Board of Directors

Joe Walsh


Maestro Joe Walsh has three decades of experience in preparing, presenting, and conducting opera and musical theater across the U.S. and internationally.  He is a conductor admired for his ability to combine dramatic flair and theatrical excitement with sensitivity, detail and a keen sense of dramatic pacing.  Mr. Walsh is an active recitalist, accompanying both classical voice recitals and Broadway cabarets.

Maestro Walsh is a faculty member at George Mason University’s Sid and Riva Dewberry School of Music and the School of Theater, where he serves as conductor, music director, coach, and pianist.

Mr. Walsh was involved in the musical preparation of more than 65 productions at Virginia Opera, where he served for 17 years, most recently as associate artistic director and associate conductor. There, Mr. Walsh conducted productions of Susannah, Madame Butterfly, Don Giovanni, The Daughter of the Regiment, Così fan tutte, and The Pirates of Penzance, among others.

He has conducted many orchestras in performances including the Collegium Philarmonicum of Naples, Italy, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony and the Cluj-Napoca Philharmonic Orchestra of Romania.

Mr. Walsh was resident conductor at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy for five summers, where he led productions of The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Gianni Schicchi.  He studied advanced Italian at Siena’s L’università per Stranieri.   

For many years, Mr. Walsh served as artistic advisor for the classical voice programs offered by the Washington D.C. chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has taught voice master classes and judged many vocal competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions (Middle Atlantic District), The National Society of Arts and Letters’ DC Chapter and the National Dorothy Lincoln Smith Voice Competition, Partners for the Arts Vocal Competition, and the Charles Williams Voice Competition at Levine Music, where he also serves on the faculty.

Mr. Walsh has served on the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Panel, as well as on the coaching faculties of the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple University in Philadelphia and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.

He currently serves as President of Orvieto Musica’s Board of Directors and maintains a private coaching studio at his home in Ashburn, Virginia.  For further information, visit

Sherry Watkins

Vice President

Sherry Watkins, President of Marketing Savvy, has 30 years of marketing and communications experience with companies ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500s.

Renowned for her insightful marketing strategies, effective proposals, and clear, direct communications, Sherry has:

  • Helped clients achieve more than $675 million in contract awards
  • Written more than 1,000 proposals
  • Created hundreds of brochures, newsletters, posters, fliers, reports, product summaries, and online materials
  • Reached dozens of target audiences with impactful communications campaigns
  • Trained hundreds of professionals
  • Managed more than 250 events with 12 to 1,500 attendees

Sherry has been a long-term supporter of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. She has served as a marketing subject matter expert and professional reviewer for marketing manuscripts published by the International Association of Business Communicators. And she’s a sought-after speaker and trainer.

Since 2002, Sherry has been a valued member of the Northwestern University Alumni Admissions Council. She annually interviews several dozen prospective Northwestern applicants, and has received multiple commendations for her unyielding commitment to the university.

When she’s not writing proposals, designing communications campaigns, or conducting marketing training, Sherry can be found shopping for hats for her extensive collection.

Lisa Pham


Lisa Pham began her formal music training at University of North Georgia as a jazz pianist and cellist. She studied at University of North Georgia where she received her Associate of Arts in Music. From there, she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Music at Augusta University.   
As a teacher, she has worked as an Orchestra Conductor at East Aiken Elementary School of the Arts, coaching chamber ensembles at Laurel Ridge Music Camp, and teaching private lessons at Augusta University Conservatory. 
She has performed in several music festivals such as the Westobou Chamber Music Festival and South Carolina Cello Choir in addition to the musicals Oklahoma! and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Her work has led her to play alongside renowned jazz trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, and pianist, Christopher O’Reilly, of NPR’s From the Top.  
In 2016, she co-founded Augusta Cello Society, a cello ensemble with the mission of bringing visibility to the diverse range of cello repertoire. Her orchestral experience includes: Corelli Camerata Orchestra, Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, and Dekalb Symphony Orchestra. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Orvieto Music Festival in Italy.
As an artist, her mission is to push the boundaries of classic traditional cello performance to incorporate technology used in electric instruments and infusing experimental music with various artistic mediums. 
University of North Georgia, Associate of Arts in Music, 2012
Augusta University, Bachelor of Arts in Music, 2015

Ismail Akbar

Alumni Liaison

Hailed as a cellist with “warmth and panache in solo flight” (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Ismail Akbar was born in Atlanta, received his Bachelors of Music degree in cello performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Masters of Music from Mercer University.  As a graduate of the prestigious Talent Development Program he performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Spano playing the Boccherini Cello Concerto.  Mr. Akbar has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout Panama, the Bahamas, Russia and Italy.  He has also performed as soloist with the North Georgia Chamber Symphony, Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra, Georgia College Orchestra and Aiken Civic Orchestra.  He has held substitute positions as principal and assistant principal cellist of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Hilton Head Symphony, North Georgia Chamber Symphony, Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Spartanburg Philharmonic and Savannah Philharmonic.  He has served as faculty of cello and chamber music at Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Allen University, Clayton State and Laurel Ridge Music Festival.  Mr. Akbar is on the Board of Directors for Orvieto Musica’s Italian Music Festival.  As Cello Teaching Artist of the Atlanta Music Project, Akbar is an advocate for social change through musical excellence.

Julie Allison

Board Member

Julie Allison holds a Master of Music Degree from Ithaca College and a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Houston. Julie currently resides in Houston where she performs with Opera in the Heights, I Colori Dell’ Opera, Operativo, Opera on Tap, Zoom Shakespeare, and the Gilbert & Sullivan Societies of Houston and Austin. Recent projects include Austin G&S’s adaptation of The Mikado, Opera in the Heights’ Eugene Onegin and Il Travatorie, and I Colori Dell’ Opera’s Vocal Institute’s Annual Finale Concert. Julie’s private vocal studio includes students from 12–85 years of age. She provides vocal instruction at Spring Branch ISD and performs concerts for patients at long-term memory care facilities.