The Leadership Team & Board Members
We are so thankful for our leadership team. This outstanding group of individuals bring not only a high level skill set to the organization but hearts filled with compassion and a passionate commitment to the vision of Voices in Motion.
Amy Van Wensem
Musical Director, Voices in Motion
Amy is a strong believer in social transformation through song. She has her Bachelor of Music (in Music Education and Voice) from UVic, her teaching certificate (PDP) in secondary choral education, a RCM piano certification, and a conducting certificate from the BCCF.
Amy has taught music in schools, churches and the community for 15 years; she has been an elementary music and secondary choral teacher in school districts 23, 61, 63, as well as BC Online School. She also founded a charitable organization focused on getting music into inner city schools called Music for Youth Works and spent many years working with the local non-profit, Choirkids.
She and her husband recently built a home and music studio on the peninsula where they are raising their two young children and their 30 baby chicks!
Administrator, Voices in Motion
Kathy Kinahan is an Executive Assistant who is passionate about helping non-profits succeed. Her strong administrative and governance background in both the corporate and charitable sectors will assist Voices in Motion as they move forward with their mission. Kathy is a strong strategic thinker who assisted the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s CEO, Leadership Team, and Board through two strategic plans.
Upon leaving the Alzheimer Society in 2021, Kathy and her husband sold their home, bought an RV, and went wandering around B.C. and Alberta with their little dog, Oreo, for 2 years. They are now settled in the Saanichton area and loving all that Island life provides.
Passionate about enabling the creative spirit that dwells in individuals and organizations at all levels of artistic practice, Barbara’s career in the arts, culture and education sectors across Canada has included a diverse range of programs, places and community engagement experiences.
Prior to moving to Victoria in 2017, Barbara was a Cultural Planner with the North Vancouver Recreation & Culture Commission where she administered municipal grants programs, developed strategies and cultural policy to support artists, creative sector and community arts organizations, and public art projects on Vancouver’s North Shore. Her career in arts administration has included work as Arts Program Manager at 2010 Legacies Now, an organization created to develop artistic legacies in communities throughout British Columbia leading up to, during, and beyond the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. In addition, Barbara has held senior management positions with the Winnipeg and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, worked in the media arts program at the Banff Centre, lead the marketing team at the Open Learning Agency/Knowledge Network, and taught in the Arts Management program at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Waterloo with a Recreation Administration major and Music Performance minor.
Now retired from full time work, Barbara maintains a busy schedule in Victoria as a board member with the Voices in Motion Choral Society, a volunteer teaching assistant with the Inter Cultural Association of Victoria, and active musician as a violinist with the Civic Orchestra of Victoria.
I was born and raised in Toronto and graduated from UBC with a Masters of Library Science. Both my wife and I got jobs in Toronto and we worked there as public librarians for 14 years. We decided to move back west and settled in Toronto. I went back to school to study computing technology at Camosun and was hired as an information analyst with the Ministry of Health. I took early retirement after 16 years.
I was always interested in music and enjoyed singing as a child. I learned to play the guitar to accompany myself. It was when we moved here that I discovered the joys of choir singing and I have been actively involved in numerous groups since the early 90’s. Aside from singing with Voices in Motion I am a member of the Victoria Choral Society, the Victoria Arion Male Choir and two “living room” choirs. Although I have not had any formal musical training I have learned much just from being in choirs all these years.
I believe in contributing to communities I am active in be it coaching and managing dragon boat teams, acting as music librarian for the various choirs, creating practice files for singers, hosting social events, setting up stages and moving equipment, and serving on boards and committees.
I joined Voices in Motion because of my good friends, Brian and Margie Noonan. Both the Noonans and the Lees have been on overseas choir trips together. I had sung with Brian in a couple of the choirs and look forward to singing beside him again.
My hobbies include reading, doing cryptic crosswords (in ink!), cooking, hosting dinner parties, and of course, music!
I have been happily married for 47 years, have a son and a daughter and two grandchildren and we all live in Victoria!
Leah was born and raised in the Fraser Valley and is proud to be a farmer’s daughter. After completing her Business degree at Simon Fraser University in 1990 Leah moved to Victoria to work for a small accounting firm. In 1999 Leah switched from public accounting into the not-for profit sector and throughout the years has held various positions in the charitable sector. Leah is currently the Chief Financial Officer for the Diocese of Victoria; which consists of 40 parishes and mission churches, five schools, a charitable foundation, and a senior‘s housing facility. Leah also serves on the executive committee for a non-profit insurance reciprocal, and is a member of the Canadian Catholic Financial Administrators.
Leah’s mom has been an enthusiastic VIM member and her joy and excitement of being part of the choir was so contagious that Leah felt called to support the VIM organization. Leah is married to Keith and together they have two daughters and a granddaughter. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, yoga, fitness training, reading, and travelling.
Dr. Mary Kennedy
Mary Copland Kennedy, PhD, is an Associate Professor Emeritus in the School of Music, University of Victoria, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in music education in addition to conducting the Philomela Women’s Choir. Dr. Kennedy’s research interests include choral music, creativity, and music and community. She has published widely in national and international journals as well as presented papers and sessions at local, regional, national and international conferences. Dr. Kennedy is a founding member of Voices in Motion, having secured the initial school partnership with St. Andrew’s Regional High School and having been a part of the interdisciplinary research team. After a leave of absence, while she was the musical director for St. Aidan’s United Church, she is glad to be back with the VIM family and take up varied roles as board member, choir member, and researcher.
Debra Sheets (Ph.D., MSN, RN, FAAN)
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Victoria | Lead Researcher and Founder of Voices in Motion
Dr. Sheets is an affiliate of the Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), the Gerontological Society of America and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). Her research interests focus on gerontology and geriatric nursing—and in particular dementia, technology in home care, caregiving, and the humanities and arts in aging.
She has been published in the Journal of Aging, Humanities and the Arts, International Journal of the Humanities, International Journal of the Arts in Society and Generations. Currently she serves on the editorial boards of The Gerontologist, Gerontology and Geriatrics in Higher Education, Canadian Journal of Nursing Research and Home Health Care Services Quarterly. In 2014 she served as guest editor for a special issue on Family Caregiving for the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.
Dinah Ellett grew up in England in a very musical family and had a father who was always singing. She sang alto in many choirs in the UK.
In 1967, she emigrated to Canada with a young family. In Toronto, she worked for Eaton’s in their Human Resource department and as a food buyer/sales manager.
She and Barry moved to Victoria in 1979 when she opened the first licensed Crabtree & Evelyn store, that carried foods and toiletries. She owned and ran that business for 17 years as well as training employees in product knowledge in the Vancouver corporate stores on the mainland.
After selling her store, she joined The Bay part-time and sold Ladies’ Wear for 10 years.
She volunteered with “Bridges for Women” as a mentor, working with women wanting to return to the work force. This involved counselling and training operational skills on how to open their own business.
If that wasn’t enough, she was also the Secretary on her condo strata council for many years.
In September 2019, she and Barry joined Voices in Motion. Barry, who has Vascular Dementia, had never sung in his 80 years. He now attends choir regularly and thoroughly enjoys singing in person and on Zoom. He has also performed in both Virtual Choirs that Voices in Motion produced.
From the beginning, she knew she wanted to be part of ViM and help the organization continue that work that benefits those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
“I feel that my experience in business, marketing and HR counselling will be an asset to the Board,” says Dinah. We are delighted she has joined us!
Wendy was surrounded by music from day one with a very talented musical father. She has sung in choirs from a young age, with her last many years as an alto or soprano with The Maple Leaf Singers, Vancouvers oldest show choir. She recently returned to Vancouver Island to care for her ailing mother who has Dementia and when she heard of the Voices In Motion choir, she immediately signed up with her Mom. An avid motorcyclist, Wendy brings musical, corporate, marketing, and entrepreneurial experience with her and when offered a chance to be on the Board, she leapt at the opportunity to be involved!
M.Ed Rehabilitation, MBA Leadership, CCRC | Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Chief Executive Officer
Maria is an experienced leader with a demonstrated history of working in the charity/ not for profit industry. She has decades of leadership in the health-care and social services sector, as well as provincial and national governance experience. She holds an MBA in Leadership from the University of Athabasca and an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation from the University of Washington.
With extensive business experience combined with previous roles both as a rehabilitation counselor and senior leadership, Maria has direct relevant operational experience, underpinned by a commitment to caring and inclusive communities. This is evident through her previous role as CEO of the Alzheimer Society of BC and her current role as CEO of the Family Services of Greater Vancouver.
Maria grew up in a family where music played a significant role. The joy as well as the comfort of music supported Maria and her family while they care for her mom on her dementia journey.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Anderson
Advisors to the Board
Stuart MacDonald (Ph.D.)
Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria | Co-Lead Researcher, Voices in Motion
Since earning his PhD degree in Life-Span Psychology in 2003, Dr. Stuart MacDonald has made scholarly contributions to the fields of cognitive aging and the cognitive neuroscience of aging. Upon completing his post-doctoral training at the Aging Research Centre of the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden), Stuart relocated to Victoria, Canada where he is presently an Associate Professor of Lifespan Development and Aging at the University of Victoria. In 2013/14, Stuart received The Margret M. and Paul B. Baltes Foundation Award in Behavioral and Social Gerontology, and in recognition of early career accomplishments, was inducted in 2015 as a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.
Stuart’s programmatic research focuses on cognitive aging and early identification of those at risk for cognitive decline and disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease. He examines patterns and predictors of cognitive decline in older adults, paying particular attention to variability, or inconsistency, in responses over time. His research suggests that variability in response profiles may be more sensitive than mean performance for early identification of those at risk of cognitive decline, dementia, or death. Google Scholar credits him with an H index of 39, based on over 80 refereed publications. Stuart’s research has been funded by operating grants totaling more than $16.7 million dollars (over $2.3 million as Principal Investigator), and has been supported by various granting agencies both within Canada (e.g., Alzheimer Society of Canada, Canadian Frailty Network, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) as well as from international contexts including Germany, Sweden, and the United States of America (e.g., U.S. National Institutes of Health, Swedish Research Council, Max Planck International Research Network on Aging).
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria | Co-Lead Researcher, Voices in Motion
Dr. Smith has research interests in the areas of aging, mental health, ethnicity, and blood donation. His research program reflects a desire to understand the intersectionality of health and health-related behavior and their wider socio-cultural, institutional, and familial dimensions.
Dr. Smith is affiliated with the University of Victoria’s Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health and has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Dr. Smith has studied the diagnostic experiences of individuals with dementia and their family caregivers. His current research program examines how institutions, regulatory environments, and organizational cultures influence health care practices with a focus on the experiences of family caregivers; the use of psychotropic drugs in residential care with dementia residents; and the discourse of dementia drugs advertising. His articles on aging, dementia, mental health, and blood donation appear in the Journal of Aging Studies, The Journal of Deviant Behaviour, Dementia, and the Canadian Review of Sociology.
Dr. Smith teaches courses in qualitative research methods, mental health, self and identity.