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Festival Leadership

Carsten Schmidt

Artistic Director

Carsten Schmidt enjoys a flourishing career as a pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor, and has performed widely throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. He has been heard at Ravinia Festival, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Moscow Conservatory, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, German Mozart Festival, as well as in broadcasts worldwide.

Jason Stell

Executive Director

Jason Stell, concert commentator and music historian, received his musicology Ph.D. in 2006 from Princeton University. Previous degrees in music theory (M.A.) and astrophysics (B.S.) were from Pennsylvania State University, where he enjoyed opportunities to write and present research on topics from Beethoven and Scriabin to supernovae and quarks.

Steve Berneking

Chair, Board of Directors

Steve Berneking works at the United Bible Societies as the Director of an international team, providing services to Bible translators and consultants around the world. Steve has played the piano his entire life in a range of genres and especially loves classical music and “southern-style gospel music.” He and his wife Riikka live in downtown Staunton.

Tamara Ridenour

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors

Tamara Ridenour is president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia. She came to Staunton in 2011, and holds a bachelor's degree in music. She has sung in symphony choruses, chamber ensembles, and community choirs, and has directed many church choirs. Tamara has served on and chaired numerous non-profit boards of directors.

Carol Shapiro

Treasurer, Board of Directors

Carol Shapiro has been a full-time Staunton resident for 4 1/2 years. She retired from Navy Federal Credit Union after a 40 year career, which culminated in developing and implementing customer service innovations for branches all over the world. She loved traveling the globe for her work, and travel remains her passion in retirement.

Bart Huxtable

Secretary, Board of Directors

As an amateur astronomer hauling telescopes up the Allegheny Mountains, Bart Huxtable discovered Staunton nearly 20 years ago. After obtaining a Ph.D. from Caltech in theoretical physics and developing radar and communication systems, he looks forward to woodworking, piano tuning, and sampling craft beers and music around the Valley.

Richard Barnes

Board of Directors

Richmond native Richard Barnes studied at William & Mary where he met Mary, his wife of 57 years. After two decades in public education, Richard spent his later career as Director of Development at a Quaker Conference Center in Philadelphia. He currently serves on the board of the Garth Newel Music Center and maintains a second home in Bath County.

Christine Capito Burch

Board of Directors

Christine Capito Burch served for over twenty years as the Executive Director of the National Association of Public Hospitals. Prior to that she was a professional staff member in the U.S. Senate for the late Senator Edward Kennedy. She and her husband Michael love to travel and enjoy concerts in London, Rome, Paris – and of course Staunton!

Yi-Ping Chen

Board of Directors

Striving to make classical music relevant to her communities, Yi-Ping Chen thrives on serving multiple musical organizations including conducting Rockbridge Symphony and Shenandoah Valley Youth Symphony, and teaching conducting at JMU. Yi-Ping co-founded Caravanserai Music to foster connections through performance.

Rick Chittum

Board of Directors

Rick Chittum grew up in Staunton and was educated at W&L University. He retired as a legislative consultant for the community mental health system, and he has managed the family tree farm in Augusta County for several decades. Beginning as a child chorister at Trinity Episcopal Church, Rick has served numerous arts and cultural organizations.

Diane Fechtel

Board of Directors

The daughter of a Naval officer, Diane Fechtel has worked as a medical technologist and later became a medical sales representative for Johnson & Johnson. With her husband Tom, an executive with Coca-Cola, Diane has lived in many world cities and settled in Staunton in 2004. She has been very active in multiple civic organizations and is an avid gardener.

Terry Grant

Board of Directors

Charlottesville resident Terry Grant has been driving “over the mountain” for SMF since 2001. In addition to working with her family's real estate business in NYC and assisting refugees in Virginia, Terry has spent two decades as a classical announcer at WTJU-FM and as an executive board member of Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival.

Larry Harrell

Board of Directors

Larry Harrell moved to Staunton from Georgia in 1978 after finishing his medical residency to begin his thirty year career. He began at King's Daughters' Hospital and then moved to Augusta Health when it opened in 1994. In his retirement he enjoys various venues of classical music, travel, and watching Turner Classic Movies when at home.

Stewart Searle

Board of Directors, Chief Videographer

After a long business career, including as management consultant with McKinsey & Company and other corporations, Stewart Searle retired in 2005 and developed a serious interest in video creation. Since then he has produced roughly 500 documentary videos, primarily for performing arts and nonprofits, including Staunton Music Festival.

Wilson "Wick" Vellines

Board of Directors

Attorney Wick Vellines retired as senior partner with Vellines, Glick, and Whitesell to continue his other passions of fly fishing, cooking and music. He has been adjunct professor at Washington & Lee University School of Law (his alma mater) and is active with numerous civic organizations throughout the region.

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