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Board Members

Ann Watts -Executive Director

Executive Director Ann Watts is responsible for the overall management and funding of Starting Arts. She seeks out arts education resources within the San Francisco Bay community, evaluating their quality and suitability for Starting Arts programs. She determines the type and number of classes offered by Starting Arts, locates facilities, acquires materials, and hires artists to instruct. Ms. Watts also solicits public/private funding to sustain and expand the number/size of programs offered by Starting Arts. She oversees and contributes to grant writing, and has begun an aggressive campaign for corporate sponsorship. Ms. Watts has successfully established relationships with local media, keeping Starting Arts in the public eye. Her planning and management skills have created a solid business foundation, but it is Ms. Watts’ energy, enthusiasm and high standards for excellence that assure Starting Arts’ continued success.

Ann Watts earned a Bachelor’s degree in English (Honors, 1982), a Bachelor’s degree in Education (1984), passed the CBEST and holds a California Teaching Credential. She has taught general education for grades preschool through 12, and served as dance teacher/ choreographer/ production coordinator for numerous extracurricular programs. Ann’s arts background includes 18 years of formal dance training, 10 years dancing professionally on stage, and serving as Artistic Director/ Manager of the Lakeshore Dance Studio (Montreal, Canada, 1982-84). Ms. Watts’ recent business experience includes co-founding an internet service company in Mountain View, CA.


Andrea Thurber -Secretary

One of Starting Arts founders and original funders, Andrea Thurber has been drawn to the arts since childhood.  Happily proficient in traditional academics, Andrea credits her elementary school arts education, including  a role as “Princess Subtraction” in a 4th grade play and participation in elementary and middle school choirs, for providing critical experiences that sparked growth in her emotional as well as intellectual intelligence. Throughout high school and college, performing arts classes taught Andrea (a dedicated non-athlete) the value of collaboration and the power of creative “team” thinking.  Visual arts classes taught her to think abstractly and encouraged her to venture outside the safe box of conventional perspective.  Even though Ms. Thurber eventually chose an academic/ career path in laboratory science, she credits her arts education with giving her the confidence to embrace uncertainty even in that rigid discipline as a challenge to be creatively explored.

Continually involved since Starting Arts’ inception, Andrea has worked with Ann Watts to help define and name the organization, gather supporters and procure funding. Her supporting roles have and continue to include: program development, website development and grant writing.  Andrea’s community minded “See a need; fill a need. Keep it simple.” philosophy and ability to clearly see the big picture while hammering out details have served not only Starting Arts. Ms. Thurber’s various incarnations include: Clinical Laboratory Supervisor, Spectra Laboratories, Fremont; founder of Las Palmas Dog Park, Sunnyvale; Parent Association President, Mid-Peninsula High School, Menlo Park; Head of Training Sub Committee, Minor Protection Committee, Presbyterian Church of Sunnyvale.

Ms. Thurber received her BS in Medical Technology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNYAB), is a current Board member of Starting Arts, and the mother of two children whose academic lives have and continue to revolve around the arts.   Andrea also sings to maintain her sanity.


Polly McBride -Board Member

Polly McBride has been involved in arts since childhood.  She studied piano and viola for many years and played in the Stockton Symphony and the University of Pacific Opera Orchestra.  As an elementary principal she developed an extended day performing arts program for over 500 K-6 students at her school in Bakersfield.  This program had a boy’s choir, full orchestra, dance studio, theatre with a full time art and music teachers. In the first year the students did a full production of Wizard of Oz and Nutcracker plus 6 recitals in different disciplines.  Upon moving to the Bay Area, she became principal of Ponderosa Elementary and was one of the founding members of the Starting Art’s team.

Since retiring from the Santa Clara Unified School District, Polly has become a small business owner in Sunnyvale.  Her store, PostNet, is a neighborhood business center. Postnet prints, ships and does all kinds of work with photos as well as notary, fax and mailboxes.

She rejoined the Starting Arts board this fall. Her energy, passion, and experience with the arts and students will help us to reach our goals.  She says, “The arts help each student be all they can be. It is our adult responsibility to make sure that they have the opportunities to develop this potential.  When children and the arts are brought together, it is a beautiful thing!


Elaine Hamilton- Board Member

Elaine began her HR career at FMC Corporation Defense Division advancing to Director of HR for Portola Packaging, Executive VPHR for International Network Services (officer), Metricom, Geron (officer), Vicinity (officer), NetApp, and Marvell Semiconductor. She is an Advisory Board member of Patient Key. Her non-profit Board of Directors service includes the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, NOVA Workforce Investment Board ( Chairman), Starting Arts, and the JCC of Silicon Valley .

She has a Bachelors Degree in Education and Psychology from University of Iowa and Masters Degree in Organization Development from University of San Francisco.


James Jones- Board Member, Business Adviser

James Jones is the Managing Director for Valencia Ventures where he is responsible for deal sourcing and investment evaluation activities for a venture capital firm focused on investing in early stage, minority- and women-led technology companies.  In his role, he serves as a trusted adviser to co-founders and executive teams.

Mr. Jones has been in the forefront of industry-shaping transactions, such as advising AT&T in their acquisition of TCI for $48 billion, and he advised Executive Jet (NetJets) in their sale to Berkshire Hathaway for $725 million. Mr. Jones was recently the point person for operational due diligence for the sale of KANA Software to Accel-KKR for $49 million.

Previously, he was the Vice President for Business Planning and Analysis at KANA, now privately owned. Mr. Jones was previously Director of Professional Services at Right 90. He honed his professional consulting skills at Accenture as a Strategic Consulting Manager. His engagement portfolio included manufacturing operations, supply chain planning, semiconductor process management, and digital content commercialization. Mr. Jones also gained product-marketing skills as a Product Marketing Manager at Oracle. His financial acumen was developed at Goldman Sachs as a Mergers and Acquisitions Associate. He began his civilian career at Bway as an Assistant to the CFO in a corporate turnaround capacity.

Mr. Jones mastered his leadership skills as a Captain, Field Artillery, in the United States Army. He served as second-in-command of a 110-soldier airborne unit and managed United States Army intelligence activities in Greece. Mr. Jones earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and graduated with a B.S. degree in Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy.


Robert A. Lawrence, CPA – Financial Adviser

Bob was born and educated in San Jose, California. He received a BSC degree from Santa Clara University in 1960.  He received his CPA certificate from the state of California in 1966.

He was managing partner of a local CPA firm for over thirty years before leaving that firm to start Lawrence Accountancy Corporation with his son in 2004.

Bob has performed work for many non-profit organizations in addition to providing tax and accounting services for profit organizations. His firm has been providing tax and accounting work for the Starting Arts organization since 2002.


Saskia Adams, Financial Advisor

Saskia Adams has worked for KPMG, Belkorp, Inc. (privately-held Canadian conglomerate) and NetApp in the areas of Finance, Treasury, Audit and Operations.  She received her Bachelors of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia and obtained her Chartered Accountants designation thereafter.  She now resides in Saratoga with her husband and children.  She has an avid interest in the arts and music.  She joined the Starting Arts Board in January 2014.