The First Note Team

Rourke O’Brien – President/Founder

Rourke is the President and Founder of The Children’s Music Foundation (CMF). Prior to founding CMF in 2009, he spent 5 years as President of America’s Foundation for Chess. Rourke has spent much of his career in financial services beginning in 1978 with ten years in the securities industry as Vice President – Investments with both Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., and Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. before opening his own securities brokerage operation in 1986. After joining Washington Mutual Savings Bank, he founded State Street Mortgage in 1993, which became Qpoint Home Mortgage Loans in 1994, where he held the position of Director, President and CEO through 1998. He has been a member of the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club since 1993, and a member of The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).

Rourke holds a B.A. in Finance from the University of Notre Dame.

Arturo RodriquezSinae Cheh- Program/Artistic Director

Sinae Joy Cheh is the Artistic Director of Morning Star Korean Cultural Center, where she teaches and markets Korean dance, music and heritage, not only as a means of preservation, but to advance and create awareness of the beauty of Korean culture. She has performed extensively with Morning Star for the past 27 years, and has led the group to international prominence with exquisite choreography, distinctive costume design, and impressive musical arrangements. Morning Star has been featured at over 1700 events, domestically and internationally.  Sinae is also an award winning pianist and cellist, and continues to share her gift of music to select students

Sinae is a highly sought after performer and presenter because of her ability to demonstrate her comprehensive knowledge of the Korean cultural arts to audiences of all ages. She has also performed with the Seattle Symphony, choreographed for the Seattle Children’s Theatre, and has represented the Korean Government as a recognized Korean Cultural Ambassador in many States and countries.  She also translated and published An Exodus for Hope, adding to her versatile achievements.

Sinae holds a degree in East Asian Studies from Wellesley College

Lianda Abraham – Executive Director Marketing/Program Support

Lianda Abraham is a passionate advocate for music education as she has experienced, first-hand, the transformative power of musical pursuits. Lianda  makes up one-third of the talented singing trio, The EriAm Sisters. EriAm stands for Eritrean-American; a name that highlights the uniqueness of the sisters’ cultural makeup and the international aspect of their journey. This sister group became widely known after their appearance on America’s Got Talent in 2009. Since becoming semi-finalists on the show, The EriAm Sisters have shared the stage with renowned artists, such as David Foster and Babyface as well as toured internationally – hitting East Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and across North America.

Despite their international presence, Lianda and her sisters have remained engrained in their community, lending their support and talent to a number of local charities. As recognition of their extraordinary talent and musical contribution to the community, the City of Renton presented them with a Key to the City and a proclamation of “EriAm Sisters Day”.

Lianda Abraham graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelors of Science in biology and a minor in neuroscience. She worked as a medical scribe with Seattle Pain Centers and is an active member of the UW Black Student Union and African Student Association.

Miss MelodyRachel Brackett – “Miss Melody”

Rachel is the K-6 General Music Teacher and Choir Director at Lakeview Elementary in Kirkland. Rachel is in her 14th year of teaching and has been with Lake Washington School District for the past 10 years. Previously she taught in the Bethel and Seattle Districts. She also teaches “General Music Methods” to perspective teachers at Northwest University. In addition, Rachel instructs private voice, piano, and guitar lessons. She received her Bachelor of Music Education from Pacific Lutheran University and her Master’s in Creative Arts and Learning from Lesley University. She earned her National Board Certification in Early and Middle Childhood Music. Rachel has been singing and acting her entire life and working with children in the performing arts since her teen years. This is her 12th year with Stage Struck.

IMG_0901Dave Hooper – Website Design

Combining technical skills with his diversified creative talent & background, Dave has worked for the past 12 years as a web developer passionate about building rich and innovative online experiences.

Dave’s career has included many different and creative positions: Web Developer for Microsoft, Artist Relations manager for Behringer, USA, Partner/CTO for eFranchiseManager – an online business solutions company for the franchise industry and currently heading his own web development company in Los Angeles, HOOPER.COM.

Dave’s music career started as the voice of “The Little Green Sprout” from the Jolly Green Giant Commercials.

He used to go to work with his dad, who writes music for TV commercials. When his voice changed, and he realized he couldn’t sing, Dave decided he had to take up an instrument. Drums seemed like the right instrument to torment his parents with.

Some of his career’s highlights have been working with Toni Braxton, Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Lee Ritenour, Diane Warren, Due Voci, Griffith Frank, The Rippingtons, David Byrne, Warren Hill, Ray Parker Jr. Dave Koz, The Sax Pack, Joe Sample, The Manhattan Transfer, Chaka Kahn, and James Ingram.  Dave recently worked on Glee as a technical consultant.

eduardo 1Eduardo Mendonca – Composition Advisor

Eduardo Mendonca, a former High School Principal, is a guitarist, percussionist, singer, composer, and director of “Show Brazil!”

He traces his heritage to a royal African family called “Mama Beka”, meaning “Prophet of the Royal Court”. He settled in Seattle, Washington in 1994 and was a member of the percussion ensemble Bakra Bata, before forming his own band and production company, Show Brazil. His group performs and offers workshops at festivals all over the Pacific Northwest, including Bumbershoot, the Northwest Folk life Festival, the Seattle International Children’s Festival, and many others.

Eduardo Mendonça was on hand to provide a musical welcome to Pope John Paul II when the pontiff visited Brazil in 1980.He also played for Nelson Mandela’s visit to Seattle in 1999. Mendonça was featured in Paul Simon’s 1991 documentary “Born at the Right Time”. In 2007 he was named Outstanding Brazilian Male Singer Based in the United States.

Suvi SaarikallioSuvi Saarikallio – Research Consultant

Dr. Suvi Saarikallio works as a Finnish Academy Research Fellow at the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research at the Department of Music, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Saarikallio’s research focuses on the psychosocial aspects of musical behavior, including mood and emotion, personality, development, and well-being.

Dr. Saarikallio is an internationally acknowledged expert particularly in research on music as a means for emotional self-regulation. She won the ESCOM Young Researcher Award (2006), has actively published articles in international peer-reviewed journals, given invited lectures at international seminars, and is currently leading a 5-year research project on “Music-related emotional competence and adolescent mental health”.

After receiving her doctorate (2007) Saarikallio worked at the Department of Music at University of Jyväskylä as an assistant professor for an international master’s degree programme, Music, mind and technology (2007-2010), and currently actively gives lectures at the department particularly on research methods and music psychology.

Samantha “Sammy” Moran – Intern

Sammy Moran, incoming student at Bellevue High School in 2017, is our 2017-2018 intern. Sammy will be helping with our annual BRIDGES fundraising event and, using her photography skills, capturing First Note™ in action in classrooms.

It is worthy to note that Sammy also held a very special and unique place in the creation of CMF, as she was the original face of the music program when CMF launched the First Note™ beta test.

Glad to have you back Sammy!