Nick Malinowski – Executive Director

Most recently, Nick has led a high performing team as Program Director for Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that provides hands-on apprenticeship opportunities for students in Durham Public Schools. He has proudly forged relationships with national and local corporate partners, organizations, and individuals to close the opportunity gap for hundreds of students in the Triangle.

Nick graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College in 2004, where he was a 1,000-point scorer on the men’s basketball team, as well as the school’s only three-time Most Outstanding Vocalist Award winner. He holds a master’s of music degree in voice from Mannes School of Music in New York, where he specialized in the dramatic tenor repertoire of Wagner and Puccini.

Nick and his family make their home in Durham. He loves spending time with his wife and son, traveling, making and taking in music, and playing golf as often as possible.  Read his Kidznotes journal Nick’s Notes to learn more about him!


Kidznotes Director of Development Keith Strombotne.Keith Strombotne – Director of Development

Keith Strombotne- Director of Development

Keith is a North Carolina native who’s spent the past few years growing and positively impacting private companies in the Triangle. He made the decision to pursue his entrepreneurial goals and left the private sector in 2012. In addition to Kidznotes, he’s currently the CEO and Co-Founder of an early stage software company located in downtown Raleigh called Everview. Keith was introduced to Kidznotes after volunteering and working closely with Band Together, a local nonprofit that uses music as a platform for social change. Joining the Kidznotes team in January 2014, he has led development efforts with Kidznotes for the past three years. Keith has helped to drive strategic growth in both Durham and Raleigh with the goal of creating an El Sistema movement statewide with Kidznotes out in front leading the charge. Keith brings a fresh and energetic perspective to fundraising and community partnerships which has helped Kidznotes realize significant growth and has positioned the organization as an El Sistema model to emulate nationwide.



Rashad Hayward – Durham Artistic Manager & Advanced Ensemble Conductor

As the Artistic Coordinator, Rashad Hayward ensures that the music education Kidznotes students receive is appropriate for beginners, intermediate and advanced students. Rashad has helped write curriculums to ensure each child’s success through all of Kidznotes’ various levels and ensembles. He hopes to see Kidznotes succeed in producing brilliant musicians and individuals.

As the Advanced Ensemble Conductor, he brings his years of orchestral training to conduct and train mature musicians in the youth orchestra of Kidznotes. He brings his knowledge of orchestral repertoire to create an atmosphere that is both fun and challenging in order to always stimulate growth.


mckenzie_photoMcKenzie Kostura – Development Associate

McKenzie is delighted to be part of the Kidznotes family. A 2016 graduate of Elon University, McKenzie came to North Carolina from Roanoke, VA where she was active throughout high school in enhancing learning for elementary students with a program called KinderAmigos.Her family has long been an advocate of the arts and particularly in promoting the performing arts-music, dance, and theatre-as a means of not only complementing traditional learning but a way of equalizing opportunity for all students.

While at Elon, McKenzie spent summers working as an intern with Durham Parks and Recreation where she recruited and assisted with youth volunteers while working to foster relationships with nonprofits and other agencies based on community need.

McKenzie joins Kidznotes as a Development Associate and is eager to learn more about community based nonprofits as well as the logistics of funding and program administration. McKenzie enjoys working with children and loves spending time as “auntie” to her nephew, Henry, who is an aspiring musician! She looks forward to working with the students and to hearing more delightful performances.


Vandora Davis – Executive Assistant & Business Manager

Vandora helps keep the wheels on our bus moving.

She is responsible for the day-to-day business of our Kidznotes offices, maintaining Kidznotes’ finances, managing budgets, and in general supporting the team.

Vandora manages our contractor and HR relationships, and assists the Executive Director in building relationships in the community.




alexAlexandra Plueckhan – Raleigh Operations Manager

Alex, the daughter of German parents, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in several different parts of the world. Having played a variety instruments, including the violin and the electric bass, Alex discovered that her passion was working with musicians rather than being a musician herself. After graduating high school, she volunteered with El Sistema in Ecuador for one year. This experience launched an effort to enhance her skills and breadth of knowledge from practical work experiences in the arts. With a Bachelor’s in Languages, Literature and Culture, she speaks four languages.

Alex was excited to join the Kidznotes team in September 2014 and is looking forward to support and help implement the fundamental idea and vision of El Sistema in NC. She enjoys seeing children grow with and through music and is inspired by their accomplishments.


StephenStephen Pysnik – Durham Program and Operations Director

Stephen joined the Kidznotes team in 2014 after finishing his Ph.D. in Musicology at Duke University. Before coming to Durham in 2008, Stephen studied music at Ithaca College in his home state of New York. He is an active musician around Durham and currently sings with the Duke Vespers Ensemble and The Seven Deadly Bibs, among others. He has also played trumpet with the Duke New Music Ensemble and the Duke Jazz Ensemble.




headshotMelissa St. John – Director of Marketing

When you Like and Share our posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+, you are connecting with us through Melissa!  She manages our social media presence as well as sending out Press Releases, updating the website, producing our monthly email Newsletter, creating Eventbrite pages for concerts, arranging media interviews when possible, and generally communicating with our community about Kidznotes and our mission to touch the lives of every child with orchestral music instruction.


Also see Contact Us for more contact information.

Our team also includes 25+ teaching artists who instruct students 5 days a week. Meet them on our Teaching Artists page.