and President of the DC Chapter of Concerned Black Men.
In his retirement, he continues to serve on civic groups and councils promoting quality education for youth. He is on the board of Directors for the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra, the Washington Jazz Arts Institute, the HD Woodson STEM Board, and the Ward 7 Education Council. A life-long member of the Alfred Street Baptist Church, he is actively involved with the Men’s Group, Homeless Outreach, Brother’s Keeper and the HBCU College Fair.
Rev. John M. Graham was born in 1954 in Columbus, Ohio; lived most of his adult life in Chicago and came to Washington D.C. in 2004. He received a Bachelor’s Degree Summa Cum Laude from Kenyon College, awarded in 1976, and a Master’s in Divinity with Honors from Virginia Theological Seminar in Alexandria.
From 1984 to 2004 John served as assistant, then pastor, of two churches in Chicago, one English-speaking and the other Spanish-speaking. Since 2004, he has served as Pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. He has loved jazz since high school; mostly listening, but occasionally playing a little for his own amusement. Grace Church hosts Blues Alley Youth Orchestra rehearsals and occasional performances, and also Music on the Lawn programming, often featuring jazz, in September of every year.
Rev. Graham married Sakena McWright in 1982 and have no children.
It’s his honor and a pleasure to serve on the BAJS Board, helping in a small way to raise up and train the next jazz generation.
Patricia Mitchell is a proven school site administrator and supervisor of innovative educational programs.
She served for 27 years as Director of the Fillmore Arts Center of DCPS and founded the Academy for Learning Through the Arts in 2005.
She is a proven advisor in the field of arts education, serving on boards of national, federal, and local organizations.
Ira J. Wagner is a former corporate executive and is now a consultant and private investor. He was employed at American Capital for 18 years as President of European Private Finance from 2005 to 2015, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer from 2001 to 2008, and as a Principal and Managing Director from 1997 to 2001.
He is also on the Board of Directors at Central Scholarship in Baltimore, Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont, the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the American Associates of Ben Gurion University. Mr. Wagner holds an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. from Southern Vermont College.
Ellen Wright has been a resident of the Washington, DC area for more than twenty years. She came to the Washington area as an executive at Marriott International, where she spent seventeen years specializing in brand management, marketing, and international sales. While at Marriott, her positions included Vice President of Brand Strategy at Marriott Hotels, Resorts, and Suites; Vice President of Marketing for the Meeting Segment; Brand Director of Marriott Executive Residences; Director of Sales and Marketing for Marriott’s International Sales Office in New York; and Regional Director of Sales of International Sales in Boston.
Since leaving Marriott, Ellen has had leadership positions in numerous educational non-profit organizations. Ellen currently serves as Chair of the Walt Whitman High School Instrumental Music Boosters and on the Board of the Walt Whitman High School Education Foundation. She also is on the Board of the Pyle Middle School Parent-Teacher Association. She resides in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband and three teenage sons.