I’m a musician and arts administrator with 20 years of leadership in the non profit sector. The arts by nature are non-partisan, and I have worked to build relationships with people of all political stripes. My current job is Artistic Director of the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, a non profit community chorus organization. I work in a creative, entrepreneurial spirited industry where I have learned how to operate on shoestring budgets and make tough decisions about funding allocations. During my tenure over the past 12 years, I have successfully worked to grow our annual operating budget nearly ten fold. In doing so, I helped build up monetary reserves following several consecutive fiscal years ending in a surplus: monies which are now keeping us afloat while our industry has largely been shut down.
As a senior staff member, my work experience and skill set is complementary to the duties of Commissioners, including committee participation, budget decisions and stewardship, and accountability to public stakeholders. I help manage over 150 volunteers and oversee a staff of ten in my department. Networking is a key skill to success in the arts and a large part of my role as a director. I plan to leverage my networking experience to keep Benton County connected to area jurisdictions, agencies, and businesses by fostering inclusive relationships of mutual trust and respect.
I’ve been a member of the board of Visit Tri-Cities since 2015. I was appointed to the WA State Arts Commission in 2016 and was elected First Vice-Chair last year. I was also just elected Vice-Chair to the board of Leadership Tr-Cities and am a proud graduate of the program, having been a member of Class 19. In terms of my industry, I serve on the Northwest Regional board of the American Choral Directors Association.
I served as a community representative on the Port of Kennewick’s Vista Vision Task Force in 2014 following the public charette process regarding Vista Field’s fuure, and in 2015 I participated as a member of the Brand Implementation Leadership Team in conjunction with Visit Tri-Cities, the Tri-City Regional Chamber, and TRIDEC following the rebranding study commissioned at that time.
I served as a member of the City of Richland’s Arts Commission from 2014-17 and was elected Chair by its members. During my service, I helped to create the musical instrument plaza in Howard Amon Park and supported the city's annual Winterfest celebrations each December. Before joining the commission, they recognized me in 2011 with their the Outstanding Individual Contribution to the Arts Award on behalf of the city.
My time on these city and state commissions has given me experience in the public sector around open meeting laws, the application of Robert’s Rules of Order, how to accept public comment, the need to publish meeting agendas in advance, the important relationship between government transparency and public trust, and a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be a public servant.
I’m also a Richland Rotarian, having served a term as a board member and successfully completing all three levels of training offered by the Rotary Leadership Institute. I have learned to measure my actions against Rotary’s four way test: is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned.
I served as the Minister of Music at All Saints Episcopal Church for three years before my job with Mid-Columbia Mastersingers became full time. As a person of faith, I strive to love my neighbor as myself, especially in an era of bitter partisan divides that continue to widen.
I’m a registered permanent substitute teacher with the Richland School District and held a long term position in 2013 with the choirs at Richland High School for my friend Greg Fryhling when he was out on medical leave.
I’ve served as an emcee for a variety of local fundraising efforts, including the Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties, the Miss Tri-Cities pageant program, SIGN Fracture Care International, and the annual Norm & Shirley Miller Leadership Awards Banquet.
Mostly recently, I completed an eight year term as a board member with the Arts Center Task Force whose mission is to build a performing arts center for our community.
Justin Raffa received a master of music degree in choral conducting from the University of Arizona. At graduation, Justin received Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Awards from both the Graduate & Professional Student Council and the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, in addition to being nominated for the 2008 Arizona Governor's Arts Award. While in Arizona, Justin was an active member of the Arizona Music Educators Association and served on the Arizona Choral Directors Association state board as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Community Choirs. Justin served as Minister of Music at Rincon Congregational United Church of Christ and taught elementary school choral music in private schools.
Justin began his career as a teacher in Bisbee, AZ, where he oversaw the high school choral department and theatre arts curriculum, in addition to directing the Bisbee Community Chorus and serving on the board of the Bisbee Arts Commission. Originally from South Jersey, Justin is a graduate of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ, where he received a bachelor of music degree in music education with a vocal concentration, having studied conducting and group vocal technique with James Jordan.
Justin has sung as part of the Berkshire Choral Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Voces Novae et Antiquae, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and continues to perform with both the Festival Chorus of the Oregon Bach Festival and True Concord Voices & Orchestra in Tucson of which he is a founding member. As a member of the Westminster Symphonic Choir under Joseph Flummerfelt, Justin sang with some of the world's leading conductors and orchestras. Currently, Justin sings with Male Ensemble Northwest and Chor Anno, two regional ensembles made up of professional choral musicians in the Pacific Northwest, alongside his friend and voice instructor Reginald Unterseher.
Since his arrival in the Tri-Cities in August 2008, Justin has endeavored to build increased collaboration within the local performing arts community. In addition to his role with the Mastersingers, Justin served for five years as Orchestra Manager of the Mid- Columbia Symphony and Chorus Master of the Oregon East Symphony in Pendleton. Justin has also served as an actor, music director and board member with Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre, music director with Columbia Basin College Summer Showcase productions, and Music Director at All Saints Episcopal Church in Richland. Additionally, Justin has served as an adjudicator for local festivals and competitions for local music and theatre education associations. Justin currently serves on the Northwest regional board of the American Choral Directors Association as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Community Choirs and is beginning his sixth season as Chorusmaster of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra.
Justin is a passionate advocate for the arts in the community, and the City of Richland Arts Commission honored him with its 2011 award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to the Arts. Justin is a board member with Visit Tri-Cities and Leadership Tri-Cities, and can be seen as a frequent performer and emcee for many charitable events across the community. He has been awarded as the Washington State 2013 Outstanding Emerging Choral Conductor, the Columbia Basin Music Educators Association 2014 Friend of Music, and is a graduate of Leadership Tri-Cities Class XIX. Justin lives with his partner of fifteen years, Molly Holleran, singer and voice teacher extraordinaire, and their long-haired dachshund Coda.