• Diane Pickell-Gore

Staff Profile: Lisa Starbird

Lisa Starbird has been a team member at Bread & Roses since 2007. Lisa describes herself as efficient, organized and someone who sees the details as well as the big picture. She enjoys streamlining projects and making them flow easier for others. Her official title is Program Associate/Events Producer. She is also our database analyst, volunteer coordinator, logistical support person and music producer at San Quentin State Prison. Lisa also manages hosts and event volunteers and is the lead producer for the annual Bread & Roses volunteer appreciation event—The JAM.

A few interesting life highlights:

Lisa’s mother worked in the music industry. She grew up around musicians and in studios. She has always loved all genres of music. She was a lighting designer for several notable rock & roll bands for seven years in her 20s. Recently she bumped into one of those musicians who said he remembered her “scampering up and down ladders and across the lighting trusses with no fear.”

Lisa became a snow ski racer after going on what she thought was a “just a cheap ski vacation” that turned out to be a race camp. Lisa came home with a trophy and was hooked on the sport!

Seven years later, a near tragedy turned into a serious injury on the racecourse. This devastated Lisa’s love of being on the slopes. She was told that she would never walk again without impairment. After three surgeries, Lisa was wheelchair-bound and living with the help of her mother and grandmother. Lisa’s competitive spirit and drive kicked in during the rehabilitation of her leg and with Gloria Estefan’s song “Get On Your Feet” her disciplined motivation led to recovery. Her doctors knew that she was a fighter and an inspiration to those who would hear her story. Today Lisa says that she considers her scars as her last trophy and an ever-present reminder that courage is the most valuable trophy of all.

When Lisa was fully recovered several years later, she was drawn to the adrenaline rush with which she was familiar -- learning trapeze, skydiving, white water rafting and more.

A few years later, there were multiple losses in Lisa’s life—all within a year. She found herself at the Center for Attitudinal Healing working on her personal loss and grief. She soon became a volunteer, a group facilitator and ultimately was hired as a full-time staffer when she was recognized for her organizational skills. After eight years of work, Lisa realized the time was right for her to reclaim the joy in life.

This was when her professional life transitioned to becoming part of the team at Bread & Roses. Lisa’s own life deeply needed the healing power of music and knowing that she was in the right place, it felt like serendipity. After working for six years supporting staff members, Lisa was given the opportunity to bring music into San Quentin State Prison, which is currently her favorite role at Bread & Roses.

Lisa brings in volunteer musicians from Bread & Roses who share their skills and knowledge with the incarcerated men. Together, they provide structure, collaborate and inspire the inmates to stretch and become better musicians, event planners and producers. The combination of skills that they bring allows unique opportunities for the men in San Quentin to become better people.

Bread & Roses has directed and performed with inmate choir members in various projects including bringing interfaith singers and musicians together. Through a variety of workshops there are performances in the chapel and on the prison yard, integrating both inside and outside musicians. The prisoners rise to a higher level by bringing their newfound gifts and learning through the efforts of Bread & Roses. All of this is manifested through the healing power of music.

Lisa’s life is dedicated to helping others. As an active volunteer she helps numerous organizations with their fundraising events, conferences, retreats, workshops, music, speaker events and more. Using the peer support group model where we are all students and teachers to each other, Lisa also facilitates a weekly group of inmates at San Quentin, teaching how to respond to human situations rather than to react, how to be accountable and how to find freedom inside prison walls -- all important lessons that become lifelong learning for each of us.

Lisa truly believes in the healing power of music. She considers being at Bread & Roses as work of the heart and is grateful to be in a job where she is able to make a difference every day. There seems to be a flow of music throughout her life weaving that tapestry through everything she does at Bread & Roses, San Quentin and her spiritual community, all connecting through the music.

Contributed by Lisa Starbird, Diane Pickell-Gore and Peggy Wilkins.

Photo Credits:

1) Lisa at 2018 Circle of Advisors event. Photo by Peter Merts.

2) Photo of Lisa skiing from the 80s.

3) (r) Kurt Huget & Lisa Starbird at 2018 San Quentin Day of Peace. Photo by Peter Merts.

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