Board Members

Gary Karr, Honourary Governor, is acclaimed as “the world’s leading solo bassist” (Time Magazine) and the first solo doublebassist in history to make that pursuit a full-time career. Since his debut with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1962, Karr has performed as soloist on six continents with orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and with all the major orchestras of Australia. One of Karr’s proudest achievements is the Bronze Medal he received from the Rosa Ponselle Foundation which recognizes him as an outstanding lyrical musician. Gary is the proud holder of the 1997 Artist/Teacher of the Year Award from the American String Teacher’s Association (ASTA). He also holds the Distinguished Achievement Award (1995) from the International Society of Bassists (ISB).

Hon. Roy Cullen, Chair, earned his B.A. in Business Administration, and a Master of Public Administration. 
He qualified as a Canadian Chartered Accountant in 1972. Initially elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa in a by-election in 1996, he was re-elected in the 1997, 2000, 2004, and the 2006 general elections. He retired from the Canadian House of Commons in 2008. As a member of the Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s government, and later under Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mr. Cullen served as chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, as parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, as parliamentary secretary to the deputy prime minister and the minister for public safety and emergency preparedness; and as chair of the Ontario Liberal caucus. In 2006 he was sworn-in as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.

Ed Chwyl, Past President, has over forty years of business experience, primarily in the energy industry in Calgary and currently serves on the Board of three companies. The Chwyl family have been residents of Victoria since 2001 when Ed retired after a long career in the Calgary oil patch. Their two children have benefited from music lessons, theory and history, and the Collegium program at the Conservatory. Ed previously served as a Vice-President of the Board (2005/06) and is a graduate engineer (University of Alberta, MSc 1968). Ed has served as Chairman of the Calgary YMCA, Chairman of the Petroleum Society, plus various other volunteer positions with Not for Profit organizations in western Canada.

Carolyn Thoms, Treasurer, has worked in finance for more than 20 years and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Professional Accountant designations. She has held senior corporate financial positions in the financial guaranty reinsurance, business valuations and investment industries. She has worked across Canada, and in Bermuda as well as Geneva, Switzerland. Carolyn is a member of the CFA Institute, Victoria CFA Society, and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada and BC. She is actively engaged in her community and also serves on the Board of Governors of the University of Victoria Foundation.

Kathi Springer, Secretary, is currently Vice President of Communications & Corporate Relations at Pace Group, and has 25 years of communications and event management experience. Her experience includes government and Aboriginal relations, and corporate, media and community relations. Her resume of broad experience includes Expo 86’s special events manager, BC’s world stage presentations at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and media relations management during The Summit of the America’s in Quebec City in 2001 where she was responsible for staffing and oversight for a 2000-person media venue. During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Kathi was integral to the promotion of Aboriginal culture for the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC. Her clients include Ralmax Group of Companies, District of Oak Bay, Bear Mountain Resort, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Dockside Green and Omicronaec. City of Victoria appointee, Board of Cemetery Trustees; Founding board member of Community Micro-lending; past United Way board member; communications advisor, Our Place (2013).

Bryan Wilson, Vice-Chair, has over 25 years’ experience in the growth and financial management of technology companies in fields ranging from e-commerce and internet publishing to electronics manufacture and biopharmaceuticals. Now semi-retired, his most recent fulltime position was CFO of Abebooks Inc., an online book marketplace acquired by Amazon in 2008. Prior to technology management, he held various positions in a crown corporation responsible for accommodation needs of the provincial government, serving 7 years as Vice President, Marketing and Client Services.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UBC, and a MBA from the University of Toronto.  Bryan is a founding Board member of Living Edge Community, a non-profit society focused on providing food for persons in need in Victoria. He has mentored technology managers, entrepreneurs at the Community Micro Lending Society, and students at University of Victoria.  He has also taught financial courses at Royal Roads University and Uganda Christian University.

Claudia Blum holds an MBA with a specialization in Marketing. During her professional career, Claudia held several Executive Marketing positions in the European cosmetic industry at L’Oréal Paris and Schwarzkopf & Henkel. In 2008 Claudia was appointed to the Board of Directors of Power To Be Adventure Therapy Society where she served as a Director, Chair of the Development Committee, Vice-Chair and as Chair of the Board for two years. After staying on the Board as Past Chair, she retired from the Power To Be Board in 2014 but is still an active member of the Executive Compensation Committee. She also served as Vice President on the Board of Governors for Ballet Victoria in 2014-2015. Claudia is an ICD (Institute of Corporate Directors) certified Director for Not-For-Profit Organizations.

Lesley Brown earned her B.A. in Business at Bishops University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Her business career has included positions in a variety of diverse industries, with over 12 years spent in financial services in senior management positions at CIBC Wood Gundy and Investors Group in Toronto. In 2006 Lesley relocated to Victoria to join Custom House, where she lead the Canadian business as Vice President, Corporate Canada.  She was part of the team appointed to build value in the company in preparation for a strategic purchase and continued her leadership throughout the acquisition and integration process. Lesley is currently VP of Sales and Marketing for Socoloco Technologies.

Gareth Dickson was born and raised in BC, and has lived, worked, and gone to school within the Victoria community for most of his life.  With just enough travel abroad and living elsewhere in Canada to reinforce his love of Victoria and his desire to stay here, he served Victoria for 10 years as the owner and operator of a successful construction contracting business.  Gareth is now an Investment Advisor and Associate Portfolio Manager with BC-based investment firm Odlum Brown Limited and holds the Certified Financial Planner designation.  Gareth focuses on planning for sustainability in his work with individual, corporate, and foundation clients to safeguard their
financial futures.

Dr. Peter F. Driessen received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia.  He worked for five years in various companies in Vancouver Canada designing wireless communication systems.  He then joined the University of Victoria, Canada where he is now Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with cross appointments in Music and Computer Science.  Peter has taught courses in sound recording as well communications and audio signal processing.  He initiated a music-computer science combined degree program.  Peter spent two years plus eight summers at AT&T Bell Laboratories, New Jersey USA working on wireless communications systems.  He was at Massey University Wellington as visiting Professor of Multimedia Systems Engineering for 5 years. He has published over 100 articles and holds 14 patents.  He was papers co-chair for the International Computer Music Conference held in Cuba.

Heather Ferguson, has broad experience in public relations, journalism, stakeholder relations and non-profit management, most recently as President, The Hearing Foundation of Canada and as an instructor in communications at Humber College in Toronto. She holds a degree from the University of Toronto and post-graduate degrees from Ryerson University’s School of Journalism and the McMaster University/DeGroote School of Business in the Master of Communications Management program. Professionally, she holds the designation ABC, (Accredited Business Communicator). An active volunteer, Heather served on the board of The Empire Club of Canada for eight years and serves now on the board of Save the Children, Canada. In Victoria, she served on a gala committee in support of the BC Paraplegic Association. Now Heather is pleased to work together with stakeholders to identify strategies to take their business and relationships to the next level as Principal of Whale Communications Ltd.

Richard Fisher is Owner and Planning Director of Trapeze Communications. His skills as Agency Director, chief strategist and concerned listener make him a popular guy. Over his career, Richard has successfully guided brands in many categories including government/public sector, travel and tourism, education, high tech, and manufacturing. He has a genuine passion for all things marketing and keeps Clients abreast of trends to help their businesses stay competitive and current. Richard is also an experienced market research facilitator, and skillfully draws out the nuggets of insight Clients need to know about their brand and customers.

Douglas Kobayashi has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering with first class honours and a Master’s of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. He was employed as a professional engineer and senior executive in the aerospace industry for 27 years and retired to found Think Strategy, an independent management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, business diagnostics, and performance management systems. Doug’s past positions include Vice President Engineering of CAE Aviation, Vice President Technical Services and Vice President Corporate Planning and Development of Conair Aviation. Doug is the recipient of the Canadian Merit Award, Canadian Decoration, British Aerospace Thesis Prize, and the Canada 125 Medal. His past extracurricular activities include the Rotary Club, United Way Director, Executive Director of the Edmonton International Air Show, and President of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce. Doug also currently serves on the City of Colwood Economic Development Committee, the City of Langford Sewage Oversight Committee, and is Chair of the Advisory Council to the Royal Roads University School of Business.

Bijan Neyestani holds undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Engineering and a post-graduate degree in Business Administration. As co-founder and President of Alpha Project Developments Ltd. (APD); a Victoria-based real estate development  firm, he brings over 35 years of experience in real estate development and construction management in British Columbia. Since APD’s inception in 2002, Bijan has overseen the successful completion and sale of numerous development projects on Southern Vancouver Island. At APD, he has developed a broad base of experience in all areas, including acquisition, civic approvals, finance, construction and marketing. Bijan has lived and raised a family in Victoria since 1976. Both his children have attended classes at VCM. Currently, he is serving on the board of the Urban Development Institute, Capital Region and a number of private companies.

Barbara Smith has extensive leadership and administrative experience in education with an emphasis on Special Education and elementary school teaching and administration. In 1978 she started with the Greater Victoria School District as Supervisor of Special Education with responsibility for all district special needs programs followed by a one year secondment with the Ministry of Education as Director of Special Programs for the province.  She then returned to Victoria as principal of four special needs designated schools. She concluded her final years as principal at the following elementary schools: Burnside, Sundance and Ecole Glanford. During this time in 1991 she created her own company called Focus Conferences which specialized in conference/event planning and educational consulting focussing on children with disabilities with the exception of the conferences that addressed the needs of the aboriginal community. Barbara is also a very active community leader who has served on the Boards of the Garth Homer Society, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Belfry Theatre, and is currently actively involved in the new StreetSmart Victoria initiative.

Shannon von Kaldenberg is a highly respected and regarded advancement professional with extensive experience in fundraising, strategic planning and people management. She has twenty five years of senior management experience, successfully leading small and large staff and volunteer teams.  Her diverse career incorporates the education, social service, health care, consulting and the corporate sectors.  Shannon has been Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Heart and Stroke Foundation since 2010, and previous roles include Associate Vice-President Alumni and Development and Chief Development Officer, UVic, Assistant Dean External Relations, UBC Sauder School of Business, University Director of Development, UBC, President of the Vancouver Hospital Foundation and Vice President of Development and Communications, United Way of the Lower Mainland. She is a frequent speaker and lecturer with the Association of Fundraising Professionals where she also served on the Board and as Chair, and was a VCM Board member and Chair of the Development Committee from 2008-2010.


Jane Butler McGregor, CEO
Jane Butler McGregor currently serves as CEO of the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Prior to this she served on the Board of Directors of Pacific Opera Victoria before stepping in as Interim Executive Director during a transitional period.  Previously she lived in the United States for 13 years where she helped found two new non- profit organizations and served on The Board of several others.  Before moving to the USA she served as the Corporate Director, Human Resources for the Jim Pattison Group in Vancouver, BC after managing Guest Relations and VIP services for Expo 86. Jane served on the Board of Governors at the University of Victoria for 6 years and is currently a member of the Victoria Telus Community Board.  She has a BA in Psychology from the University of British Columbia.

Stephen Green, Dean
Previous to joining the VCM, Stephen held the position of Executive Director and Chief Academic Officer for the Children’s Music Foundation International in Canada whose mission is to support the development and implementation of music education systems and programming for school children around the world. Stephen previously served as Associate Dean, Executive Director and  Dean of the Royal Conservatory School at the RCM in Toronto for 11 years, leading the school of over 5,000 students, 240 faculty, and an annual operating budget of over $5MM through years of growth in areas including outreach to at-risk youth, and program expansion to satellite locations.  Stephen holds a Mus. Bac in Conducting (UofT) and an M.A. and Performance Diploma in Music Direction (U. Mozarteum, Salzburg), has served as Opera Chorus Director and Conductor for 5 years in Salzburg, Austria, and is an accomplished pianist and Music Educator.

Marsha Elliott – Faculty Representative (non-voting)
Flutist Marsha Elliott is an acclaimed soloist, chamber musician and educator. As a performer she has toured throughout Canada and the US and has been seen and heard on national television and radio. She also holds a B.Mus. in Performance from the University of Toronto, an M.Mus. in Performance from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and spent a year in the Professional Winter Residency Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Marsha maintains an active and dynamic flute studio, teaches regular master classes, and teaches within the VCM/Camosun College Diploma Program. In September 2013 she was appointed VCM Schools Liaison, for which her duties include developing and maintaining relationships with the school principals and music teachers of the local school districts in the CRD, and coordinating VCM faculty lead clinics, student performances, and other music education activities for these schools.

Erin Fraser – Staff Representative (non-voting)
Erin Fraser joined the VCM in October 2006 as a Reception and Registration clerk. Following tenures as Student Accounts Coordinator and Assistant to the Registrar, she took the position of Executive Assistant in 2009 following the arrival of CEO Jane Butler McGregor. Artistic by nature, Erin has recently adopted principal graphic design responsibilities for the VCM, including the Course Calendar and most fundraising and event materials. The balance of creative and administrative work, along with a passion for music instilled at an early age, keeps her engaged and inspired.