Founder & Director
Lilly Abreu was born in Portland, Maine, was raised in Brazil, and moved to Pittsburgh in 1993 to pursue her Masters in Voice at Carnegie Mellon University. She has been a teacher and mentor of children and adults with disabilities since 2000, when she joined the faculty of the Woodlands Foundation’s first Notes From The Heart music camp.
In 2020, when the music camp went to a virtual format because of the pandemic, Lilly perceived that participants in virtual programming were thirsty for more opportunities not only to make music together and see their friends, but also to discuss important issues like self-advocacy, leadership and independent living. The potential of each person was clear, if given the opportunity and a platform to flourish.
After brainstorming the idea with Mark Steidl and associates Tina Calabro and Allison Fromm, Lilly founded the Self-Advocacy Voices mentorship incubator program, a space for young adults with disabilities to give voice to their interests and passions through public speaking and performances. They select a topic, work with a mentor, and present at a Saturday meeting, along with a guest speaker.
The idea is that this program will give the participants the tools to increase their opportunities to attain valued roles within the broader communities of their choice.
Co-Founder & Program Manager
Mark Steidl (they/them/their) is a 26 year-old with athetoid cerebral palsy. In 2020, they graduated Community College of Allegheny County, majoring in social work foundations and served as a student government senator. They graduated from Pittsburgh’s Brashear High School in 2013 and live in Highland Park.
In addition to serving as vice-president on student government at CCAC, Mark participated in the Gender & Sexualty Alliance (GSA). Mark serves on the youth caucus of the National Council on Independent Living, advocates in a variety of disability rights campaigns, and is a proud member of the LGBT community.
Mark currently works part-time at Tobii Dynavox, a world leader in electronic communication devices and teaches music at the Woodlands. Their hobbies include going to concerts and musicals, listening to a wide variety of music, and traveling to new places. Mark loves to listen to show tunes!
“People say, don’t judge a book by its cover - that goes for people too,” Mark says. Mark notes that labels automatically go on everyone but they want to be seen as “more than a person in a wheelchair.”
Allison Fromm is founding director of Joyful Noise, a New Jersey and Delaware chorus of adults with physical and neurological challenges. She and her sister, Elizabeth Fromm, co-founded the ensemble in 2000, so that Elizabeth would have an opportunity to sing in a chorus with friends. Allison also teaches youth and adults with disabilities for the Woodlands Foundation’s “Notes from the Heart” music camps in Wexford, Pennsylvania and assists with the Harvard Choruses’ Cambridge Common Voices.
A graduate of Yale and Boston Universities, she completed her doctorate in choral music at the University of Illinois. Her dissertation, “Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning: Context and Creative Process,” is gaining recognition for its contribution to choral music scholarship.
Allison has given presentations on both her Copland research and on Joyful Noise for regional and national conferences of the American Choral Directors Association. She has also presented seminars on working with musicians with disabilities for conferences and symposia hosted by Chorus America, Boston Conservatory, the University of Illinois, and Harvard and Yale Universities.
Tina Calabro is a "connector" in the Pittsburgh disability community. Her work as a writer and speaker expands public understanding of disability, highlights people and organizations that are creating opportunity and positive change; ad links individuals and families to resources. Her popular newspaper column, "Breaking Down Barriers," which ran for 12 years in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, has been recognized for increasing awareness of issues and amplifying voices in the disability community.
Tina's work is inspired by the remarkable people in the disability community who have shared their stories, perspectives and journeys with her. She counts her son, Mark Steidl, among her most influential teachers.
Tina and her husband, David Steidl, live in Pittsburgh with their son, Mark. Another son, Paul, lives in San Francisco.
Since childhood, Anne McKnight Alter has lived with the brain-based mental illnesses schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD, and panic/anxiety disorder.
Through all of this, she has been a writer, an actor, a skater, a singer, a model, a dancer, an athlete, a teacher, a director, a technician for theater and film, and a college graduate. She has also done mental health advocacy work.
Anne currently serves as co-chair of the mental health division of the Disability Task Force at Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh. She sings with Infinity, a quartet of musicians in which all four participants have a mental health diagnosis. She is writing a book called The Plague Diaries, a compilation of Facebook entries during the COVID-19 years. She studies voice with Lilly Abreu.
Anne lives very openly with her mental illness and hopes that her efforts to be transparent can lead to more understanding and acceptance of people with psychiatric disorders. She wants to see people with mental illness, as well as all people with disabilities, live fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Ron Kludo is a Business Analyst working as a consultant for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Supplemental Nutrition Program. Ron has 20 years' experience as a Training and Development Professional. This includes working for a major national financial institution where he managed and trained branch staff.
He also worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C. where he trained and coached government employees on various projects, many of which included ensuring that documentation published under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) met Section 508 Accessibility Standards.
Ron finds his current role working for the PA WIC program extremely rewarding, knowing that his efforts contribute to the Commonwealth's efforts to provide nutrition education and services to the community.