Erin Guinup, Executive & Artistic Director
Erin Guinup is the founding Executive and Artistic Director of the Tacoma Refugee Choir. In their first three years, they have welcomed over 600 people from over 50 countries and performed for over 25,000 people at events including WE Day, Race & Pedagogy National Conference, and the Families Belong Together Rally in collaboration with Grammy-winning recording artists and political leaders. A passionate advocate of community singing and the power of music to heal and unite communities, she has spoken
at TEDxSeattle and been featured on PBS with the Refugee Choir, led community singing events and spoken at national conferences for Chorus America, National Association of Teachers of Singing, American Choral Director’s Association, and the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Stockholm, Sweden.
Erin’s great-great-grandfather fled Germany in 1914 and arrived in San Francisco where he found community in the San Francisco Maennerchor (Men’s Choir). Other ancestors fled religious persecution in England on the Mayflower.
Tina Van, Marketing Manager
Tina Van is a 2019 University of Washington Tacoma alumni. Born and raised on Hilltop Tacoma to a family of Vietnamese immigrants, the duality of her upbringing inspired her to continue building bridges between entirely different worlds. It’s something she grew up doing, battling between two cultures until realizing she could achieve “synergy” between the two. She grew up with a passion for music, getting involved with dancing and singing at a young age. Her favorite genres of music include soul, rhythm and blues, and rap. Her passion for marketing stems from her early experiences at the Milgard School of Business, where she learned about the true value of marketing to transform institutions. “I always knew I needed to be a leader, to take the chances that others are afraid to take.” In May 2019, Tina joined the Tacoma Refugee Choir as a member until being recruited to join on as a part-time intern in Fall 2019 and, eventually, as a full-time Marketing Manager in 2020.
Diane Tilstra, Operations Manager
Diane Tilstra brings 25 years of fundraising experience to the non-profits she serves. As both a board member and mentor to non-profits, she is dedicated to bringing prosperity to the non-profit community. DT has a BS in Business Admin and Marketing from City University. She writes, sings and does voiceover acting in her spare time!
Diane's maternal great grandparents immigrated from Sicily in the early 1900's. Great Grandmother Rosalie and her husband Gaetano Russo sailed into the Port of Louisiana on the SS Elizabeth Towne with two young sons and her favorite cooking pots tied around her waist! They boarded a train for Monterey, California. Her paternal great grandparents sailed to America in the late 1800's from the Netherlands and settled in the farmland of Michigan. She is a community activist and dedicated grandmother that deeply respects the hearty, resilient foremothers and fathers that came before her to America. “It is a pleasure to sing in the choir and serve to organize events!”
Maurice Lekea, Member Services Coordinator
Now Welcoming Maurice!
Maurice Lekea, Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), arrived in the US in 2000. After 19 years of living in Washington, his Asylum case finally got approved in July 2019. While raising 5 children (3 sons and 2 daughters) as a single dad, Maurice went to school in North Seattle College and worked a full time job. He then continued his education at Edmond Community College. Despite speaking no english when he first arrived in America, Maurice eventually became a certified French - English Interpreter/Translator in 2008 . He worked for Rosetta Stone coaching French. He also provided translation services for hospitals, social services, courts, and immigration. Maurice has enjoyed his volunteer work with the Shoreline YMCA after school program “Hangtime”. In August 2019, Maurice joined the choir: “it was an outstanding experience to meet people from different backgrounds, ethnics, cultures etc...developing friendship.”
Two weeks ago, Maurice enthusiastically agreed to become our newest staff member as our Member Services Coordinator. He is enjoying learning new things and helping the choir grow. During his time working with the choir he hopes to help both refugees and non-refugees find important resources for integration, build friendships within the choir and find their voices through singing.
Victoria Helmer, Data & Admistration
Victoria Helmer is currently a student at the University of Puget Sound, in the Business Leadership Program. Ever since she started volunteering at auctions as a young girl, Victoria has loved working in nonprofits. From the very moment she entered her first Tacoma Refugee Choir practice she felt so welcomed and loved. When she’s not working, Victoria enjoys skiing, working with stained glass, and reading a good mystery novel.
Victoria’s grandparents met during the Japanese occupation following World War II. Her grandfather was an american soldier who won over the heart of a local Japanese women he met through his japanese translator and close friend. With special permission granted by General Douglas MacArthur, the two were allowed to marry. Together they built a home in Tacoma and started a family.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mike Collier (Chair)*
Bhagirath Bhatt* (Vice-Chair)
John Dubinsky (Treasurer)
Victor Rhett (Secretary)
*Identifies as Refugee or Immigrant