Board & Staff


Executive Director – Katia Cardenas

Ykatirina “Katia” Cardenas (she/her/hers) has been working with Minnesota Jazz Education (MJE) since 2015, leading and developing programs, marketing and communications, development and community outreach. Katia is passionate about inspiring youth leadership, community building and social justice. She has worked with numerous local arts networks and organizations, including Pangea World Theater, Teatro del Pueblo, TigerLion Arts, Minnesota Jewish Theater, Volunteers of America, City of St. Paul and St. Paul Public Schools’ Community Education program. Katia also volunteers with Jazz Central Studios and serves on the Executive Board of the Twin Cities Cabaret Artists Network. 

Katia is a professional performing artist hailing from the Pacific Northwest, and California’s Central Valley. A jazz and r&b vocalist, as well as an actor, dancer, director and teaching artist, Katia came to the Twin Cities in 2006 to attend Macalester College, where she received a BA in Psychology (Theater Minor). After graduating in 2010, she worked for 4 years as an actor and freelance theater arts educator, leading theater classes at local youth theater companies and rehabilitation centers. She also worked for 5 years in after school programs in St. Paul Public Schools, specializing in youth engagement and program evaluation. She began working in non-profit arts administration in 2013, focusing on community engagement, development and education. Katia looks forward to leading MJE, upholding the mission and helping build a bright and equitable future for Minnesota youth in jazz education. To learn more, visit

Board of Directors

Justin Christy – Chair. Strategy and Learning Manager, Bush Foundation; jazz advocate

Diane Snodgrass – Chair, Programs Committee. Advisor of Experience Jazz. Retired Music Director, Ramsey Middle School, Saint Paul; Director and Founder of Twin Cities Youth Bands.

Tony Simmons – Executive Director of High School for Recording Arts, expert of deeper learning in education, entertainment lawyer, co-founder of Another Level Records.

Clarence White – Associate Director of East Side Freedom Library; former blogger, writer, editor and publicist for St. Paul Almanac; former writer for the National Farmers Union (Washington, D.C.), Nonviolent Peaceforce, Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota 


Richard Erickson – Director Emeritus. Co-owner of Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant; former CEO Holiday Stores and Stations.

Lowell Pickett – Director Emeritus and Co-Founder of MJE. Co-owner and originator of Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant

Tom Trow – Co-founder and Board Member Emeritus of MJE.  Consultant to nonprofits; former Executive Producer at Twin Cities Public Television; Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota