An actual, living, breathing farm boy from Ohio, Jeffery Kin came to Sarasota in 1991 after receiving his BFA in Performing Arts and enjoying some years as a performer in NYC. Quickly establishing himself as a go-to talent for the region’s theatre organizations, he would eventually go on to lead The Players Centre for Performing Arts as their Producing Artistic Director. For 15 years, Kin led the organization through acclaimed seasons, coordinated and implemented year-round programming, helped boost its donor and patron base, and altogether served as the smiling, enthusiastic face of the organization to the arts-loving Sarasota region. As a well-loved, energetic collaborator with a limitless can-do attitude, he was a natural choice to lead Sarasota Rising’s formation, stewarding it from conception to the launch of its marquee festival in 2024.

Jeffery says: “Everyone always tells me that I have ‘expectant father’ energy when they see me work. I think it’s because I really give everything I have to make sure me and my team are prepared for anything. I think it’s also because I’m as comfortable swinging a hammer as I am engaging with donors.”


For 20 years, Vern produced community festivals and assisted with major events such as the Super Bowl and Grand Prix, for the cities of Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona. In 2006, Vern became a faculty associate at Arizona State University teaching special event courses in a certificate program he co-created while completing doctoral studies in community development and resources. By 2014, Dr. Biaett found himself at High Point University in North Carolina creating a Bachelor of Arts degree as an assistant professor and founding chair of the event management department. His academic work includes several publications and international conference presentations.

As a 30-year active member of the International Festivals & Events Association, Vern earned status as a Certified Festival and Event Executive, was a founder and past-president of the Arizona Festivals & Events Association chapter, and served on the IFEA President’s Council and Foundation.  Throughout his career, Vern has consulted with a variety of event organizations including numerous cities, as well as most notably, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, North Carolina Folk Festival, and the Riverside, Scottsdale, and John Coltrane jazz festivals.

ERIN LAZZARO, Director of Operations

​​​​Erin is a Sarasota native! She has led a successful theatrical career in NYC for the last decade. She trained at Broadway Dance Center (also taught), Steps on Broadway (assisted classes), and with award winning Broadway choreographers. She has worked as a performer regionally, in Broadway National Tours, and in NYC. Erin has extensive experience managing in the industry as well. She has “performed” as Tour Manager for the band Sammy Rae and the Friends as well as directed their music videos. She’s ran her own successful massage therapy practice in NYC called Massage by Erin for 10 years and she currently runs an international retreat center in Uvita, Costa Rica focusing on health and wellness. She is thrilled to jump onto the Sarasota Rising Team!

SONJA SHEA, Director of Community Engagement

Sonja Shea is a New Jersey transplant who has been in Sarasota for over twenty years now. She is a decorated student with a BA from the University of South Florida, a master’s in museum studies from John Hopkins University, and a completed graduate certificate from Wesleyan University’s Institute of Curatorial Practice in Performance program. Sonja’s vast experience in the arts in her fifteen years at The Ringling Museum ranges from beginning as a part-time Accounting Assistant to Assistant Performance Producer.


She has curated and produced performance programs and art exhibitions for the museum, assisted with all creative and program planning for the performance season at the Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater, and created and implemented performance related community engagement programming, to name but a few of her accomplishments. Her passion for utilizing the arts as an agent for social change and her love for performance pervades all the work she does.

Tamara Solum, Director of Educational Outreach

Tamara is so excited to join Sarasota Rising, where she can utilize her entrepreneurial skills and background as a professional youth educator. Tamara’s has 20 years of experience as the business owner and Children's Theatre Program Director with Drama Kids of Manasota. Tamara served over 350 students per year throughout Sarasota and Manatee Counties and earned the $150K Achievement Award multiple years in a row with Drama Kids International. In addition, Drama Kids of Manasota was voted Reader’s Choice for Best After-School Program by Florida Family Magazine. Tamara is also a local actress and resource teacher who loves working with young people. She has additional experience as a Thespians Adjudicator, "Embracing our Differences" volunteer, and was Fruitville Elementary’s PTO Volunteer Coordinator. Finally, Tamara enjoyed being an active Big Sister of Big Brothers/ Big Sisters for seven years, and a volunteer “Big Buddy” for The Mark Wandall Foundation. Prior to moving to Sarasota, Tamara worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa, where she met her husband, Mike. She looks forward to bringing her knowledge of the arts, youth organizations and the education community together at Sarasota Rising.



Irene enjoyed a long career as a nurse, where she worked alongside husband, Dr. Mark Kauffman, for years. When they retired from the healthcare professions, they took up commercial real estate development. Irene got her real estate license and helped assemble a robust portfolio of properties which the Kauffman family still manages today. A true arts patron, Irene is active in the region's arts organizations as both an audience member and a supporter.


An avid car enthusiast, when Ariane isn't driving one of her four-wheeled beauties to a car show, you can find her bustling around in the local philanthropic scene. Her work putting together fundraising events has yielded some the most respected and well-attended events, getting vital resources to nonprofit partners in the region. Sarasota Rising is proud to have her energy and can-do attitude as we look to build a vibrant, sustainable arts festival.


As the founder of Cool Today and current Vice President of Business Development for the Wrench Group, Jaime has the kind of entrepreneurial energy and business acumen Sarasota Rising needs to make sure the numbers all add up. Now, he will use that skill set to make sure our arts festival leads to meaningful economic uplift for area businesses.


Bonnie Silvestri is an attorney, professor, mediator, and arts enthusiast. She is the writer and co-director of Anything Arts for which she reviews arts performances. She believes strongly in the capacity of the arts to help us connect as a community and create meaningful civic dialogue.

Bonnie, her husband Mike, and daughter Daphne are active in the local arts community. Most recently, their film "Funnel of Dreams" about the importance of family leave was screened at festivals, including the Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival and the International Social Change Film Festival, as well as the In Studio Series with Sarasota Contemporary Dance Ensemble.


Originally from Newport, Rhode Island, Sandi served as an executive at a network-affiliated television station before pursuing new opportunities along the cultural west coast of Florida. She quickly established herself as a digital and television manager at the Herald Tribune, a position she held under the ownership of the renowned New York Times.

Sandi's exceptional skills and dedication to her work did not go unnoticed, as she was honored with the elite President Club status during her tenure at Comcast Spotlight. Her outstanding business development and growth contributions set her apart from her peers.

In addition to her professional business experience, Sandi has performed on many stages, including those in the Sarasota area. She has been a member of Actor's Equity Association for 45 years.


John's career in publishing began at The Montreal Gazette in the 1990’s. From there, he honed his skills and moved through the ranks at several media companies in Canada where he held the roles of VP digital Sales and Development as well as being a publisher of several daily newspapers. After witnessing the changes in media companies over the last few decades he decided in 2017 to follow his family and move to Florida.  After a brief stint in semi-retirement and a consulting gig at a marketing tech company. Sarasota called and in 2019 he purchased the 66-year-old Sarasota Scene Magazine becoming its 5th Publisher and the 4th owner.


For 35 years Mark-Alan was a staple in the New York City Cabaret/Piano Bar circuit. He has received 2 Bistro Awards and 4 MAC Awards. (Manhattan Association of Cabarets)He and his partner, Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, MD, moved to the Sarasota area in 2017.  They are staunch supporters and producers of the Sarasota arts community.  The Urbanite, Asolo, FST, Rise Above, The Player’s Centre, The Sarasota Opera and The Friends of Music program at St. Boniface Church are just a few of the venues that benefit from their sponsorship.Mark-Alan has been on his HOA board of directors in WillowBrook for the last 4 1/2 years. Last year he took on the role of President. He is a member of AEA (actors equity association) and has performedIn Sarasota as Rudolph in Hello Dolly (Player’s), The Modern Works Festival (Urbanite) and as Mother Superior in Nunsense at St. Boniface.  He is also very excited to reunite with Jeffery Kin and to help move Sarasota Rising forward.Favorite Saying: “Tell me we can’t and I’ll show you how we can!”

Scott George

President and Founder of one of the world’s finest classical artist management firms, New Century Artists, Scott George brought the finest American talents to the concert and opera stages of the world.

Upon moving to Sarasota from New York in 1998, he produced “The Grand Finale” for the Sarasota Opera starring Barbara Cook, which netted 1.3 million dollars, followed by two consecutive galas for the Asolo Theatre Company featuring Broadway stars Rebecca Luker, Davis Gaines and Howard McGillin. On October 6, 2006, he produced the Opening Gala for the historic 1789 Asolo Theatre at the Ringling Museum– starring Met diva Susan Graham. In 2010, he chaired the American Cancer Society’s “Cattle Baron’s Ball” in Sarasota,. He was Chief Development Officer for CAN, and after a sojourn in Vero Beach, returned to his real home, Sarasota.


As both the Executive Director and a board member, Jeffery will have an opportunity to ensure a cohesive vision for the organization. Simply put, Jeffery lives and breathes the arts. His passion and experience will help Sarasota Rising bridge the gap between artists, arts organizations, and businesses.



Carlos was born in Peru, raised in Miami and served as a combat medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He studied English Literature at USF and has been a resident of Sarasota for 15 years.  He is a poet, lgbtq+ performer, activist, and jack of all trades. His work has appeared in Sand Journal out of Berlin, Funicular, and Cream City Review among others.  He has shared the stage with multiple poetry laureates in Sarasota and beyond.


Samantha is an upcoming 2023 Ringling College of Art and Design Graduate studying Graphic Design and minoring in the Business of Art and Design. She joined Sarasota Rising’s start-up team to put her skills and knowledge to work and bring a youthful perspective to the conversation. She thoroughly enjoys being a part of this fantastic team and is excited about uplifting the arts communities in Sarasota.


Jasmine “Jae” Hermann is the CEO of Jae Hermann + Co. She has helped hundreds of small businesses, creative professionals, nonprofit organizations, and mission-minded marketing agencies use Strategic Storytelling to createengaging content that attracts and converts.Find Jae profiled in recent spotlights in Fast Company, Forbes, Square, Thrive Global, popular podcasts, and feature articles. A self-described "word nerd," you can usually find Jae geeking out on NYT Wordle puzzles or watching sci-fi action movies when she's not working.


Ken's career included a prolific stint with the United States Food and Drug Administration, operating offices in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore. During his service, he received numerous awards for excellence. Now a Sarasota resident, he's been a part of the City of Sarasota as a commissioner and now works in countless civic and nonprofit areas as he seeks to bring greater inclusion to our region.


Irene enjoyed a long career as a nurse, where she worked alongside husband, Dr. Mark Kauffman, for years. When they retired from the healthcare professions, they took up commercial real estate development. Irene got her real estate license and helped assemble a robust portfolio of properties which the Kauffman family still manages today. A true arts patron, Irene is active in the region's arts organizations as both an audience member and a supporter.


Thom was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he taught himself to paint and eventually became a professional artist. Today, his work has garnered him collectors all over the region who prize his portrait work, horse paintings, and pet paintings. You can catch Thom in his Sarasota studio with his brush to the canvas, or out painting live at Cafe BarBosso every Friday and Saturday night. For Sarasota Rising, his unbridled creativity fuels many brainstorming sessions, which are often hosted out of his vibrant studio space.


A filmmaker, film instructor, and dedicated mother, Amity brings a wealth of production experience to the Sarasota Rising team. Able to see the "big picture" while juggling lots of moving parts, Amity helps the start-up team stay true to its vision on its way to a fully fledged arts festival. As an added benefit, her experience in costume design means the Sarasota Rising team's Halloween celebrations and costume parties will be a sight to behold.


Sheila Weiss has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. As the creative director at several advertising/public relations firms, Sheila developed many national award-winning campaigns for a range of clients from school districts to healthcare professionals. Currently, Sheila serves as a marketing consultant that helps ensure Sarasota Rising maximizes its message.