Blues Alley Jazz Society
Board of Directors
Harry Schnipper is an author, producer, lecturer, educator and presenter of nightly nightclub entertainment. He is the owner/operator of Blues Alley Jazz, located in our Nation’s Capital and which is America’s oldest, continuously operating jazz supper club. Over the course of many decades he has perfected the art of curating his nightclub calendar while simultaneously fulfilling the role of his own non-profit jazz music education organization. Mr. Schnipper has utilized both platforms to promote a jazz music agenda that includes strategic partnerships with some of the city’s most well-known institutions.
Mr. Schnipper produces, presents or promotes at least one act, artist or event every day, somewhere each day of the year. In Washington, DC he has pioneered programming in partnership with every embassy, every institution and every university from the Smithsonian Institution to the Embassy of Japan to Howard University. In addition to presenting performances he has pioneered programmed by creating the first-ever embassy jazz series, the Jazz Appreciation Month’s BIG BAND JAM! event every April and the Ella Fitzgerald international vocal competition to promote young and emerging jazz vocalists.
Mr. Schnipper is an annual contributor to JazzEd magazine and an in- demand lecturer teaching on the subject of the business of music. He has taught at many music schools and conservatories across America, the annual Jazz Education Network Conference and at the National Press Club where he is a member.
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.
Ed Smith hosts and produces a weekly Jazz Now on WOWD LP 94.3 in Takoma Park since July, 2016. Jazz Now has audience nationally and internationally with live interviews of jazz artists.
Ed retired from the corporate world in 2015 after 54 years. He has served in various positions in Health Care (CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Kaiser Permanente.) He also served as an a consultant for Ernst and Young, LLP. He created two non-profits to serve children in Montgomery County Schools, and served as Executive Director for Leaders for the 21st Century and Montgomery Mentoring. Ed’s background spans marketing, sales, facilitation of courseware, project management and consulting.
He resides in Montgomery County with his wife of 42 years and has four grandchildren.
Andrew Rossi is a proud parent of a Blues Alley Youth Orchestra musician. When not searching for a
parking space in Georgetown, Andrew is a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health. His expertise is in the area of brain systems underlying sensory and cognitive behavior. He applies this background as a research administrator at the National Institute of Mental Health where he directs a program that supports basic research on multiple aspects of cognition, with an emphasis on higher cognitive functions and reward systems. A transplant to the DC region from the San Francisco bay area, Andrew was introduced to jazz by
accident when he was assigned to the music library as a work-study student in college. He has been a
jazz fan ever since. Andrew received a PH.D. in Neuroscience from Brown University and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.