MEET THE TEAM
Founder/Chief Cultural Officer USA
Violinist Michelle Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea and started piano lessons at age five before switching to violin after six months. After her family moved to southern California, she made her Los Angeles debut at age 10, playing Vivaldi's Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. In the several years following, Ms. Kim won numerous solo competitions resulting in her performances of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Violin Concertos and Saint-Saen's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with orchestras in Los Angeles, Berkeley, and New York.
Ms. Kim has performed in numerous music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Salzburg Mozarteum Academy Festival, Music and Sound at Banff Centre, and New York String Quartet Seminar. At Banff, she performed in the Music for a Midsummer Evening Grand Concert which was broadcast live throughout Canada on the CBS Radio Network. In 2009, Ms. Kim played Bach's Partita No. 3 for the Institute for Korean-American Studies Liberty Award Dinner honoring Ambassador Christopher R. Hill at the US Senate Russell Building on Capitol Hill.
An active chamber musician and a soloist, Ms Kim is frequently heard in recitals around the DC Metro area including at the Kennedy Center, the Alexandria Lyceum, the DC Public Library, the Arts Club of Washington DC, and the Embassies of Russia and Argentina. In 2010, Ms. Kim was invited to be guest concertmaster of the New England Symphonic Ensemble in a premiere performance of Oh My Son composed by Marcos Galvany in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. Recently, she was also concertmaster of both the Summer Opera Theatre Company playing Bizet's Carmen at the Harman Center for the Arts, and the Washington Savoyards at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. She has also performed with stars including Vanessa Williams, Beyonce, Willy Nelson, and Gwen Stefani at the Kennedy Center Honors, and in concerts with Clay Aiken, Rod Stewart, and Andrea Bocelli.
An advocate for music education, Ms. Kim was a member of Musica Aperta where she performed chamber music for DC Public Schools that introduced classical music and basic theory and harmony.
Ms. Kim has been a first violin section member of Washington National Opera Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts since graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, where she was a scholarship student of Laurie Carney of the American String Quartet. In addition to holding a Master's Degree in Music, Ms. Kim has a Bachelor's degree in Statistics from the University of California at Berkeley where she was awarded the Alfred Hertz Memorial Scholarship to study music in New York City.
Chief Financial Advisor USA
Stephen Powell was in the entertainment industry before becoming an investment banker specializing in media transactions. As the founder of HBO Sports and first Programming Chief at ESPN, he was and remains the youngest person ever to head sports programming at a major television network and the only person to start two such operations.
Powell also worked in the Sports Marketing Group at Philip Morris, as a management consultant at Bain & Company, and as an investment banker at Grubb & Ellis and Deutsche Bank.
He founded SinoPowell Capital in 1999 to focus on international transactions in mining, energy, real estate, aviation, finance and logistics. The company continues
his family involvement over the last century in natural resources and banking in Canada and around the world.
In the last 15 years, SinoPowell has worked on transactions in over 30 countries with a combined value in excess of $20 Billion. Clients and partners include private, public and government entities in the United States and abroad. SinoPowell acts as an advisor, an intermediary and a principal.
Steve Powell has a BA in Economics (honors) from Brown University, an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Karim Wasfi was born in Cairo to a famous artistic family. Son of late Iraqi Movie star/composer Kanaan Wasfi and late Egyptian pianist Halima Al Heniedi, Maestro Wasfi has been the chief conductor and director for the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra since 2007. After hard work and development plans, the Orchestra went from 52 members in 2006 to a full 126 members, playing primarily classical European music and Iraqi compositions.
Stemming from an innate passion for music, Mr. Wasfi began directing 25 years ago, taking over the Iraqi symphony in 2007. His need and desire for development began when he asked himself “What do millions of people need and want?” Despite a number of Hardships affecting the area, Mr. Wasfi and members of INSO rose above the bombings and demolished buildings to create a new life form in the area. Utilizing his optimism and enthusiasm, he drew in new members from a variety of backgrounds, transforming the rather dim perspective into a symbolic alternative.
Offering hope, Maestro Wasfi launched “Peace Through Arts,” the first private program to teach classical music to youth and orphans. The youth orchestra is aimed to teach music, civics, and manners to 180 youths from different backgrounds and ethnicities towards the goal of reconciliation and cultural integration, collaborating with many entities, such as the Baghdad municipality, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.N. and the U.S. Department of State represented by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Mr. Wasfi attended the prestigious University of Indiana in Bloomington and took conducting classes by David Effron, also with Guinady Roshdstvinsky-Cairo, Kurt Mazur, and Lorin Maazel. In addition, he studied physics and philosophy at Cairo University. Mr. Wasfi lectured at the Music and Ballet School—Baghdad in 1990 then the Cairo Conservatoire from 1992-94, followed by establishing Iraq’s membership to the Mediterranean orchestra.
His greatest accomplishments have been simply overcoming the obstacles of instability and vagueness through civility, refinement, and cultivation. As he states, “It does not matter what others do to you, what matter is how you react to the obstacles by functioning.” Mr. Wasfi attributes his success to dedication, determination, hard work, and belief. Since relocating to the United States in 2012, Maestro Wasfi has expanded the orchestra, but prioritizes his time by sharing hope with 340 orphans around Baghdad with the formation of the first youth orphans orchestra. Mr. Wasfi is the recipient of 1998 Eva Heinitz Cello Scholarship, Indiana University and the 1994 Lord Y. Menuhin Scholarship, Royal Academy of Music, United Kingdom.
Audio Visual Director USA
Photographer and videographer Brian Rayford is an artist at his core. He has a passion for capturing and creating stories. With a background in graphics design, he views this medium of videography and photography as a natural extension of his passion for the arts. He donates a large portion of his time to several non-profits in the Washington, DC area, giving back and helping others through the use of photography and video.
Sarah Kaiser-Cross is the Senior Research Manager at The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), where she tracks political violence in developing states. She previously lived and worked throughout the Middle East and also served as an FLTA Fulbright Fellow in Turkey. Sarah has an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Global Policy Studies from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.