Acorn Center for the Performing Arts Executive Director


Sandra Thompson

ACPA Executive Director, March 2015 - current
Acorn General Manager, 2013 - 2015


Sandra Thompson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education with a concentration in voice from Northwestern University in Chicago. For over 25 years she taught at all levels, grammar school through college and adults. Through her various responsibilities, she has directed a wide variety of music programs, from musicals to vocal performances to concerts.     


Before joining the Acorn, Sandra started and developed a farm-to-home distribution business in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware area. 


Sandra is currently Executive Director of the Acorn Center for the Performing Arts where her experience comes together to combine voice and performance into encouraging new talent in an entertainment venue. Sandra successfully directs and produces the Acorn Singer Songwriter Competitions and Open Mic Nights and is Executive Producer of our in-house events. 


Acorn Center for the Performing Arts Board of Directors


Jen Shoup, Chair

Board member since 2016
Resident of LaPorte County, IN


Jen discovered the Acorn as an audience member and pitched in to help at the close of shows.    


Jen is Vice-President and District Manager for Horizon Bank in LaPorte.  With over 20 years in Retail Banking leadership positions, Jen is now responsible for P & L, sales, employee development, community participation, and leadership.  Jen is an active member of the Chamber in Michigan City and LaPorte and a Junior Achievement Advisory Board Member.  Jen’s past nonprofit board experience includes the Michigan City Art League, Junior Achievement, Master Gardeners and the Chamber. 


Kathy Stady, Chair-Elect

Board member since 2017
Resident of Stevensville, MI    


Kathy got the Acorn bug by enjoying shows as a patron.  She was an active volunteer helping with fundraisers, ushering, and setting up a new donor management process.  Kathy was elected to the board in 2017.


Kathy retired in 2015 from Smith-Dahmer Associates, a market research and consulting firm headquartered in St. Joseph, MI where she was a member of their Senior Leadership Team.  Kathy created an idea generation process to bring the consumer’s voice into product innovation for a variety of companies.  As a researcher, Kathy has moderated hundreds of focus groups and in-depth interviews for a variety of well- known consumer brands and manufacturers of private label brands such as: Colgate-Palmolive, Delta Faucets, Hill’s Science Diet, Masco, MasterBrand Cabinets, Metrie, Overhead Garage Doors, Owens Corning, Panasonic, Pulte Homes, Therma-Tru Doors and Whirlpool Corporation.  Prior to Smith-Dahmer, Kathy had a variety of leadership positions at Whirlpool Corporation in Product Development, Sales, and Sales Training. 


Kathy has a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and studied business at Nova University Graduate School of Business. 


Kathy is on the External Affairs Committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Michigan. 


Beth England, Secretary

Board member since 2017
Resident of Michiana Shores, IN


The vibe of the Acorn space embraced Beth’s love of music on her first visit to the Acorn. With her savvy social marketing expertise, in just a couple months, Beth was elected to the Acorn board.  


Beth is Founder of 3rd Coast Digital Consulting, an agency helping clients figure out their next big thing.  Clients look to Beth for digital expertise and consulting in strategy, planning, implementation, and measurement.  With 30 years in social media, consulting, market research, and sales, Beth brings practical experience to navigating the marketing trenches while appreciating the nuances of marketing in today’s complex digital world.  Her successes include State Farm, McDonald’s, Menards, Ace Hardware, Eli Lilly, Exelon, Costco, Nabisco, Walgreens, Shaw’s, Dunkin Donuts, Sara Lee, PepsiCo to name a few. 


Prior to founding 3rd Coast Digital Consulting, Beth, educated at Bradley University in advertising and public relations, held leadership positions in companies such as Hootsuite, Information Resources, Inc., and Teradata.  She was born and raised in Michiana and is enjoying the area’s natural beauty after about 30 years in Chicago.


Beth’s nonprofit experience includes National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Peoria Convention and Visitor Bureau, and American Lung Association by way of the Healthy Home Initiative 2017/2018.  


Nick Nocerino, Treasurer 

Board member since 2018
Resident of Hinsdale, IL and Sawyer, MI 


Nick Nocerino retired from Swiss Bank UBS as a managing director in the firm’s asset management division.  Most of his 24-year career at UBS was spent in derivatives trading and portfolio management.  Before joining UBS, Nick worked as a software engineer and systems analyst. 


Nick is on the board of Shorewood Hills HOA in Sawyer. 


Nick has a genuine appreciation for the contribution the Acorn makes to life in SW Michigan and a strong desire to see the Acorn prosper. 


Nick has an MBA in Finance from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT.     



Tom Abrahamson, Chair, Nominating and Governance Committee

Board member since 2017
Resident of Oak Park and Beverly Shores, IN


Tom became a board member after years as an avid patron of the Acorn as he started his current business, ReWIRED.      


Tom is Executive Counsel at Lipman Hearne and Founder of ReWIRED, LLC.  Since Tom’s “rewirement” in 2016 he has been actively seeking board roles where his nonprofit marketing knowhow could be of value, particularly to early stage, up-and-coming organizations.  While attending a concert at the Acorn, Tom heard the Executive Director announce that the Theater had recently become a nonprofit. He volunteered to help the organization on the spot and was thrilled to later become elected to its Board of Directors.


Abrahamson is known for innovation in nonprofit marketing. During his two-plus decades at Lipman Hearne, Tom has held several leadership roles including Managing Partner, CEO, and Chairman. Among the 700+ institutions served by Lipman Hearne during Tom's tenure: the Smithsonian, Amherst College, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, U.S. Olympics Committee, University of Notre Dame, Old Town School of Folk Music, Julliard, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. 


Tom is an engaged leader in the marketing profession, having served as a member of the American Marketing Association’s Board of Directors and Chairman of the AMA’s Foundation Board. Tom’s nonprofit volunteer leadership includes serving as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Dominican University and board chairmanships of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Urban Gateways, and Friends of the Children-Chicago. 


Bob Beemer

Board member since 2018
Resident of Sawyer, MI 


Bob Beemer Is the principal owner of CIA, Combined Insurance Agencies in St. Joseph, MI. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan.  Bob is an advocate of the Acorn, bringing many patrons to the theater for their first time.  His insurance agency was the first paid business sponsor for the Acorn. 


Bob is past president of the SW Michigan Life Underwriters Association and has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance business. Bob is a founding member and president of the Deer Creek Open Space Association land conservancy. He is active in the township and in homeowner association boards. 


Phila Broich

Board member since 2018
Resident of Sawyer, MI


Phila retired as Chief People and Culture Officer U.S. at PHD, part of Omnicon Media Group.  Prior to PHD, Phila held senior leadership positions in Talent Development at Fleishman-Hillard and at CAHG, an Omnicom Company.  Phila also was an Organization Change and Strategy Consultant for IBM Business Consulting Services. 


Phila has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Western Illinois University, a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts and a Master of Science in Organizational Development from Loyola University of Chicago. 


Phila and her husband particularly enjoy the breadth of the Acorn’s entertainment, from emerging talent to well-known artists.  


Larry Elster

Board member since 2018
Resident of Lincolnwood, IL and Long Beach, IN


Larry is an attorney with a concentration in commercial real estate and corporate transactions. He regularly works on commercial leases, build-to-suit projects and sale and leaseback transactions.


He was privileged to serve as a Village of Lincolnwood Trustee for 20 years (1997-2017).  As a Trustee, Larry developed significant experience in the negotiation, documentation and administration of economic development incentives such as Tax Incentive Financing and tax abatements.  Having grown up in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, Larry is a lifelong Cubs fan.


Larry currently serves on the Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service panel for Commercial Real Estate and on the Judicial Evaluation Committee. Larry’s past leadership positions include Executive Board of the Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation and Chairperson of the Illinois State Bar Association Law-Related Education Committee.


Larry and his wife, Michelle, have been enjoying shows at the Acorn since it opened.


Larry has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctor Degree from Loyola University School of Law. 


Rhona Frazin

Founding board member since March 2015
Resident of Chicago and St. Joseph, MI  


Rhona’s connection to the Acorn started as an audience member and expanded to her board member role sharing her nonprofit expertise as the ACPA navigated the change into a nonprofit organization.  


Rhona has served as President and CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation since 2004. Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, the Foundation has provided nearly $100 million in support for innovative Library programs. 


In a nonprofit career spanning nearly five decades, Rhona has led fundraising, marketing and communications efforts for Metropolitan Family Services, The John Marshall Law School, The Nature Conservancy, Goodman Theatre and the Illinois Arts Council. She has chaired or spoken at Association of Fundraising Professionals conferences, and been a guest lecturer on nonprofit management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, University of Illinois, American Library Association, Urban Libraries Council, Women in Philanthropy and the Alliance for Children and Families.


Rhona is an honors graduate of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and attended DePaul University College of Law.  She has served on a number of nonprofit arts and educational boards.  

Fred Jolly 

Board member since 2017
Resident of New Buffalo, MI  


Fred started at the Acorn as an audience member and was elected to the board shortly thereafter.   


Fred and his wife, Laura are Adventurers Extraordinaire.  They have now relocated to New Buffalo from Chicago after completing a 2½ year trip in a motorhome around the United States during which they visited all fifty states and spent time in all 59 national parks and another 130 national park units. In the summer of 2018, Fred completed the 2100+ mile hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Check out Fred's adventures at


Fred’s career life was as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).  After working at Arthur Andersen, Fred moved to BMO Harris Private Bank where he led the bank’s Retirement Planning Practice, its Financial Planning Group and its Private Wealth Group, which served ultra-affluent families and family offices. 


Fred’s nonprofit experience includes serving as a founding member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Planned Giving Advisory Council. 


Allan Kayler

Board member since 2018
Resident of Harbert, MI


Allan’s career began as a commercial banker with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.  He relocated to Chicago in 1994 when he joined the Midwest Mezzanine Funds as a Senior Managing Director where he sourced and managed junior capital investments in small to medium-sized businesses and served on numerous Boards as a representative of the Funds.


Allan is on the Board for Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan, the Finance Committee of Chikaming Open Lands, and the Investment Committee of Fourth Presbyterian Church (Chicago) and is the Treasurer of the Lakeside Association. He previously was the Chairman and Treasurer of Global Alliance for Africa.


Allan and his wife particularly enjoy Acorn shows featuring young musicians. 


Allan has a BA in Mathematics from DePauw University and an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.


Bob Murphy

Board member since 2018
Resident of Western Springs, IL and Three Oaks, MI


Bob and his wife Kim are longtime patrons of The Acorn.  Their engagement accelerated when they purchased their home in Three Oaks, a short walk away.


He is founder and Managing Partner at Moveo, a demand generation agency, headquartered in Chicago.  For 31+ years Movéo has worked with leaders at B2B and healthcare brands such as Abbott, Cardinal Health, Pfizer, Siemens, Motorola and Careerbuilder to craft strategies that have a direct impact on growth. Bob has worked with leadership at some of the largest nonprofits in the US to define their brands and drive growth, including Keck Medicine of USC, Trinity Health, Unity Point Health, and Amita Health.


He’s also has played an active role in supporting a number of other nonprofits including Movember, Japan America Society of Chicago (where he serves on the Board), Family Service of Lake County, CamFund, Mulliganeers and The Margaret Hackett Family Center Foundation in association with The University of Chicago Medicine.


Graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Marketing and Finance. 


Frank Sintich

Board member since 2016
Resident of Chicago and Sawyer, MI  


Frank was attracted to the Acorn’s connection to the community and live music and began producing shows before being elected to the board.     


Frank is a dynamic leader with 38 years of experience in underground construction, corporate, natural gas operations, field employee management, credit collections and regulatory compliance experience.  He is currently Director of Public Relations Illinois Operations for NPL Construction Company.  Prior to his current position, Frank held a variety of leadership positions at Peoples Gas, Integrys Business Support, and PGL Gas Operations. 


Frank spent over 30 years playing and writing music in bands throughout the Chicago area and Midwest.  He studied guitar jazz improvisation at Sherwood Music Conservatory.      


Ron Spears 

Board member since 2015
Resident of Chicago and Union Pier, MI


Ron’s start with the Acorn was as a patron and began volunteering at the Acorn when he wanted to get involved locally. 


Ron has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Biochemistry which eventually led to a career as a French Wine Importer.  Ron owned and operated Grape News Importing for nearly 20 years.  Entertainment is in Ron’s blood.  He plays guitar locally and is involved in the School of American Music in Three Oaks.