CMA Staff

Ajia Whipp

Director of Operations and Experience

Ajia Whipp, a Des Moines resident, holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Northwest Missouri State University. Over the past ten years, she has dedicated herself to teaching instrumental music to students in grades five through twelve in Missouri and Iowa. Ajia is thrilled to channel her deep-rooted passion for music into a business role at the Civic Music Association. Through her experience in music education, she has not only developed a strong affinity for music but also discovered a newfound enthusiasm for event planning, organization, communications and operations management. Taking on the position of Director of Operations and Experience, Ajia eagerly anticipates the opportunity to merge all these passions into one rewarding endeavor.

In addition to music, Ajia loves to hike, trying new artistic endeavors and seek adventure with her family. When she isn't working, you may find her spending time with family and friends, painting, hiking with her five dogs, riding her horse, watching a movie with her two cats and two cockatiels, or doing some home renovations.

Calla Whipp

Director of Marketing & Communications

Calla is the marketing guru at CMA. She's been an active promoter and supporter of the organization since 2008, when she was first introduced to CMA through an internship.

In addition to her work with CMA, Calla loves teaching music lessons and mentoring young teachers through Sounding Sharp Studio, which she founded in 2009. She believes in the value and joy of music and wants to help people experience the wonders it offers in as many ways as possible.

In addition to music, Calla loves to travel and explore the underwater world via SCUBA diving. When she isn't traveling or working, you can find her spending time with family and friends, walking her dogs, riding bikes or playing tennis, among other things.

CMA Board of Directors

Todd Jones

Todd Jones

Board of Directors, President

Todd is the Research Director for the Crop Genome Engineering group at DuPont Pioneer, leading teams located in Johnston, IA and Hayward, CA. The Crop Genome Engineering (CGE) group provides genetic modification services in support of all Pioneer biotech trait programs. Todd joined Pioneer in December 2010 after 7 years with BASF Plant Science in Research Triangle Park, NC, as the Tech Center Leader for Cell Biology.

Linda Vanderpool

Board of Directors, Vice President

Linda devoted her career to developing and nurturing students as they learned and performed a wide variety of music.

A versatile conductor, Linda led choral and vocal jazz ensembles in memorable performances at such sites as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Carnegie Hall in New York City, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho in Moscow, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Linda holds a Master of Music Education with choral emphasis from Drake University and a Bachelor of Music Education Cum Laude from Simpson College where she studied voice and piano. She began her musical studies by playing the guitar and listening to Louis Armstrong records her father collected.

Happily retired, Linda loves to travel, enjoy great food and conversation, and will continue to foster growth of music at CMA.

Jodi Selby

Board of Directors, Treasurer

Jodi has over 25 years of experience working with enterprise risk management, compliance and fraud. She currently works at ARAG Legal Insurance leading their risk and compliance efforts. Prior to that, she worked for over 30 years in the banking industry.

She holds an MBA from Northwest Missouri State University and is currently a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS).

In her free time, Jodi is active in her church, serves on the Adel City Council, and as a volunteer conservator for the State of Iowa. She resides Adel with her husband, Scott, together they have two adult daughters, Tasia and Rori along with a twelve-year-old son, Luke.

Elizabeth Watson

Board of Directors, Secretary

Elizabeth is a Des Moines native and connected with CMA in 2018 while interning for the Belin Quartet. She has always been a music lover and is a choral singer in addition to playing flute and piano. Currently Elizabeth sings multiple performances a year with the Drake Alumni Choir, Umeri. Elizabeth currently works as a Wish Manager at Make-A-Wish Iowa and loves being a part of the non-profit scene in Des Moines. When she is not working and singing, Elizabeth enjoys reading, spending time with family & friends, traveling, snuggling her cats, and painting.
Anthony Lee

Anthony Lee

Board of Directors

Anthony has been a CMA subscriber since 2006 and one of its biggest fans. His passion for jazz music began at an early age as he grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Anthony’s cousin was part of a group of investors that opened one of the pre-eminent jazz clubs (All That Jazz) in the 80s.

Joe Benesh

Board of Directors

Joe Benesh is the President and CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning and organizational design thinking firm in Des Moines. He is a member of the University of Iowa teaching staff as an adjunct, where he is in his 5th year of teaching strategic planning in their Masters of Business Administration program. Joe is the Economic Development and Community Engagement Chair and a Past-President of the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, where he has received the Service Honor award twice. He also serves on the boards of several non-profits, a college board, and has been an organizing member of a think-tank that is dedicated to the success of the central Iowa region. Joe is currently working on a book about Design Thinking and Strategy. Graduating in 1999 from Iowa State University with a Degree in Architecture, Joe holds a license to practice architecture in three states. He received a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Iowa in 2016, and is a graduate of the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, and Leadership Iowa. He lives in the Drake University area, with his wife Cari and their two dachshunds. Joe has a daughter, Kylie, who is a pre-med student at Loyola University in New Orleans. In his spare time, Joe also composes original music and plays guitar in a band he co-founded with a childhood friend in the late 1990s.

Matt Callanan

Board of Directors

Matt Callanan was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and began as an associate attorney at Belin McCormick in September 2017.After completing his undergraduate degree at theUniversity of Notre Dame in 2010, Matt returned to Iowa and graduated with highest honors from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2013.While at Notre Dame, Matt was a proud member of the Glee Club, participated in a number of musicals and variety shows, and spent his junior year learning Spanish and eating excellent food in Mexico.While at Iowa law, Matt encouraged greater student-professor interaction as a member of student government and was president of the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.

In his free time, Matt enjoys running (he has completed multiple full and half marathons), begrudgingly attending yoga classes with his fiancée, watching people much more talented than him perform musicals and music, and sharing notes on craft beer.He met his fiancée while working in Cedar Rapids a few years ago, and she is now an administrative fellow at the Iowa Clinic in West Des Moines.Together, they have a wonderful, but obnoxious, nine-month old wiener-dog mix named Walter.

Virginia Croskery Lauridsen

Virginia Croskery Lauridsen

Board of Directors

Virginia, an assistant professor of music at Simpson College, is a soprano who has performed with numerous orchestras across North America, including Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Houston and Utah as well as the St. Louis Symphony under the direction of Leonard Slatkin. Carnegie Hall audiences have heard her in Fauré’s Requiem with the New Jersey Symphony. Equally at home on the opera stage, Croskery Lauridsen has received critical acclaim in such works as Cosí fan Tutte (Dorabella).

Sara Danielson

Board of Directors

Sara Danielson is a K-5 music teacher in Des Moines Public Schools at Walnut Street School, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program school. She received Bachelor of Music degrees in music education and performance (flute) in 2003 from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Master of Arts degree with a music education concentration in 2018 from Eastern Illinois University.
Sara also has a small private flute studio, is in her second term as the Xi B Province Officer for Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and holds the piccolo positions with the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band and Central Iowa Wind Ensemble. She resides in Ankeny with her husband, Jason, and their three sons, Carter, Maxwell, and Isaac.

Mary Erickson

Board of Directors

Mary Erickson grew up in Cedar Falls Iowa. She attended Drake University and graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising. While in college Mary was a proud member of the Alpha Phi sorority. After graduating college, Mary moved to New York City to take advantage of her 20s and gained some great career knowledge working at large advertising agencies. Mary returned to Iowa and has had careers with Principal Financial Group and Prairie Meadows over the years. She is now the Digital Marketing Manager at Mercer. Mary lives on the South Side of Des Moines with her fiancé Brian and two cats. In her free time Mary enjoys music, festivals, taking in the shows at the Des Moines Playhouse, and cheering on the Iowa Wolves. Mary is also a proud cat foster parent for the Animal Rescue League.

Eric Saylor

Board of Directors

Eric Saylor is Professor of Music History at Drake University, a position he has held since 2003. A specialist in British music of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he is the author of Vaughan Williams (Oxford University Press, 2022) and English Pastoral Music: From Arcadia to Utopia, 1900–1955 (University of Illinois Press, 2017) co-editor of the volumes The Sea in The British Musical Imagination (The Boydell Press, 2015) and Blackness in Opera (Illinois, 2012), and has published and presented his research widely throughout Europe and North America. He has served in a range of capacities at Drake, including as chair of curriculum committees at the Departmental, Collegiate, and University levels, as well as multiple terms on Faculty Senate and the College of Arts and Sciences Council, and is in demand as a peer reviewer by a wide variety of publishers, periodicals, and universities. He has been closely involved with the administration of the North American British Music Studies Association since its founding in 2004, holding a range of positions including board member, Secretary, and two terms as President.

``I have built close ties with the musical community during the 25 years I have lived in greater Des Moines, having led the Classical Conversations series for the Des Moines Symphony Academy, regularly presenting pre-concert talks for organizations like the DMSO, DMMO, and CMA, and collaborating with institutions like the Des Moines Public Library on community-based education projects. For almost 100 years, Civic Music has punched far above its weight class for a city this size in terms of the artists it attracts, and I would love the opportunity to help CMA continue this tradition of excellence as it begins its second century.``

Joseph Lubben

Board of Directors

Joseph is a composer and pianist who moonlights as a lawyer (although he admits it might be the other way around for the time being). Joseph has an eclectic taste in music and might cycle through Shostakovich, Scarlatti, Mac Miller, Roomful of Teeth, Julien Baker, and DJ Shadow in any given hour of listening. He makes good pizza and tolerable espresso, reads too much Haruki Murakami and not enough Susanna Clarke, and knows he should get outside more. Joseph and his wife met in their undergrad piano studio class. After freelancing and teaching for several years in south Florida, they escaped back to the midwest, settling in Des Moines with their dog, Luna.

Sarah Florian

Board of Directors

Sarah Florian has a Bachelor of Music with Emphasis in Business Studies with minors in Musical Theatre and Business Studies from Drake University. While at Drake, Sarah served as a Belin Quartet intern with Civic Music Association for two summers and is happy to be back serving the organization as a Board Member. Sarah has spent a majority of her career in arts administration with roles at the Des Moines Symphony & Academy, Des Moines Performing Arts, and the Iowa Arts Council. During her professional tenure in the sector, she is most proud of managing the day-to-day operations of the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards and being part of the team that built that program into the statewide initiative it is today. While she has left the arts as a profession, you can still see Sarah singing in a choir concert or two every so often or catch her performing in a musical around town. Most recent credits include Kinky Boots (Pat) and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Ensemble/Miss Barley), both at the Des Moines Playhouse.
Sarah Sullivan

Sarah Sullivan

Board of Directors

Sarah Sullivan grew up in Pella where marching band and jazz were as important to the culture of the high school and community as the football team. Sarah has always had a love of music and while she dabbled in instruments, she has been singing all her life. She and her husband, Nick Bigelow, are church musicians at St. Augustin and enjoy helping the younger students become comfortable cantoring.