Mark Sherry, Executive Director
Mark was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and has been a resident of Western Massachusetts for 26 years. He has a B.A. in History and Physiological Psychology from the University of Buffalo, and also has a M.A from New York University in Educational Psychology and a M.Ed from Columbia University in Computers in Education.
He’s always enjoyed new challenges and has embraced a number of different careers. He’s been a Special Education teacher and administrator, a nightclub owner, musical booking agent, the Chief Editor and writer for the non-profit EPIE Institute (Educational Products Information Exchange), a trainer and consultant to school districts and computer software companies, and owner and General Manager of Mad Science of Western New England.
For the past 3 years Mark has produced the Valley Music Showcase, a bi-monthly event. It showcases, in a competition format, the best in local original music in western Massachusetts, central Connecticut and southern Vermont. Mark also recruits local business sponsors for the event who provide prizes to the winners. In addition to his work in the music industry Mark also runs therapeutic laughter programs. And, as a state appointed Justice of the Peace, he performs weddings in western Massachusetts.
Mark is an avid downhill skier, hiker, pool player and enjoys driving his sports car in race track events.
Aaron Vega, Board of Directors
Aaron is the currently elected State Representative for the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Prior to his three terms as State Rep Aaron served as an At Large City Councilor in the city. Well before Aaron’s political life he was a documentary film editor; his credits include working for Ken Burns on the Jazz series as well as a number of documentaries for HBO, TLC and PBS. Aaron lives with his wife Debra and their five-year-old 5 year old son Odin in Holyoke. They both teach yoga though their co-owned company VegaYoga Mobile and Aaron is excited about nurturing the local music scene to inspire young people to get involved in music and to create a musical destination in the Pioneer Valley.
Mark Dunlap, Board of Directors
Mark graduated with a B.S.E.E. and an M.B.A. and is a Professional Aviation Safety Specialist who has worked for the Federal Aviation Administration since 1986 providing support to a union representing thousands in 22 states. As a bass player from Holyoke, Massachusetts. he has studied bass, composition and improvisation with many accomplished bassists. Mark served as the Chairman of the Holyoke Cultural Council for over a decade under the Massachusetts Cultural Council and oversaw the grant-cycle process for the City of Holyoke and distributed over $700,000 in grant awards and is still an active member and has been on the committee since 1995. Mark also served as the President of Passport Holyoke Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3), that facilitates opportunities for collaboration between organizations that provide educational, historic, cultural and recreational public programming in the city of Holyoke. He also volunteered on numerous music committees including the Viva Great Holyoke Block Party Music Committee, Holyoke Winter Carnival Music Committee, Celebrate Holyoke Entertainment Committee, and the River Roll + Stroll Steering Music Committees. He is a founding member and served on the board of the Western New England Double Bass Society. Mark co-leads numerous musical groups including The Interplay Jazz Band and Jazz On The Rocks, and performs regularly with other bands including The Celia Situation, Pamela Means Jazz Project, Secondary Messengers, Juke Joint Jazz, & InnerAction. He co-owns the independent recording label and publishing company Simmer Music. Mark has also organized festivals including the Holyoke Latin Jazz Festival for 5 years, Viva Great Holyoke Block Party, and the Reggae Rager and Future Roots Festival.
Pete Sikowitz, Treasurer
Pete first experienced the Valley music scene after enrolling in Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, “back in the day.” While at Hampshire, he co-founded the Valley’s first punk band, Mimi & the Dregs. Upon graduation he wrote for The Daily Hampshire and the Valley Advocate on music, the arts and pop culture. He was the co-founder of Paper Dolls, a premier Valley new wave band that performed at Valley club such as Rahar’s and the Rusty Nail with bands including the Buzzcocks and 999 from England. After retiring from rock and roll (for the first time) due to a dispute with San Francisco’s Bomp Records over material to include on the recording, Pete and Paper Dolls bassist/wife Lisa Paparazzo quit the rock and roll business at the ripe old age of 25, backpacked around Europe for three months, and settled in New York City where they embarked on publishing careers. They vowed to someday return to the Valley. During a 33-year stint in the New York publishing world, Peter held positions as a writer, editor and executive, responsible for content as well as operations and finances at companies such as the Hearst Corporation, Time Inc. and Newsweek He also served as a vice president of marketing and communications of Pace University. In 2016, Peter and Lisa returned to the Valley to pick up musically where Pete left off. Peter (aka “Dangerous Pete”) is the co-founder and guitarist of Flathead Rodeo, one of the region’s most popular roots/rockabilly bands.
David Sokol, Secretary
David is a lifelong journalist, most recently with The Walt Disney Company. During his 15 years at TWDC, he served as editor and executive editor, respectively, for Disney Magazine and the tween publication Disney Adventures, both in the Disney Publishing Worldwide division. More recently, he held the post of features editor for Disney twenty-three magazine before retiring from the company in 2013. Prior to that, as editor in chief, David helped launch New Country magazine, an award-winning international music publication. David is a music aficionado and record collector. His band, Muswell Hillbillies, formed in 2010 out of a love for the British band The Kinks, and has performed seven sold-out shows at the revered Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts.
He co-authored “Positively Center Street” (2014), a memoir chronicling the history of the Iron Horse; edited Music in the Air, A History of the Green River Festival, 1986–2016; and is co-host, with his son, Michael, of Sokol Heroes, a weekly radio show on WRSI–93.9 The River that focuses exclusively on music by recording artists with Western Massachusetts (along with northern Connecticut and southern Vermont) roots and connections. David lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, Janis, and has two children.
Peter J. Newland: Board of Directors
Peter formed the Springfield area rock band FAT in 1969 and performed with them in various incarnations through 1982. FAT released albums on RCA and their own Dream Merchant Records and were signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun in 1980. Peter still performs with FAT. In 1985 Peter moved to Nashville and worked as a staff writer for Paul Overstreet and Fitzgerald/Hartley. He had songs cut by Hank Williams Junior, Tracey Lawrence and others. He moved back to Springfield in 2002. Upon moving back to Western Mass Peter formed his band RadioX that performs a mix of Peter’s originals, and standards from the blues, rock, country and r&b idioms. Peter plays guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. He is also the lead vocalist. RadioX’s other member’s are Mark Pappas: Guitar; Ralph Whittle: Keyboards; Tim Smith: Drums; John O’Boyle: Bass.
Jeffrey Bianchine, Board of Directors
Jeffrey Bianchine is an accomplished photographer and an influential creative coordinator working in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He got involved in visual and performing arts at an early age and grew up dreaming of an artistic career. He earned a degree in film from Ithaca College and later launched his career as a creative professional by working in school pictures and doing studio work.
Jeffrey was Holyoke’s first and only Creative Economy Coordinator. He held the position from 2012 to 2016, during which he began working in government and revitalized the artistic roots and breathed new life into what art meant to the city. As a creative economy coordinator, his job was to integrate Holyoke’s creative “DNA” into the visible cultural scene in the area. His work for the city of Holyoke came at around the same time as an opportunity to become involved in the revitalization and leadership of the Holyoke Creative Arts Center. The HCAC currently offers a variety of art classes to the Holyoke community at a low cost.
Currently, Jeffrey continues to guide Holyoke’s creative vision as the president of the Holyoke Creative Arts Center and manager of the Print Shop. He has begun teaching classes in entrepreneurship that blend art and business together. He owns his own studio and runs his own portrait photography business, Paper City Pictures and rents the studio out as a makerspace as well. Jeffrey hopes to get other artists involved in the use of his studio so that they can begin to build their own businesses. He knows that collaboration can be a major step toward success for artists, and he wishes to be a catalyst for others’ artistic accomplishments.