Our volunteer Board of Directors works hard to provide classical music to the public. Any of the Directors can be contacted by emailing .
Al Niknabard, President
Al Niknabard immigrated to United State in 1984 from Iran. He lived in Eugene, Oregon for 5 years and has been in Portland since 1990. He has been involved with parking, transportation and real estate asset management since his arrival in Portland. Al enjoys several different hobbies including playing music, sculpting, biking, motorcycles and occasional one-off artistic endeavors. Al works closely with clients from a variety of industries to achieve objectives outlined for each project. Having been involved in the business community through his work, Al has established many strong relationships in the community and is very familiar with Portland’s business and community objectives.
Debby Garman, Treasurer
Debby Garman is an independent consultant, and has employed a diverse career in non-profit leadership including numberous board and officer positions, as well as serving as Executive Director for Portland Revels, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon and the Siletz Bay Music Festival. She served as the Chair of the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council in 2015. Debby has had a parallel for-profit business career in books and publishing, serving as Public Relations and Publicity Manager for Timber Press publishing compnay.
Gregory Vajda, Music Director
Portland Festival Symphony
Hailed as a “young titan” by the Montreal Gazette after conducting the Montreal Symphony in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartun, Gregory Vajda has fast become one of the most sought-after conductors on the international scene. In 2011, he was appointed the sixth music director of the Huntsville Symphony.After a three-year tenure as Principal Conductor, he was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Hungarian Radio symphony in 2014. Mr. Vajda is also the Artistic Director of the International Armel Opera Festival. Former Resident Conductor with the Oregon Symphony, Vajda maintains a busy schedule of guest conducting engagements around the world.
Mr. Vajda is also a gifted clarinetist and composer and was honored with the Zoltán Kodály State Scholarship for composers (2000). Born in Budapest, Mr. Vajda studied conducting at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music.
Lajos Balogh, Founder & Music Director Emeritus
Portland Festival Symphony
Lajos is the Founder and past Music Director of Portland Festival Symphony. He was born in Hungary and studied at the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, as well as in Munich and Hamburg. Maestro Balogh has been an active member in Oregon’s classical orchestra community. He spent many years as Principal Second Violin with the Oregon Symphony and is a former member of both the Portland Opera Orchestra and the North Coast Chamber Orchestra. He was the founding Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and is a past faculty member at Marylhurst University.
Shaun N. Christiansen, MPA
Shaun N. Christiansen, MPA is a Financial Planner and owner of the Christiansen Financial Network. Christiansen Financial is a network of the nation’s top insurance and financial institutions organized through the financial planning process. Prior to founding the CFN in 2016, Shaun spent three years as a representative of Northwestern Mutual and two years as a Managing Associate with MassMutual of Oregon. Shaun earned a B.S. in Sociology with minor in Legal History from Western Oregon University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oregon. During graduate school Shaun interned in the Capitol Hill Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, serving in the John C. Stennis Congressional Intern Program. A life-long Oregonian, Shaun is passionate about all styles of music and fascinated by the positive impact that rhythm and resonance can have on the human brain and psyche which brings about his enthusiasm to help expose classical music to all.
A native Oregonian, Dolores D’Aigle started violin lessons at Portland’s Hayhurst Elementary School and later lived in Chicago where she studied with Edgar Muenzer of the Chicago Symphony and was co-concertmaster of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. She attended Northwestern University on academic and music scholarships. After earning her B.M. from Northwestern University, Dolores spent two seasons with the Florida Symphony and four years with the San Antonio Symphony. She studied with Stephen Clapp at University of Texas in Austin and was a Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. In 1978, Dolores returned to Portland to become assistant principal second violin of the Oregon Symphony, a position she held for 33 years. In addition to the violin, Dolores teaches and performs on organ, viola, and piano.
Dolores had a long association with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, organizing rehearsals, international tours, revamping organizational structure and serving on its executive board. She is Vice President of the local musicians union and has served on several Oregon Symphony negotiating teams and as a player representative. Dolores is a state-certified mediator, speaks German and Hungarian, and relaxes by swimming, hiking, and camping in the beautiful Oregon countryside.
Attorney at Law
John Koch is an attorney based in Lake Oswego and the founder of Koch Law, LLC. His practice focuses on estate planning, estate administration, and business transactions. He regularly advises clients on charitable giving, whether during their lifetime or through their estates. He also advises non-profit and tax-exempt organizations, and has prior experience serving on non-profit boards.
John has never learned to play an instrument, but he has been fond of music since the sixth grade (starting with his first purchase, a Best of the Guess Who cassette tape). His favorite classical works are Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Vivldi’s Four Seasons, and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
John is an amateur in other arts, namely creative writing and photography and he supports efforts to make artistic experiences available to larger populations. This is one of the main reasons why he is excited to join the board of the Portland Festival Symphony.
Attorney, Neese Law Office, LLC
Paul Neese is a lawyer in Clackamas County, whose primary work is representing parents and children in juvenile dependency cases, and youth in juvenile delinquency cases. For five years, he was an Assistant General Counsel at the Oregon State Bar, where his work focused on legal ethics and professionalism. Prior to this, Paul was at MDI representing parents and children in Multnomah County. He also handled cases in the Grand Ronde Tribal Court.
Paul received his B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco, School of Law. He is a member of the Clackamas County Bar Association, and has held various positions in the American Bar Association, the Oregon State Bar House of Delegates, and the Oregon New Lawyers Division. He also serves as a mentor for the Oregon State Bar’s New Lawyer Mentoring Program.
He speaks Cambodian (Khmer) and Lao, and a bit of French. He has played the piano since a young age, has informally studied organ, and has sung as a tenor with Oregon Repertory Singers for a number of years. Paul and his family have lived in the Portland area since 2002, and he is the lucky father of two amazing sons.
Composer and choreographer
Amber began her artistic training in violin and Classical ballet and later shifted her focus to music composition and contemporary dance. As a composer, Gudaitis works in contemporary classical music, writing for live performers. Gudaitis’ musical compositions have been premiered by the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, the Olympia Symphony Orchestra and by professional chamber ensembles and soloists. As a dance professional, Gudaitis is known for customizing performances to the unique stage designs of music venues. She has performed with many professional musicians, including trumpeter Fred Sautter, clarinetist Dr. Robert Spring, and tubist Dr. Deanna Svoboda. Gudaitis studied at the University of North Texas, Arizona State University, and the University of Leeds in England. Her works have been performed in Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, England, Costa Rica, and Portugal.