A grand Tradition
MusicFest Northwest, formerly The Greater Spokane Music & Allied Arts Festival, was founded in 1945 by Spokane piano teacher Josephine Clark (left) to celebrate the end of World War II and to “promote the arts of peace”. Inspired by the great music festivals of Europe, it served as the premier event of its kind in North America.
MusicFest brings more than 3,000 people to the Gonzaga University campus and other locations throughout Spokane annually. At least half of these guests are non-residential to Spokane, generating more than $500,000 to support the local economy. This value is a significant portion of the approximately $34 million generated by all art organizations of Spokane County.
By the Numbers
In 2019, more than 1,100 students participated in separate performances representing 300 public and private teachers.
More than 100 volunteers provide staffing and leadership every year.
An increase of 35% participation in the last nine years.
Participants have been recruited to premier conservatories and universities around the world and received numerous prestigious awards.
The Festival has been honored to have several internationally, nationally, and locally acclaimed alumni, including Thomas Hampson, Frank Hernandez, Kelly Farris, Stephen Drury, Greg Presley, Archie Chen, Jody Graves, Jason Moody, Karen Beardsley, and many others.
MusicFest Northwest is located in Spokane, WA, on the campus of Gonzaga University. Festival week traditionally takes place the second week of May. During the festival there are free concerts in addition to high-quality adjudication. The festival offers unique experiences in both performance and education, providing premier access to renowned artists and teachers throughout the United States. The festival engages in both competition and collaborative opportunities that encourage and create space for individual exploration, artistry, and community.
Our team is responsible for day-to-day operations and play a vital role in supporting MusicFest Northwest’s mission. Take a moment to meet our staff, Board of Trustees, and Division Chairs.
- President: Dr. Jody Graves
- Vice President: Cheryl Carney
- Treasurer: Karen Hughes
- Assistant Treasurer: Akiko Katori
- Recording Secretary: Logan Pintor
- Website & Social Media: Nathan Westlund & Logan Pintor
- Marketing & PR: Dr. Julia Salerno
- Sponsors/Donors/Partnerships: Ryan Crossette
- Ballet Division: Peggy Goodner-Tan & Maren Scoggins
- Brass Division: Nathan Westlund and Logan Pintor
- Flute Division: Barb Cantlon and Jill Cathey
- Piano Division: Marlene Haney and Jody Graves
- Reed Division: Barb Cantlon and Jill Cathey
- String Division: John Sherrick, Dr. Julia Salerno and Dr. Meredith Arksey
- Voice Division: Gail Belanger
- Volunteers: Peggy Smith
- GU, SSO and KPBX Liaison: Cheryl Carney
- Masterclasses/Educational Events: Cheryl Carney
Dr. Nicole Sonbert, Director
Dr. Nicole Sonbert, Mezzo-Soprano is recognized for work as a performer, clinician, guest presenter, adjudicator, and guest conductor. She has performed roles including Aunt Lou in Still’s Highway One, USA, Madame Flora in Menotti’s The Medium, Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the Mother in Menotti’s The Consul, the ghost mother in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Buttercup in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, and Bloody Mary in Rodger and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. She is also known for her orchestral performances as the alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah.
Dr. Sonbert is a graduate of University of Kentucky with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance. Her research area encompasses Evaluating Appropriate Repertoire for Developing Singers: An African-American Art Song Anthology. Sonbert was previously the Youth & Family Programs Manager for Seattle Opera, as well as a part of the voice faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also taught in several other training programs, with many of her students winning first place awards for NATS and concerto competitions. In 2006, she was the recipient of the “My Teacher, My Hero” award, honoring her as a teacher and mentor for young voices. Dr. Sonbert is currently the Director of the Community Music School and Instructor of Applied Voice for the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.
Logan Pintor, Administrative Assistant
Dr. Jody Graves, President
Dr. Julia Salerno
Dr. Julia Salerno has been a resident of Spokane since 2010. She leads a multi-faceted career as a violinist, studio teacher and real estate advisor. In college, Julia was a violin performance major and attended University of Michigan for her Bachelor’s degree and University of Southern California for her Masters and Doctoral degrees. Throughout her childhood in Walla Walla, Julia participated annually in MusicFest Northwest from 1994-2005, culminating with the tremendous opportunity to solo with the Spokane Symphony as a Young Artist winner.
Julia spent over a decade as violin professor at EWU, during which time she also became very involved with MusicFest Northwest as a teacher sending students ranging from 5th grade to collegiate level as participants each year.
In early 2020, Julia shifted her major career focus into the real estate profession and has been honored to get to know the Spokane community in such a deep and unique way. She is also thrilled for new opportunities to support and serve on the boards of the local music organizations she is so passionate about. Julia is grateful for the critical role MusicFest Northwest played in her own musical upbringing as well as that of so many students past and present, and so excited for the tremendous growth of the organization to come!
Jill Cathey is excited to join the board of MusicFest in 2022. Jill has a bachelor of arts from Washington State University and Master of Music from The University of Akron (Ohio), and recently finished a Masters in Teaching from Eastern Washington University. She has been an active member of the music community in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene for more than 20 years, freelancing and teaching privately as an oboist and woodwind doubler. Jill was a graphic designer at WSU and UI before retiring to raise her son, and served on the board of the Coeur d’Alene Symphony as the public relations chair until 2018.
Meredith Arksey, Violin and Viola, is an Associate Professor of Music Emeritus at Washington State University where she taught from 1995 to 2021. She was the coordinator of the string area and taught studio violin and viola to undergraduate and graduate string majors. She received her doctorate in Violin Performance from Michigan State University. She is currently the co-concertmaster of the Washington-Idaho Symphony and performs frequently with the Spokane Symphony. Since 1989 she has been the first violinist of the Silver Bay String Quartet, Silver Bay, NY. She is an active Suzuki and traditional teacher with a strong studio, and is a frequent competition judge as well as an adjudicator for NWMEA, MTNA and National ASTACAP. She is also a contributing author for THE STRAD Online Magazine, and is Past-President of Washington State ASTA. As a clinician she presents sessions at the National American String Teachers Association Conferences, NWMEA Conferences, the National Suzuki Conference, and is the creator of pedagogy videos for the American Suzuki Association.
Steinway Piano Gallery of Spokane sponsors Musicfest Northwest, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Spokane Piano Competition and others. Ryan dedicates numerous hours, money and energy providing these important programs with quality instruments.
Ryan plays the piano by ear and constantly trying to improve his craft. He started at the age of 5 and since then he always seems to be found at the piano entertaining and composing. He has piano albums on all major streaming services including Pandora, Apple Music and Spotify. His music has been streamed over 10 million times.
With a particular focus on achieving results, Karen maximizes resources applying deep analysis and an objective perspective to each engagement, facilitating discussion, engaging stakeholders inclusively, while being mindful of the culture of the organization. With a wide range of interests and expertise, Karen brings tested tools and techniques for developing and maintaining culture and strategy as well as creative solutions.
Karen is a Certified Public Accountant and received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central Washington University. Karen is an innovative and driven accounting professional whose career spans over 30 years and includes a breadth of experience. Over the years her positions have included internal auditor for a publicly traded insurance company, independent auditor for Moss Adams, and tax manager for a regional public accounting firm. This experience enables her to quickly assess system designs, strengths and weaknesses, internal controls and staffing qualifications. She has volunteering over the years with special needs children and adults and disadvantaged children, most recently serving as Treasurer for Musicfest Northwest and chairing a local endowment trust.
Karen began with Community Link Consulting in 1999. Since inception of CLC, she has been both a consultant to CHCs in differing capacities and participated in the management and growth of CLC. In the last 3 years, CLC has grown with employees in 16 states while maintaining the unique and valued culture of the CLC organization. The mission of CHCs, strategic planning and visioning is of particular interest to her as she guides Community Link Consulting forward.
Peggy’s professional credits include dancing with Connecticut Ballet, The National Ballet of Ireland, and Spokane Ballet.
Your donation helps support MusicFest Northwest and the Festival each year. Help foster and inspire a lifelong passion for the arts.