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Rachel Bio
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Rachel McGrain,
Executive Director

Rachel (she/her) is a life-long Marylander, educator, and musician. Her commitment to educational equity and social justice has inspired her career in education and nonprofit leadership. 

Rachel began her career as a Teach for America Baltimore corps member in 2013 after graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, College Park with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music/Trumpet Performance and History. In addition to teaching 7th and 8th grade math at KASA in West Baltimore, she served as the middle school track coach and 8th grade team leader while earning her Master of Science in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University in 2015. 

In response to the lack of consistent arts programming available to her students, Rachel started an instrumental music program in 2016 at Green Street Academy where she taught 7th grade music as well as several after-school programs including bucket band, wind band, and drumline. She then transitioned to the nonprofit sector as the Development Director of Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS), where she also served as a member of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future coalition and the Baltimore Arts Education Initiative Instrumental Working Group led by Arts Every Day.


Rachel then served as the Baltimore City Director of Repair the World where she continued strengthening her leadership and community mobilization skills with a focus on direct service. Now back at AEMS, Rachel is thrilled and honored to continue advocating for all students in Maryland to have the robust access to high quality arts education they deserve. Outside of AEMS, Rachel serves as a board member of Sisson Street Park and District 43 co-captain for Jews United for Justice.

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Peter Dayton,
Director of Operations

Peter Dayton currently serves as Director of Operations for Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS), where he has worked since 2018. Coming from an education background that was academically privileged but lacking in arts experiences, Peter’s biography attests to the pivotal power of the arts to transform lives and learning. In his various positions and capacities (including Interim Executive Director), he has publicly presented on arts education advocacy, written and presented testimony before the Maryland General Assembly, organized large-scale convenings, and successfully facilitated a partnership between the Maryland State Department of Education and Quadrant Research to initiate the Maryland Arts Education Data Project.
An Ohioan happily transplanted to Maryland, Peter earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Vanderbilt University majoring in Composition/Theory and minoring in English. He received his Master’s Degree in Composition from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and has lived in Baltimore ever since.
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Peter Bio

Alissa Gittens,
Communications Manager

Born in New Jersey, Alissa Gittens attended Morgan State University where she received flute instruction with Dr. Anita Thesen and performed with various ensembles before receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree of Music. 


As an active advocate for arts accessibility and youth development, Alissa was previously the Director of Programs for The MusicianShip, but now serves as an ambassador for Nuvo Flutes and is a board member with the Montgomery Philharmonic of Montgomery County, MD. In 2020, she created the Flutists of Color group on Facebook and launched The Urban Flautistas Fest in celebration of flutists of color around the world.

Alissa provides social media and marketing consulting while coordinating recruitment initiatives as a Recruiting Consultant for the Fine and Performing Arts Department at her alma mater. Alissa also enjoys teaching flute and piano to private students throughout the mid-Atlantic region and the Caribbean.

Alissa's Bio
Patrick Bio

Patrick is new to the nonprofit world and is excited to develop a career in the field. He originally joined AEMS as a Public Ally with Baltimore Corps which endeavors to give professional opportunities and education to young people to put the power of leadership into the hands of members of the community. He is now the Policy and Research Assistant at AEMS.


Patrick attended McDaniel college and obtained bachelor’s degrees in psychology and political science. As an advocate for justice and peace for all he hopes to do what he can to make other’s lives just a bit better.

Patrick O'Reilly,
Operations & Policy Assistant

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Karena Alane Escalante

LEE Policy & Advocacy

Summer Fellow

Karena Alane Escalante is a policy and advocacy fellow at AEMS with a special
focus on education equity and data dissemination. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa and her Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.


After teaching for several years in Oahu, Hawai’i as an ESL teacher, Karena became invested in assessing the various ways in which education policies on a federal level impact rural learning communities. Her current work at AEMS involves advocating for an effective inclusion of arts education along the P-20 educational continuum by illuminating the relevance of recent trends at multiple levels of the education system.


Karena is passionate about dismantling systems of oppression within academia and excited to work at the intersection of arts and equity for a sustainable education in Maryland.


190 W. Ostend St.

Baltimore, MD







EIN: 52-2056349

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