Hands playing a guitar

Team

our Patrons

NITIN SAWHNEY

Photographed in Brixton, London 7th June 2017

Nitin Sawhney is a world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer and cultural pioneer across the worlds of music, film, video games, dance and theatre. 

He has been our patron since 2018, sharing his passion for inspiring young people to find their voice and championing talented artists on the UK music scene. Nitin is active and vocal about promoting equality of education and experience.⁠ He is also Chair of Trustees for PRS Foundation. 

Nitin has over 20 studio albums to his name plus has scored more than 60 films and numerous TV series – including the BBC’s epic Human Planet series.  As a touring musician he has performed extensively as an artist at some of the world’s most prestigious venues from the Royal Albert Hall to Sydney Opera House.  He has collaborated and worked with Paul McCartney, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Jools Holland, Ellie Goulding, Anoushka Shankar and Nelson Mandela.  He was awarded the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 and in 2019 he received a CBE for his services to music, accepting it in memory of his dad and as an acknowledgement of his parents’ struggle as immigrants.

REuben James

Photo: Reuben James by Leleita McKill

Reuben James has been our patron since 2016. Reuben first met Abram when he was just 17 at a workshop Abram was leading at Birmingham Conservatoire. Abram was impressed by Reuben’s skill and soon afterwards asked him to join his quartet for a new record and UK tour. Already a regular on the Birmingham jazz scene, playing at Jam House and with Ruby Turner, joining Abram’s band gave Reuben a chance to hone his skills as a live musician. 

Reuben says: “We went on tour around the jazz circuit, and it was amazing for me to learn and gain experience from one of the best around and someone who had always been a great inspiration to me. During that time Abram became more than just a bandleader, he was my best friend, my big brother, and my mentor. He taught me about swing, blues, the history of the music, fearlessness, respect, passion, hard work, dedication, patience, how to be an inspiring teacher, the importance of passing on your skills to others. Abram is one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing today, and it was a privilege to have been a part of the message that he represented through his work.” 

Not long after Abram passed away, Reuben was given an opportunity to join a new band, for an up-and-coming singer called Sam Smith.  Fast forward a few years and Reuben became best known for his ongoing collaborations with Smith, co-writing songs for his multi-million selling album ‘The Thrill of It All’, touring the world and winning numerous awards. He has also written for and performed with stars including Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancok, Elton John and John Legend. He signed with Warner/Chappell in 2018 and has grown his solo career. His debut EP Adore and new EP Slow Down landed to critical acclaim in 2019 and 2020 and he released ‘Tunnel Vision’ featuring Frida Touray, Daley with Tom Misch in 2021.

Trustees

fred bolza

Fred is our Chair of Trustees. He is a strategist working at the intersection of culture, technology and people. His core skill is acting as the connective tissue between adjacent worlds to define and answer key strategic questions. 

He has over 20 years experience in strategy, having worked, initially as a management consultant, then as strategy director at PRS for Music, and finally as VP Strategy at Sony Music UK where he played a key role in developing and delivering insight and analytics approaches into the business.

Since he left Sony in 2018, he has launched his own music company New Soil focusing on emerging UK jazz talent. He continues to provide advisory services across music, digital and technology to a range of clients. He is also on the advisory board of One Question and a scale partner at Multiple.

Fred says: “Being a trustee of the Abram Wilson Foundation is one of the most important things in my life. Not only does it provide valuable opportunities to young people through its programmes, it also creates a chance to help those in their careers develop and grow. On a personal level, working with the Foundation has allowed me not just to learn from others but gain a greater sense of purpose and the inspiration to start my own business.”⁠

sharan jaswal

Sharan is an educator, facilitator and change-maker, passionate about social justice, education and empowering young people and marginalised groups. She has over 15 years experience in designing, delivering and scaling education programmes globally.

Sharan spent 12 years growing MyBnk where she led the education team, spearheading their work with marginalised youth and becoming an experienced project manager and learning experience designer.

Now self-employed, she’s stepped into the field of social justice and anti-racism, working independently plus with organisations like The Good Lad Initiative, Rethink Mental Illness and Diversity Role Models as an education, anti-oppression and wellbeing facilitator and consultant. She also volunteers with #POCImpact and co-founded The People Protest. 

Sharan is a RSA and Clore Leadership Fellow and her education programmes have won social impact awards with the Guardian Public Service and Centre for Social Justice Poverty Prevention.

She says: “It’s a real honour to be an Abram Wilson trustee, as their work to empower young people in the arts is transformational. Whether composing a music piece from scratch for the first time, performing on new or bigger platforms, or getting an introduction that leads to a record deal, I know our youth and mentees get something extra special that they can’t access anywhere else. Being part of that journey is hugely rewarding – plus I get to work with an awesome team and be the first to hear the best tunes and upcoming artists!”

nana-efua lawson

Nana is the founder of Castlegate International and an accomplished Chartered Psychologist, specialising in leadership coaching, design and facilitation of leadership development programmes, team coaching, senior team effectiveness, and talent development.  She is passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.  She has particular interest in women in leadership, minorities in leadership and evolutionary leadership. 

Nana has worked globally as a consultant with a diverse range of industries and across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors with clients such as: Google, PayPal, NHS, Citi, Unilever, Aviva, Vodafone, Nestlé, Kinross Gold, Diageo, and BP.  Clients consistently tell her that she brings refreshing clarity and a powerful combination of perceptiveness, insightful challenge, results-focus, supportiveness, energy and fun to her work.   Before founding Castlegate International in 2011 she worked with Standard Chartered Bank for several years.

Nana is Ghanaian by descent but made her home on the somewhat cooler shores of Britain as a teenager.

She says: “Knowing the impact Abram had on the talented people around him, I have from the outset been a huge supporter of the important work the charity is doing with young people and the great opportunities it offers through mentorship programmes.  I am so proud and honoured to be a trustee, also as it aligns with my personal and professional purpose of helping to realise the potential of people from all walks of life.”

Collette philip

Collette runs award-winning brand and strategy consultancy, Brand By Me, helping organisations build brands that tackle inequity and drive social justice. She has worked with, on and for a breadth of amazing brands for over 20 years – from household names to amazing charities. 

Fuelled by her lived experience as a black woman, and passion for social justice, Collette is a changemaker who sees it as her responsibility to be a role model, champion others and speak out against the stereotypes.  And that’s why she is delighted and honoured to be an Abram Wilson trustee. 

She says: “I feel immensely proud to be a trustee of Abram Wilson.  To bring forth, champion and uncover talent in young people is so important, especially when music is underfunded, under-appreciated and inaccessible to all but a privileged few.  I love how the organisation is part of a growing movement dismantling structural inequity within the music industry in a practical, creative and exuberant way.  We get to see young people develop their spark of creativity, build their careers as well as a front row seat to the most exciting new music from emerging talent.  What’s not to love?  I feel honoured!”

Team

jennie cashman wilson

Founder and CEO

I have 10 years’ experience of building Abram Wilson from scratch (yes really). On that note, I have a lot of love for our trustees, team and supporters; they’ve played such a huge part in Abram Wilson’s journey, and I most certainly would not be doing what I’m doing today without them. As well as running Abram Wilson I’m also a coach, mentor, writer and speaker. I’m passionate about social mobility within music and helping others to find their voice. My very energetic and sociable dog, Misty keeps me fit (and happy), and my creativity lies in telling stories that inspire people to make positive changes for themselves and others.

Lucy watkins

Head of Programmes and Impact (on maternity leave)

I have been managing programmes and evaluation for Abram Wilson since September 2018. For the last 20 years I’ve worked in Public Health for the NHS; the charity sector; managed my own business and headed up the office of an international development charity in SE Asia managing livelihood arts projects in Thailand and Cambodia with vulnerable youth.  I love spending time with my family and my crazy cockapoo, and particularly enjoy being outside in nature, travelling, and a good run! My creativity lies in designing and communicating the impact of our work in a meaningful and accessible way.

Ali Birtwell

Head of Marketing and Communications

I have nearly 4 years experience managing Abram Wilson’s marketing and communications and almost 20 years (ouch!) in the not-for-profit world. As well working for Abram Wilson, I’m a freelance marketer helping other cause-led organisations do good comms. I’m passionate about young people having an equal chance in life; and about access to flexible working. I love the seaside, re-learning to play the piano and hanging out with my family and cat. My creativity lies in painting pictures with words.

lori casero

Development Manager

I have over 2 years of experience managing Abram Wilson’s individual fundraising efforts and 10 years of experience in finance and business development. After taking a career break to raise my children, I knew I wanted my next job to be in the non-profit sector, ideally for a charity involved with young people and creating equal opportunities to fulfil their potential – and so I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Abram Wilson team. I am also passionate about music (jazz of course!), running, cooking and spending time with my family. My creativity lies in making connections with people and getting them excited about our cause.

Meghan McCall-campbell

Trusts/Foundations Manager

A recent addition to the Abram Wilson team (joining in 2021), I have over five years experience within the third sector. As well as working for Abram Wilson, I’m a freelance fundraiser, helping other charities build relationships, tell their story and maximise their impact. I’m passionate about supporting young people to realise their full potential and equality of opportunity for all. When not writing proposals and applications, I’m often out on the football pitch or reading some Scandi noir. My creativity lies in writing and communication.

fiona mcrae

Communications and Marketing Manager

I joined the team in 2021 but followed Abram’s career and became a Trailblazer from day one. I have been watching keenly as the charity has grown and evolved into what it is today. I come from a background of music and events production, and am passionate about literature, creative writing, yoga and art. My creativity lies in knowing how to use language to convey ideas and insight. 

Anna Bignell

Programme and Evaluation Manager (maternity cover)

I joined the team in September 2021. I have spent the last 15 years working in education, bringing music into children’s lives at every opportunity. It’s no surprise that I love what this charity stands for and am really looking forward to contributing to their work.

In my spare time, I am usually found in the fields with my gorgeous family and puppy or taking some time out while practicing yoga. My creativity lies in building opportunities that encourage children and young people to fulfil their potential.