Vanessa Kestner is an accomplished violinist, arts administrator, and educator with nearly a decade of experience in the arts and culture sector. A Colombian-American, Kestner leads with a passion for transforming communities and inducing social change by amplifying under-represented and under-served voices through increasing accessibility to the arts.
Most recently, Kestner served as Director of A Gift For Music (AGFM), an El Sistema inspired program in Orlando, Florida. During her time with AGFM, Kestner worked with over 350 students annually to bring about social change through the transformative power of music. A passionate arts educator, Kestner sought to nurture students' musical and personal growth through equitable, inclusive, and well-rounded programming. She seamlessly designed curricula that ensured positive outcomes for students’ musical and socioemotional developments, as well as AGFM’s long-term programmatic success. Kestner oversaw professional development and teacher training, administered evaluations, and assessed ongoing needs to optimize learning in the classrooms. She was also a member of a grants team responsible for writing, overseeing, and reviewing all grants for the organization.
Kestner held a long-standing engagement with the Sphinx Organization (Sphinx), serving as group violin instructor for elementary aged students from under-served communities in Detroit, Michigan. In 2020, she was selected as one of nine arts leaders of color to join the SphinxLEAD cohort. Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity (LEAD) is Sphinx’s empowerment program designed to evolve the landscape of arts leadership. Through LEAD, Kestner participated in leadership retreats at top artistic and educational institutions nationwide, including the Juilliard School, New World Symphony, Interlochen, Minnesota Orchestra, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Kestner holds a bachelor of music education degree in K-12 music education and a master of arts degree in arts administration, both from Eastern Michigan University. Kestner is also an alumna of Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program.