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2022 - 2023


Mary Beth Woodruff, Artistic Director

Linda Stafford Burrows, President

Christopher Elstner, Vice President

Frauke Wittmer-Grant, Treasurer

Mariko Braswell

Chris Kazali

David Imani

Alita Rhodes

Sellars Whitehead

Staff: Pilar Montes, Director of Operations

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Santa Barbara Strings Board Biographies (2022-2023)


Mariko Braswell is working currently as a free-lance communications specialist, having just returned to the US from living in Singapore for 7 years. She is Co-Founder and CEO of Singapore-based Move 78 Pte Ltd, an advisory with a focus on Digital Inclusion in the Finance, Health and Education and Sustainability sectors. Move 78 was the recipient of the Leadership Transformation Award for an SME during the AmChams (American Chambers) of the Asia Pacific Business Summit of 2021. She was also a founding partner of The APAC Financial Wellness Initiative; together with Financial Resilience Australia, they have established the cross-sectoral platform engaging like-minded individuals, innovators, and institutions to collectively share findings and collaborate on solutions towards ‘financial wellness for all’ in the Asia Pacific region.

Prior to Move 78, she ran her own PR firm representing global innovators and fintech companies, was actively involved in mentoring young entrepreneurs. Mariko also serves as Temple Manager for the Santa Barbara Zen Center’s arm in Santa Ynez and enjoys spending as much time as possible with her husband, Frank Troise, who continues to commute from Asia, and her two grown kids: Mina, a sophomore at RISD, and Spencer, a senior at Dunn School and violinist and previous SBS participant. Mariko is thrilled at the opportunity to serve the Santa Barbara Strings community.

Linda Stafford Burrows dedicates her work in the community on two focus areas - first, advocating for and working with music & arts education programs and performance organizations and, second, working for the well-being of people living in mid-county and south county Santa Barbara through the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation (where she served for nine years four as President) and now through the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.

Ms. Stafford Burrows currently is the Coordinator of the Santa Ynez Valley Concert Series at St. Mark’s which, for 42 years has been dedicated to enriching the community through presenting world-class musical artists in live performance. In addition, she leads all the Women’s Fund’s educational events including the Grants in Action program which creates educational programs including forums, site visits and spotlight programs examining ongoing critical community needs impacting women, children, and families. During the 2020-2022 pandemic years we created programs partnering with documentarians to create short films with Women’s Fund grantees showcasing their critical work and impacts to be presented on and continue to be accessed online.

Organizations Ms. Stafford Burrows has helped create, led, or served as a board member or program creator for over the years include: Solvang School Education Foundation (now S.A.M. Solvang Arts & Music), the Let There Be Music! advocacy campaign for expanding music education in Santa Ynez Valley public schools, CAMA, Stix Hooper’s Solvang Jazz Festival (Director of Education), Valley Community Theatre (Founding President), Santa Barbara Strings (Founding President), Solvang Festival Theater, PCPA Foundation, AAPLE Academy Education Enrichment at San Marcos High School, St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Church.

Ms. Stafford Burrows was honored to do her undergraduate work at Harvard and then had the good fortune to be selected train for public service through a CORO Fellowship in Public Affairs. Following her CORO Fellowship, she did her graduate work at Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research where she received a Masters in Law & Social Policy and a Masters in Social Services and subsequently worked in the field of child advocacy with the Children’s Research Institute of California and as a founder of the Children & Families Action Network in Alameda County.

Christopher Elstner, M.D. is now in his third year as a board member and thoroughly enjoys bringing music to all young people, regardless of their backgrounds. Dr. Elstner graduated from Iowa State University (B.S. Journalism and Mass Communication) and later attended the University of Vermont College of Medicine with subsequent pediatric resident training at the University of Utah and the University of Vermont. He passed his board exams at Tufts in Boston, Massachusetts. Having been fortunate to have lived in Iowa, Vermont, Utah, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C, he moved with his wife, Paula Bagalio (Nurse Practitioner recently retired from UCSB after 32 years) and three sons to the Santa Barbara area. Affiliated with Cottage Hospital, he practiced primary care pediatrics in private practice and with the Goleta Neighborhood Clinic and spent time with Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan. After an active 43 year career in pediatrics, Dr. Elstner recently retired, yet he still spends much of his time mentoring and advancing music and the arts to students in the Santa Barbara area. Dr. Elstner’s interests include music (he plays the piano and cello), mentoring young people, bicycling, hiking and traveling. His goal as a board member of the Santa Barbara Strings is to bring high quality string music to youth of all backgrounds, letting them know that they are all worthy to play beautiful music if they simply look and really give it a try

David Imani’s varied career has always laddered up to his ultimate obsessions: community and conversation. He currently leads content strategy for Impossible Foods, developing programs and narratives that make people hungry to save the planet through their food choices. Over the years, he's led a diverse array of digital strategy and creative development efforts for food and beverage brands like Budweiser, travel brands like American Airlines, tech brands like Samsung, social impact projects like Meals on Wheels, government agencies like the National Forest Service, entertainment events like The Tony Awards, and even Broadway shows like Dear Evan Hansen. He likes to say he got a "BS in BS" because he received his B.S. in Communication from Boston University. When he’s not working, he starts a lot of crafts and never finishes them. He also loves to dance (choreographed and in the club), help with performing arts projects, support immigration and LGBTQ rights organizations and efforts, as well as do literally anything outside.

Chris Kazali earned her PhD in clinical psychology at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. She had 3 children, one an alumni of Santa Barbara Strings, and another a current member both of whom are violinists. Her son, Josh is a sophomore at Columbia University; daughter Zöe is a senior at Santa Ynez High School; son Dylan is a 6th grader at the Ballard School. Chris was the co-owner and operator of The Ballard Inn 2004-2021, and has served on the Ballard School Board of Trustees since 2009


Alita Rhodes was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA, received her degree from the University of Washington, and taught English in the Seattle public school system for 5 years before moving back to California. As a cellist, she attended the Music Academy of the West in her early collegiate years and was a member of the Santa Barbara Symphony for 35 years before retiring recently. She has taught privately in the Santa Barbara area for many years, is an avid chamber musician, contributes to the music program at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, and has been a founding board member of Santa Barbara Strings since its inception. One of her last students, before retiring from teaching, was her grandson, Aidan Woodruff. Despite ‘retirement’ she is still a string assistant with SB Strings and currently teaches 3 of our ESTP young cellists.

Sellars Whitehead was born and raised in Mexico to a pure blood Chumash mother. She has a master’s degree in psychology and lives with her husband and two sons, both of whom were long-time participants in Santa Barbara Strings. She has been deeply engaged in social work throughout the community of Santa Barbara. “I have collaborated as a volunteer for many local non profits like Catholic Charities, St. Mark's Pantry, Santa Barbara Strings, Mariachi Summer Institute, Las Monarcas Youth and Children's Mariachi Groups, Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Pipe and Drum Corps, The Guthrie Pipe and Drum Memorial Band, Santa Barbara Community Kitchen, Santa Barbara Food Bank, to name a few. "My sons and I are the founders of the Jesus Loves You Sandwich Club an interfaith prepared food distribution program where we serve homeless individuals. In the winter time - when people are turning out their old bedding in order to update - we recover gently used blankets/linens and run a sleeping bag and blanket distribution program. We are also the founders of the Farewell Group an effort that donates military bagpipe accompaniment at the memorial services of homeless war time veterans. We are also the on-call pipe group for the SB Veterans' Memorial Association. Additionally I extend space in our apartment as a safe refuge for women who are in transition from domestic abuse to safely keep their belongings in a secure environment.”

Frauke Wittmer-Grant received her degrees from the Fachhochschule (Munich) in Finance and Investment Management and Auburn University at Montgomery (MBA). She has worked with Deutsche Bank, Raytheon, Siemens, SMARTfit, inc. among others. Her areas of expertise include: strategic and financial planning, finance and accounting, sales and marketing, and business development. Her daughter, Anya, is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley in the school of engineering and playing in the UC Berkeley Chamber Orchestra. Anya was a violinist with SB Strings for 6 years. Her son, Noah, is a sophomore at Dos Pueblos high school.

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