Board & Staff

The PEISO is overseen by a volunteer board of directors of no less than six directors who serve without compensation for a two year term. We are always looking for new members for our Board of Directors.  If you have the time, inclination and drive to actively work to advance the mission of the PEISO please contact us via email!

2023 – 2024 Board of Directors

David Sharpe, President
Jenna Brown, Vice-President
Ozlem Akay, Treasurer
Meriç Akmel, Secretary
Xiao Chen, Director
Isaac Mazer, Director
Emily Gill, Director

Musician's Committee

Natalie Williams Calhoun, Co-Chair
Dale Sorensen, Co-Chair
Maggie Lillo, Committee Member
Amanda Mark, Committee Member
Evelyn Yang, Committee Member


Jaelem Bhate, Music Director
Laura Ono, Head of Operations
Morgan Saulnier, Personnel Manager and Librarian
Ryan Drew, Social Media Specialist

Conductor Emeriti

Mark Shapiro (2013-2023)
James Mark (2000-2013)


David Sharpe is a versatile pianist and educator who has performed and presented across Canada, the USA and Europe.  Born in Summerside, PEI, Sharpe obtained bachelor degrees in music and education from Mt. Allison University, where he was Valedictorian, studying piano with Edmund Dawe.  While at Mt. Allison, Sharpe won the 1995 Atlantic Young Artist Competition, resulting in an eight-city solo concert tour of Atlantic Canada.  He attained master and doctoral degrees in piano performance and pedagogy from Arizona State University, under the guidance of Janice Meyer Thompson, where he also completed a law degree.  During his time at ASU, Sharpe was the state collegiate winner in Arizona of the MTNA performance competition in piano three years in a row, and won several awards for the performance of contemporary music.  He has premiered new works, performed in contemporary music ensembles, and taken part in festivals at Adamant, Vermont; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband in Münster, Germany.  He has taught in the summer piano program at Interlochen, Michigan.

Having attained the piano performer’s ARCT, Dr. Sharpe later became a senior piano examiner for RCM Examinations, as well as an examiner for both written and practical piano pedagogy levels, and a mentor to examiner trainees.  He has conducted examinations across Canada and the USA, and continues in the examiner role presently.  In addition, Dr. Sharpe has served as a reviewer for materials of the Frederick Harris Music Company, and presented workshops on their publications to piano teacher associations in several states in the USA.

Dr. Sharpe has presented at national and international music conferences including the European Piano Teachers’ Association in Novi Sad, Serbia, the CFMTA-MTNA-RCM Collaborative Conference in Toronto, the national conference of the MTNA in Kansas City, USA, and various state conferences.  Sharpe’s piano students have won top honors in music competitions and examinations, and he has adjudicated at festivals and competitions in Canada and the USA.  Dr. Sharpe has recently returned to PEI where he based in Stratford, and divides his time between PEI and Mexico.  He provides piano instruction both in person and online and serves as Registrar of the PEI Registered Music Teachers’ Association.

JENNA BROWN, Vice-President

Jenna joined the board after volunteering for the PEISO’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018. From there she has been an integral part of fundraising activities for the PEISO including our first Night at the Races gala dinners in 2019 and 2022, and the Wine Elimination fundraiser in 2021.  Jenna is an active original member of the Holland College Community Band where she plays flute and also serves on the executive committee as Music Librarian.  She has also been a part of the Maritime Community Ensemble that travelled to perform in Pamplona, Spain at the International Festival of Bands in 2019.  Music has always held a special place for Jenna, especially the power it has in film, on the stage, and out in nature. The ability for music to bring out so many emotions was the basis of her speech in a local pageant in 2002. Outside of music Jenna is an avid reader, loves a good walk through the woods to hear the birds, and knits a mean dishcloth.

OZLEM AKAY, Treasurer

Ozlem Akay was born in Turkey, has a BA degree in Finance, moved to PEI in 2016 from a bustling city Istanbul, and called PEI her lovely home with her husband and daughter.

In her professional life, she was always good with numbers. She took various management roles in different organizations, especially in manufacturing. In her current role at SpryPoint, she is still dealing with numbers and helping the local PEI software company to serve the entire North America. 

Ozlem describes herself as a problem solver who constantly pushes her limits to keep things organized. She is passionate about social media, travelling, learning, and sharing new things with people around her. 

She believes giving back to her community is a responsibility, and she is still working with lovely people around her to contribute more.

MERIÇ R. AKMEL, Secretary

Meriç Akmel is a Turkish-Bulgarian-Canadian who immigrated to Canada in 2016. She, with her husband, decided to settle and make Charlottetown our home. She is passionate about yoga, visiting new places, photography, and music!  

As a professional, she is an internationally certified Project Manager with more than 20 years of experience in Information Technology and has been working for the Provincial Government for the last 5 years.  

Alongside her professional experience, she worked for IFSAK-Istanbul Photography and Cinema Amateurs Association as a volunteer for many years with a variety of roles such as Web Site Administrator and Coordinator of different events, courses, and project groups. After moving to PEI, she sat on the board of directors for the PEI Jazz and Blues Festival for 3 years and worked actively in organizing and planning the festival. She enjoys being able to contribute to the music scene here on the Island. 

While the Island has many great things to offer, the PEI Symphony was one of the most surprising gifts for her. She has been a keen audience member since the first day she discovered its presence and hopes to bring value to this great organization and the community overall.

XIAO CHEN, Director

Xiao Chen, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Management at UPEI Faculty of Business. As an active amateur pianist, Xiao has a passion for classical music, ethnomusicology, and art administration. Since relocating to PEI (from Beijing, China) in 2017, Xiao has performed at a number of international and local venues, including the PianoTexas International Festival and Academy (2022), the PEI Kiwanis Music Festival (2022), and the Young Musicians’ Recital Series of the PEI Registered Music Teachers’ Association (2020, 2021, 2022). More recently, as one of the five chosen Canadian pianists, Xiao performed at the 2022 Van Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition. While Xiao deems playing the piano his only serious hobby, his varied recent activities include offering pro-bono management consulting to arts agencies, teaching in Chile and Egypt, and imagining and designing online psychological experiments studying human's subconscious motivation.
Xiao grew up in Shenzhen, China, which he notes is known as the country’s “Piano City-to-be,” which nurtured renowned pianists Sa Chen, Yundi Li, and Haochen Zhang. Unlike the many children whose parents forced them to pursue the piano, Xiao begged his parents for lessons at the age of 12. He continued to study piano, aesthetics, and ethnomusicology during most of his extensive academic pursuits: a bachelor’s in philosophy from Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China); an M.A. in Asian studies and Graduate Certificate in Survey and Data Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a thesis entitled, "The 'Pianistic Other' in Shenzhen (1978–2007)"; and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management from the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.  

EMILY GILL, Director

Emily was born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but her roots are all on Cape Breton Island. Married to a Prince Edward Islander, she has called PEI home for the last decade. Emily's passion for music is innate. She was brought up at square dances, NS symphony concerts and Neptune Theatre productions. Some of her earliest memories are sneaking downstairs during her parents' house parties and hearing the traditional East Coast classics sung by NS legends Joe Murphy, McGinty and many others. She picked up the trumpet through the Public School music program and dusted it off a few years ago to join The Holland College Welshman. There she rediscovered the fellowship of a concert band and the rush of performance. 

With a strong sense of community and a love for supporting others in any way she can, Emily looks forward to serving on the PEISO board.


Isaac Mazer is currently working as a Music Teacher in the Public School Branch. Having begun his musical adventures in the Band Program of Prince Edward Island in middle school, Isaac Mazer received the Music & Digital Media Diploma from St. Lawrence College (2009), Bachelor of Music Degree from Queen’s University (2013) and the Bachelor of Music Education Degree (2021) from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Throughout the years, he has performed in a variety of musical ensembles including the Sounds of Jazz Big Band, BrassWerks, The Big Phat Horn Band, Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble, Confederation Brass Quintet, Queen’s University Symphony Orchestra, Queen’s University Brass Quintet, Queen’s University Jazz Ensemble along with several community ensembles, musicals and opera companies. He has also acted as the Music Director for several community-based musical performances.

Since returning to Prince Edward Island in 2015, Isaac has been a member of the PEI Jazz & Blues Festival Board from 2016 to 2019, including being the Stage Manager for three years, and has taught at the PEI Band Camps since 2018. Once completing his Music Education Degree in the fall of 2020, he has been continuously working in the Public School system since January 2021.


JAELEM BHATE, Music Director

Jaelem Bhate is a conductor and composer whose diversity has come to define his career. A strong proponent of reinvention and accessibility, Jaelem works to reimagine the role of instrumental music in the 21st century. He was named to CBC’s hot 30 under 30 classical musicians in 2019 and continues to grow his reputation of sensitive and collaborative artistry and musicianship at home and internationally.

As a conductor, Jaelem founded Symphony 21; a professional orchestra based in Vancouver producing a wide variety of collaborative and unique projects for largely new-to-orchestra audiences. Jaelem is the music director of the Vancouver Brass Collective in 2019 and is preparing for the release of the ensembles first studio album Acoustic Alloy in 2024. He has guested with the symphonies of Vancouver, Winnipeg, Guelph and Kamloops, NAO Canada, and is the newly appointed music director of the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra. He’s also served as cover conductor with the National Arts Centre Orchestra multiple times. An advocate for new music, he has conducted over 20 world premieres, including a studio recording of Canadian composer Katerina Gimon’s operetta ‘Did I just say that?’.

As a composer, his works have been performed by the Vancouver and Victoria Symphonies, as well as many chamber ensembles and soloists. In the jazz world, he has released two albums with the Jaelem Bhate Jazz Orchestra; on the edge, and Carmen, a reimagining of Bizet’s opera for jazz ensemble. on the edge won the Julian Award for emerging Canadian jazz excellence and spent two weeks at the top of the EarShot national jazz charts. Recent commissions include the Canadian National Jazz Orchestra as the winner of the Hugh Fraser Composer Award, the Vertical Orchestra by Redshift Music, and a 20-minute orchestral work for Tutta Musica Orchestra on the renowned Leaf label, nominated for a 2024 East Coast Music Award. Jaelem has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and FACTOR Canada for his compositions, including for a new orchestral work paired with original cinematic video A City Soundscape in Fall 2022, funded by the Canada Council in partnership with Canadian videographer Andrij Lyskov.

Jaelem holds a MMus in orchestral conducting and BMus in percussion performance from the University of British Columbia where he studied with Dr. Jonathan Girard and Vern Griffiths respectively. He has furthered his conducting studies with Alexander Shelley, Bramwell Tovey, Boris Brott, Gerard Schwarz, and Christian Macelaru. He twice served as assistant conductor with the National Academy Orchestra of Canada and was a conducting fellow at the NACO mentorship program with Alexander Shelley, the Cabrillo Festival, Eastern Music Festival, and PRISMA festival. Jaelem studied composition with Fred Stride, and has furthered his education with Jocelyn Morlock, Rufus Reid, John Clayton, and Ron Miles. He is currently on faculty at the University of British Columbia School of Music where he lectures in conducting and ensembles and has served as interim director of orchestras and bands whilst maintaining a busy schedule as a clinician.

LAURA ONO, Head of Operations

Laura brings a unique combination of skills and experience as an accomplished business executive, arts administrator, entrepreneur and music educator.   A former senior communications strategist, she developed and directed comprehensive communications programs for technology clients, and oversaw North American media and public relations initiatives for more than 10 years.  Following her tenure in a leading national PR agency, Laura returned to her music roots and completed studies in music education, with a special emphasis on the principles and practices of Dalcroze Eurhythmics  — a way of working with, and learning about, music through the body.  Her passion and commitment to promoting a high standard of musicianship led her to establish Dalcroze Canada, a registered charity dedicated to mentoring and training the next generation of Dalcroze teachers.  Most recently, Laura was the director and founder of My Musical Upbringing, a private music studio specializing in Early Childhood Music Education in Toronto -- enriching the musical lives of more than 1,500 students in its 10 years of operation.  In addition to her musical training, Laura also holds a Masters of Business Administration (York University).

Since moving to the Island in 2019, Laura has been actively contributing to the PEI music scene, currently serving as Secretary of the Kings County Music Festival, and recently as Registrar of the PEI Registered Music Teachers Association.  She is thrilled to join the PEISO at a time when new opportunities for music making, music learning and music collaboration are being reimagined and reinvigorated.

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