Connect with LEAF

LEAF is a small non-profit organization with a big vision. We are always seeking to improve within our capacity and opportunities. Your insights and support are appreciated.

JOB OPENINGS: None currently.
828.68-MUSIC [686-8742]

Phone Hours (may vary):
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: 10am-4pm

Hours of Operation:
By appointment only.

19 Eagle Street, Suite 120
Asheville, NC 28801

Become a Teaching Artist

Openings limited. Please allow 2-3 weeks for review once submitted.


Customized in Development, Arts Education, Marketing, Promotions, Events, Community, Global Engagement, etc.
LEAF Global Arts work is visioned and comes together with the leadership of our Navigator Staff, Board, Teaching Artists and Culture Keepers who fuel and fulfill LEAF’s mission year-round!

Navigators & Aviators

Culture Keepers

Schools & Streets Teaching Artists

Board of Directors

Board Emeritus

Compass Advisors & Curators

Mission & Vision

Mission: To cultivate a thriving global community generated by the power of cultural curiosity, connection, and preservation through global music and arts education and experiences.

Vision: Transforming Lives, Connecting Cultures and Generating Unity. LEAF is looks towards the legacy we want to be generating in the communities we serve. We see ourselves using music, art and festivals to create welcoming places and spaces of possibility that foster shared experiences powerful enough to transform lives, connect cultures and generate unity.

LEAF Navigators

Leading LEAF with care daily. Listed by when they joined the team.

Executive Director + Founder | Jennifer Pickering

Global Engagement Director | Schree Chavdarov

LEAF Associate Director | Erinn Hartley

Community Development & Grant Director | Heather Deifell

Operations + Volunteer Director | Chelcie Spencer

Chief Financial Officer & Production | Leigh Maher

Artistic Curator & Teaching Artist | Otto Vazquez

Global Arts Education Assistant| Ar’yan Graham

Bookkeeper | Kristal Woods


LEAF Aviators

Flying in and out with their specialized skills.

Cultural Ambassador & Curator | Adama Dembele

Welcome Team | Kelsey Long, Derian & more

Community Events Coordinator -Easel Rider & ULEAF| Marsha Almodovar

Vendor & Healing Arts Coordinator | Madison Link

Human Resources Advisor | Kevin L. Young  Strategic HR Business Partner

Maven of Contra & Special Advisor Always! | Mike Compton

Plus many LEAF Festival Team superstars & fabulous Interns!


Our Core Values

We are driven by our mission.
We advocate for equity.
We act with openness & integrity.
We support each other as agents of positivity & care. “We Got This”.
We collaborate with purpose.
We celebrate with gratitude.

LEAF International Culture Keepers

Culture Keepers hold knowledge of specific culture or traditions. They are often elders. The passing forward of this knowledge to their youth is essential for cultural preservation. LEAF values partnerships to deepen sustainability. Area partners are acknowledged below.

David Kwizera, Rwanda Culture Keeper

Claude Nyandwi, Rwanda Teaching Artist

Dramane Dembele, Ivory Coast Culture Keeper (SOS d’Abobo Orphanage)

Fredy Nganga, Arusha, Tanzania Culture Keeper (Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots)

Edward Ndoleli, Arusha, Tanzania ONEmic Studio Engineer (Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots)

Luis Salazar, Costa Rica Cabecar Culture Keeper 

Alexis Rodriguez, Costa Rica Ngabe Bugle Culture Keeper Jirondai)

Sara Morales, Guatemala Culture Keeper (PEG, Child Aid)

Stephanie Munoz, Guatemala Teaching Artist (PEG, Child Aid)

Marco Lievano, Mexico Teaching Artist (Ramon Osorio y Osorio school)

Jose Hayans, Panama Guna Yale Culture Keeper

Yoba Barrentes, Panama Guna Yale Coordinator 

Chief Shaka Zulu, NOLA Culture Keeper (Burial Beer)


Schools & Streets Teaching Artists

A teaching artist is “a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and sensibilities of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.”  -Eric Booth
Otto Vazquez – Hip Hop Dance 
Adama Dembele – West African Drumming, Language, Culture
Melissa McKinney – Music, Songwriting, Vocals & ONEmic
Agustin Frederic-Ramos – World Percussion & Music
Edwin Salas – Mexican Puppetry & Creative Arts
Kayla McKinney – Music, Songwriting, Vocals, Music-Videos
Marci Bernstein – Theatre
Ashleigh Goff – Theatre
Lisa Smith – Stop Motion Animation, Live-Action Movie Making, Global Creative Writing
Joe Carroll – Improv Theatre
Irvegg Romero-Gallegos – BreakDance & World Rhythms
Derian Blane Mills – Ukulele, Social Change through Music Songwriting & Vocals
Ary’an Graham– Drum Kit, Percussion, Guitar, Ukulele, ONEmic
Elsea May Brown – World Dance 
Paul Gladstone – World Percussion, Guitar, ONEmic & Music
Jenny Pickens
Ashley Rivera
Tarah Singh
Madison Link
Edwin Salas
Marsha Almodovar
Erinn Hartley

In conjunction with events, LEAF invites performing artists from around the globe to lead Visiting Teaching Artist Residencies with elementary, middle, and/or high school students in the Asheville/WNC area. It is an opportunity for youth to take the next step toward becoming global citizens learning directly from artists from other cultures. 

Since 2004, LEAF has hosted over 115  Visiting Artists with 20-25 annually. Artists have included Rising Appalachia, Kinobe of Uganda,  The Change, Masankho Banda of Malawi, Paul Beaubrun of Haiti, Gina Chavez of Cuba  Sweet Honey & The Rock, Mickey Hart & more. Their work with our local youth has been tremendous!

LEAF Visiting Teaching Artist residencies include:
• 2-10 day Residencies occur during the week prior to LEAF Festival, during the school day, in schools around Asheville and the WNC area
• Visiting Teaching Artists are carefully selected and are typically national and internationally touring acts who have a deep interest in engaging youth in music and arts.
• Each student gets the opportunity to be treated like a rockstar with family guest passes for the day of their performance, a goodie bag, a cool LEAF t-shirt and other neat surprises!
• The opportunity for youth to truly become global citizens and artistic leaders by working with role models of different cultures and see beyond right now into the possibility for the future.

Interested in booking a residency? 


Board of Directors
& Board Emeritus

LEAF Board supports LEAF Global Arts year-round through visioning, planning, event support and community service.

Dr. “Big E” Eric Howard | President

Educational Policies, Social Work & Photography

Jim Diaz
 | Chair
Entrepreneur & Strategic Planning

Barbara Benisch | Secretary
Non-profit Catalyst Consulting 

David Dowd | Treasurer
Banking & Community

Jay Moye | Whip
International Marketing

Justice Rogers | Board Chair Emeritus
National Emergency Services, Community

Chris Bubenik
Marketing, Public Relations, City & County  Programming & Services

Tiffany De’Bellot
Youth Development, Community Organizing

Warren Givens
Digital Marketing, Consulting and Music

Michael Hale
Global Educational Technology, Higher Education Organization, Education Research, Civil Discourse, Business Development

Amy Kawar
Education, International Business

Chinobay Kinobe
World Music Artists, Visionary & Entreprenuer, Dance of Hope

Jay Lively
Education, Development, Community Connections

Brian Smith
Culinary Arts, Community, Baba Nahm

Rick Stevenson
Community, Asheville City Schools, Transportation

Noah Wilson
Business Development & Strategic PartnersGlobal Educational

LEAF’s Treasured Circle of Support who fueled LEAF’s work & vision, and continue to help guide LEAF forward. Board Emeritus served full Board terms or helped start the organization:

Board Presidents & Chair Emeritus: Pete Roe • Derek Allen • Ivi Bilich • • Deborah Bryant • James Fisher • Elizabeth Hunter • Reggie Tidwell • Jody Whitehurst

Carol Antman • Joanne Badr-Morgan • Jen Beasley • Gary Broome • Tracy Massiello Brown  • Cleaster Cotton  • Christine DiBenedetto • Naima Dido • Bill Feste • Tommy George • River Guerguerian • Vanessa Guerrero • Kerri Hampton • Kelly Hanson • Elbert Hargrave • Cliff Hotchkiss  • Jill Jones • Jim Magill • Holt Moore • Neely Neu • Sarah Nie • Doug Orr • Anthony Thomas  • Robert Todd • Ford Willis • Steve Wilmans • Mike Zinsmeister

LEAF Attorneys At Law Emeritus: Bob Deutsch & Sean Devereux

Thank you for your service & Dedication to LEAF:

Jana Daley • Bob Deutsch • Sean Devereux • Vince Floriani • Selena Lauterer  • Meg MacLeod • Jim Magill • Debrissa McKinney •  Wond Hallie • Doug Orr • Jaime Perkins • Michael Perling • Chuck Pickering • Craig Plocica • Rob Routhieaux • Selenah Seabrooks • Parvinder Sethi • Elizabeth Teague • Terri Teaque • Kat Williams • Anastasia Yarbrough


& Compass Advisors

LEAF Global opened Valentines 2020 created by  brilliant curators and builders coming together representing their culture and roots.

Juanita Jackson, Welcome Station

Roy Harris, Del Cardo History

Easel Rider Art Bar & Murals, Marsha Almodovar

World Map & Kiosks, Interactive Knowledge Team, Schree Chavdarov, Megan Crow

Claude Coleman, Del Cardo Music Trail

Huichol Stairs, Ponkho Bermejo

Farhad Javedi, CAVE (Center for Augmented and Virtual Reality Environments)

Cultural Immersion Exhibit, Schree Chavdarov

Nex Millen, ONEmic Recording Studio

River Guerguerian, Sound Underground

Jefferson Ellison, Sougou Artists Market

Adama Dembele, Tailor Shop & Sougou Market

Mark Hennegan, Madiba Mezzanine

Bob Doss, Headquarters

Paul Gallimore & Beni Ramseth, ESRI Maps

Murals, Jenny Pickens, Julia of Just Folks, Darrell Rose, Monique Luck, Kimi Leger, Tara Singh, Tommy Lee, Megan Crow, Kristal Woods

& many superstar LEAFers.

Builder: Damian Davis Construction

Project Manager: Miriam Gee – COEverything

Contractor: Satchomo & Company

World Map & Kiosks: Interactive Knowledge

Sound: Harmony Interiors

Exhibits: Asheville High Woodworking with My Daddy Taught Me That Students (MDTMT) 

Design: Maurice Legendre – Sacred Element Event Designs

Operations: Chelcie Spencer

Techonology Support: Leigh Maher

Desks: Green Opportunities

LEAF Navigators + LEAF Board

So much GRATITUDE for these brilliant creatives who have been there to encourage and advise LEAF Global’s new path.

Judith Ann Abrams, NY, NY, Broadway Producer  • Matthew Bacoate, Asheville, NC •  Alexandra & Don Clayton, Asheville, NC + St. Maarten, International Business Entrepreneur • Bootsy & Pepperminte Patti Collins, Cincinnati, Ohio, Masters of FUNK! • Charles Gwinn, Winston Salem, NC, Developer/ International Consultant • Darrell Rose, Charlottesville VA, West African Drum Master • Derek Andrews, Toronto, Canada, Mundial Montreal  + World Music Advocate • Gene Bell, Asheville, NC, AVL Housing Authority • Georgia Beasley, Peru, International Development • James Nave, Asheville, NC + Philippines, Poet • Kinobe, Kampala, Uganda, Dance of Hope • Kiran Singh, Jonesboro, TN + Scotland, Jonesboro Storytelling Festival • Lisa Ruberti, NY, NY, Bennetton, Fashion• Masankho Banda, Malawi, International Peace Builder + Educator • Natalia Clavier, NY, NY, Thievery Corporation • Tom Pryor, NY, NY, Music Journalist + Media Consultant • Greg Lucas, New Orleans, Preservation Hall • Leah Song, Global Artist & Activist • Jordan Robbins, Jane Goodall Institute-No Barriers & LEAF • Eric Heller, Atlanta, GA • Brian Linus Ngatunga, Tanzania •  David LaMotte, Musician-Speaker-Author & part of LEAF since 1995!



Thank you for supporting our mission!

Making meaningful connections across diverse cultures through the arts is at once the most simple concept and one of the most complex. Making those connections locally and internationally for multiple generations is the most noble (and, in my mind, most important) mission I have ever seen a group of people undertake. This literally is a path to world peace. Any normal group of persons would find this mission too overwhelming. Too impossible. It is a good thing that this LEAF family of our is NOT normal - - not even close. We are the dreamers, the creatives, the makers, and the visionaries. This is important work. This is our work.