Board members

YVONNE R SEWALL

President

Published Author, Documentary Film Producer, Philanthropist and President and Founder of the MAX’S KANSAS CITY PROJECT, a 501C3 nonprofit serving the Arts and Youth communities, established in 1996, in memory of her late ex-husband Mickey Ruskin. Mickey Ruskin was the founder and sole proprietor of the legendary restaurant/bar/club Max’s Kansas City, and a huge patron of the arts.

Ms Sewall earned her BA in English from the University of Connecticut and a MA in Education from New York University. She taught both in the public and private school sectors in NYC, Upstate, NY and Mill Valley, Ca. Later in years, with a move back to the East coast, giving the children and opportunity to spend more time with their father, Ms Sewall was chosen to be the FIRST female teacher at a residential home for runaway teens owned and operated by Family of Woodstock, in Woodstock, NY. As an active member of the community a year later, she was presented with an opportunity to follow a dream of joining the entertainment industry, taking an offer to become the assistant manager at BEARSVILLE RECORDING, a world class studio in Woodstock, NY. Her ambition to grow in the business required a move back to NYC, where Ms Sewall managed recording studios including 39th St Music, Evergreen Recording and subsequently Celestial Sound. Over time she created her own company I CONTACT, the FIRST audio production service to exist in NYC, and later teamed up with the INVASION GROUP for management of record producers and engineers.

She is the author of “HIGH ON REBELLION INSIDE the UNDERGROUND at MAX’S KANSAS CITY,” published in 1998 by THUNDERS MOUTH PRESS, and holds both a teaching license and a real estate broker’s license, and resides in Kingston, NY. Currently, Ms Sewall is in production on a Feature Documentary and/or Docu Series on the History of Max’s Kansas City.


SHELLY VALFER

Treasurer

Shelley Valfer got his start in the music business doing accounting for Tommy Mottola back when he was managing Hall & Oates, John Mellencamp and Carly Simon in the early 80’s.  He was the road accountant for the Allman Brothers Band for 20 years from 1994 until their final concert at the Beacon Theater in October 2014.  He worked as Administrative Director at the Kitchen Center for Art, Video, Music and Dance when they were still in Soho back in the late 70’s and continues to work as a tour accountant most recently for the Hendrix Experience Tour which just wrapped up in April of 2019.

He has also returned to his early love of acting and has appeared in numerous TV, film and theater productions.


NORENA BARBELLA

Director of Strategic Partnerships

Norena has amassed a coveted database of musicians, celebrities and iconic brands that only legends in entertainment possess —- although most haven’t endured the roller coaster of entertainment iterations with the same aplomb.  She does lots of things — and she does them all really well. Norena is a Talent and Event Producer, a Voiceover Artist, a Host, an Activist, a dancer and can connect people like nobody’s business. From Aretha Franklin at Carnegie Hall to teaching dance to Foster Kids at summer camp, she tackles her life and her work with love and passion.

Known as the velvet hammer, while disarming you with her charm, she waves her magic wand and always closes the deal. Her affiliations with RayBan, Gibson Guitars and Hard Rock Cafe remain forever like a classic song you can’t stop singing.

 

Together with artists who stand up for those who can’t, alongside the underserved, she reveals her softer side.  She loves to volunteer and in an effort to inspire change, she created, hosts and produces THE GIVE, viral videos that feature celebrities who walk the walk and the charities they are most passionate about.  

The world calls and she answers —creating a tapestry of talent to move people and lift communities through programs that are forever changed by her work.  You can find Norena in the grittiest East Village speakeasy or the Sunset Marquis, but one thing is for sure— you’ll always find her. 


ADAM NELSON

Director of Marketing & Public Relations

Adam Nelson is an award-winning communications professional regarded for original thinking, imaginative ideas and unique hands-on approach.

He established Workhouse 20 years ago as a leading boutique that develops stylish marketing and successful worldwide campaigns for a wide range of legendary clients including The Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood, Francis Ford Coppola, David LaChapelle, Interview Magazine, International Emmy Awards, Galleries Lafayette, Virgin, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tony Shafrazi Gallery & Versace. For the seventh consecutive year, WORKHOUSE received the “Best of Manhattan Award” by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA). In 2012, Workhouse swept three of the industry’s highest honors when it was bestowed with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award, the PR News’ Platinum PR “Wow Award” and the Bulldog Reporter Silver Medal Award. The agency was also named as a PR Daily/ Dow Jones Finalist for “Grand Prize: PR Campaign of the Year “.

He was inducted into the NYC Business Hall of Fame in 2015. Prior to Workhouse, Nelson was a senior publicist at Jason Weinberg & Associates, where he represented Tim Burton, Sean Combs, and Debbie Harry. He was a senior publicist at the Peggy Siegal Company, overseeing the Warner Brothers account. Recognized for outstanding creative, he received the National Congressional Committee’s 2003 National Leadership Award and was elected to serve as an Honorary Chairman of the Business Advisory Council. Selected by the International Who’s Who of Executives in 2004. He earned his BFA from the University of the Arts and attended certificate programs at both Yale and Oxford University. Visit http://workhousepr.com

 


ANDREW KOWALCZYK

Director of Financial Development

Andrew is the owner and founder of AK Capital, Which is a financial services firm based in New York, Miami and California. He recently launched the Proto capital division which raises capital for entrepreneurs in the social impact digital assets and technology spaces. He is a big music fan and has produced records, plus having done some philanthropic work in New York, Miami and New Orleans.


JESSICA RUSKIN

Consultant

Jessica Ruskin received her BA, summa cum laude, from her father’s alma mater, Cornell University. She went on to get her Master’s degree in Museum Education from the George Washington University and has been putting it to good use working at the Smithsonian Institution, Kidspace Children’s Museum, and the Exploratorium. She currently serves as the Education Director at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center where she’s worked for the past 14 years. Jessica has also spent time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity through the AmeriCorps national service program and, more recently, with her children’s schools, coordinating their annual fundraisers, teaching art to kids, and designing the yearbook. Jessica lives in Santa Rosa, Ca with her two children, two dogs, two cats, two frogs, leopard gecko, and one beta fish.


ADVISORY BOARD

Dr Donna Gaines
Michael Ruskin
Bob Holman
Wendy Oxenhorn
Elliott Azrak
Jessica Hodin Levy
Jim LaLumia
Joan MacDonald

Danny Goldberg
Lily Hatchett
Robert Slaughter
David Hatchett
John Holmstrom
Joe Schick
Forrest Myers
Michael Findlay
Peter Crowley