Who We Are

Velvet Jones performing at Mad Men Fundraiser for BWCA, April 2018

Petoskey Montessori Children’s House Music Class

Pete Kehoe teaches beginning recorder class at Independence Village

Big Water Creative Arts Board of Directors:


Pete Kehoe

President of the Board

Pete is a versatile artist, renowned as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and a distinguished composer and songwriter who earned the Michigan Emmy Award in 2011. Hailing from northern Michigan, his acclaimed songs and compositions have found a place in numerous cable TV shows and documentaries on networks such as TLC, Discovery Channel, PBS, and the History Channel. Additionally, Pete has crafted music for various web programs and videos, collaborating with esteemed clients like TED, The Christopher Reeve Foundation, Dow Chemical, Weyerhaeuser, and many others.

Over the years, Pete has graced the stages of numerous Midwest music festivals, leaving his mark at events like Blissfest, Wheatland Music Festival, Mayfest, and ArtPrize. He was notably featured as a songwriter on the Michigan Songwriter Stage during the 2012 Wheatland Music Festival. With a musical journey spanning over three decades, Pete remains an active performer throughout Michigan and the Midwest. His roles as a singer, musician, producer, and performer have defined his career.

In addition to his performance career, Pete has devoted over 30 years to music education. He is an accomplished music educator, offering lessons in piano, guitar, bass, music production, music theory, and songwriting. As a co-director of the MISW and a co-founder of BWCA, Inc., Pete has played key roles in musical organizations. His passion lies in imparting musical knowledge and mentoring aspiring musicians of all ages.

Pete resides in northern Michigan, where he continues to contribute to the vibrant musical tapestry of the region.


Michelle Chenard

Board Administrator

Michelle Chenard has been a prominent figure in northern Michigan for many years, earning numerous accolades, including the 2005 Best Solo Performer award in the Northern Express, recognition as one of the Best of The Best in the Northern Express in 2008, and a 2011 Michigan Emmy Award for her musical contributions to the score of the TV documentary "Sacrifice & Honor: A Tribute to Our Northern Michigan Veterans." Originally from the Upper Peninsula, Michelle relocated to warmer climates after leading her first bands in high school. She honed her musical skills on the Florida/southern United States band circuit and has showcased her talents across the nation and internationally.

In addition to her solo career, Michelle has graced the stages of numerous festivals and songwriting events, including the Mackinac Island Music Festival, Blissfest, Wheatland Music Festival, the National Cherry Festival, and ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Her performances have included opening for acclaimed artists such as Badfinger, Collective Soul, and Reba McEntire, establishing her as a Samick Guitars-endorsed artist.

As part of Big Water Creative Arts, Michelle consistently imparts her songwriting knowledge and expertise to local communities. She conducts songwriting workshops at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, MI, Mackinac Island Public Schools, and the Petoskey Montessori Children’s House & Elementary School. Michelle serves as the co-director and co-founder of the Mackinac Island Songwriters Workshop and is a co-founder of BWCA, Inc. Her passion for songwriting and music extends to every aspect of her life, leaving an indelible mark on those she encounters.

Michelle remains active in her musical pursuits, performing hundreds of shows annually at venues across the Midwest. With several albums of original music to her name, she currently resides in southeast Michigan with her daughter, Lucy.


Brian Wagner

Board Secretary

Brian Wagner is the Co-founder and Principal of PTIS, LLC, established in 2000. PTIS stands as a leading management consultancy in the trillion-dollar packaging industry, employing foresight to provide innovative business strategies and practical solutions for Fortune 500 brands, manufacturers, smaller private companies, as well as associations and academia. In 2008, he was inducted into the Michigan State University School of Packaging Hall of Fame and recognized as the 2008 Western Michigan Business Review – Thought Leaders. In 2016, Brian received the Reister-Davis-Brody Lifetime Achievement in Food Packaging and the R. David LeButt Packaging Education award. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Packaging from Michigan State University. Brian is a certified executive coach and is passionate about unlocking the growth potential of individuals and organizations.

Northern Michigan Involvement:

  • Leadership Little Traverse Mentor: 2018-19, 2019-20, 2022-23
  • Michigan State University - Athletic Council: 2022-Present
  • North Central Michigan College - President’s Council Commission: 2022-Present
  • Petoskey City Council Member: 2020-Present

Local Boards:

  • CS Lewis Festival
  • Big Water Creative Arts
  • Petoskey Area Chamber: Thriving Petoskey Committee
  • Petoskey Rotary Sunrise President-Elect 2023-24
  • Brian and his wife Dawn reside in Petoskey.

Jeff Patton

BWCA Treasurer

Jeff serves as the Treasurer of Big Water Creative Arts and is also an Associate Broker with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realty in Petoskey. He brings a wealth of experience in hospitality, marketing, and event management to the Big Water team. Jeff's journey, from being an avid trumpeter in high school to becoming a bass guitar player in recent years, reflects his enduring passion for all things musical, driving his active involvement with Big Water Creative Arts.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree and is a dedicated Spartan. Beyond his professional pursuits, he actively contributes to the local community through volunteering for organizations like Manna Food Pantry. Currently, Jeff serves on the Resort Township Board of Review/Zoning Board of Appeals, showcasing his commitment to community service. His love for boating is evident through his years of service as an officer of the Petoskey Outboard Cruising Club.

Jeff resides in Resort Township with his wife Regina and their golden retriever, Maddie.  In the summer, you'll find him cycling on the Little Traverse Wheelway and enjoying family boat outings on the numerous inland lakes of Northern Michigan. Come winter, Jeff embraces outdoor activities such as skiing at Nub’s and snowshoeing with Maddie, his golden retriever.


Jeff Wynder

Board Member

Jeff Wynder serves as a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor at OsborneKlein in Petoskey, a distinguished Private Wealth Advisory Practice of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. With over fourteen years of experience, Jeff has dedicated his career to providing valuable financial and investment advice to individuals and organizations.

Originally hailing from Chesterton, Indiana, Jeff has been an active member of the Petoskey community for the past 16 years. Beyond his financial expertise, Jeff is a passionate musician who showcases his talents by playing the guitar and lending his vocals to the local duet Lejet. He enthusiastically performs at various local venues whenever his schedule allows.

In addition to his musical pursuits, Jeff is a talented songwriter and takes pride in being the father of two budding musicians. Motivated by his love for music and a desire to inspire the next generation, Jeff has taken on the role of Board Member. His goal is to share his passion for music and contribute to its growth, with plans to become an instructor in the near future.


Olivier Boinais

Board Member

Olivier Boinais, an Industrial Designer, has a deep-rooted passion for music, having played the guitar from a young age. His professional journey has been marked by collaborations with diverse talents across various fields.

Currently holding the position of Senior Industrial Design Manager at Faurecia, an International Fortune 100 company, Olivier manages and directs design studios in North and South Americas. With over 20 patents to his name, he plays a pivotal role in steering the creative direction of the company.

Olivier's commitment to excellence is evident in his extensive portfolio of patents, showcasing his ingenuity and dedication to pushing design boundaries. His guitar skills and love for music provide a unique perspective, blending artistic flair with technical precision.

As a board member, Olivier Boinais contributes not only his Industrial Design expertise but also a passion for creativity that enhances collaboration within the team. His diverse background and dedication to innovation make him a valuable asset to any project or organization fortunate to benefit from his insights and leadership.


Sheela Welch

Board Member

Sheela Welch, a lifelong amateur singer and dedicated high school clarinetist, discovered her passion for the arts at an early age. The stage bug bit when a teacher encouraged her to audition for a community musical—a transformative experience that paved the way for other notable roles over the years, including Chicago, Little Becky Two-Shoes in Urinetown, Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma, and the unforgettable Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

In 2024, Sheela joined our board, bringing her expertise as a top real estate professional at Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, where her exceptional performance earned her the International Silver Society Honor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications & Theatre, as well as Human Services from Albion College.

You can find Sheela gracing the stage at Little Traverse Civic Theatre and lending her voice to her church choir. Her debut in Pride and Prejudice as the excitable, nervous, and conniving Mrs. Bennet marked a proud moment. A mother of three and former band parent, Sheela resides in downtown Petoskey with Mia, her Maltese Dog. Embracing the up-north lifestyle, she enjoys sailing, boating, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, and skiing.

Inspired by these moments, Sheela is thrilled to be part of Big Water Creative Arts, bringing a profound appreciation and a genuine desire to contribute to the thriving musical community.


Chris Michels


Chris's passion for music ignited during his time at Harbor Springs Elementary School, where he founded his inaugural band, "Hand Me Down Facial Hair," in the 4th Grade. Although their only performance was at a school talent show, it marked the beginning of a lifelong journey filled with jam sessions with friends and a relentless pursuit of musical experiences.

Post-high school, Chris pursued his musical ambitions at NMU in Marquette, where he contributed his talents to the NMU Jazz Band. During this time, he also formed party bands that graced the college circuit across the Midwest. His musical journey led him through various locations, from Portland, OR, to Ashville, NC, and eventually back to Michigan, traversing Ann Arbor before settling in Traverse City for the past 12 years.

Beyond his personal project, the 'Chris Michels Band,' he collaborated with several Michigan acts, including May Erlewine, Seth Bernard, Don Julin, Caroline Barlow, and numerous members of the Traverse City Jazz, Folk, and R&B community. In 2017, he ventured into teaching at The Rock Stop, a rock'n'roll music studio, where he shared his expertise until March 2020. Following that, he relocated to Petoskey with his wife and two young children, where he remains dedicated to composing, recording, and performing.

Fresh off the heels of the 2021 live album "Welcome to Reeseville," Chris is gearing up for the release of another official studio album in early 2022, aptly titled "Welcome Home." His musical journey continues to evolve, leaving an indelible mark on the Michigan music scene.


Owen James


Owen James, a multifaceted artist, stands out as a versatile vocalist, guitarist, pianist, composer, choir conductor, and music instructor. His extensive career has seen him thrive in diverse musical settings and locations, making a significant impact with his skills and passion for music.

Beyond his performances in cafés, clubs, and concert halls across the United States, Owen James has dedicated over 25 years to directing choirs in schools, churches, and communities. His influence extends further through the provision of private and group lessons in voice, guitar, and jazz improvisation. With a wealth of experience and expertise, he has become a respected figure in the realm of music education.

Owen's commitment to his craft is evident in his goals. Whether leading a choir or instructing individuals in private lessons, his primary objectives are to educate and inspire those around him. His mission is not just about sharing the beauty of music but also creating opportunities for personal growth, self-expression, and effective communication through the medium of music.

In essence, Owen James is not merely an instructor; he is a catalyst for the transformative power of music. His journey as a musician and educator continues to enrich the lives of those he encounters, leaving an indelible mark on the ever-evolving landscape of the musical world.


Charlie Millard


Charlie Millard, originating from Michigan’s northern lower peninsula, has honed a distinct sound, voice, and profound lyrical prowess while collaborating on songs with his cinematic rock'n'roll trio, the Charlie Millard Band. His presence is a fixture at numerous festivals and venues across the Midwest and Canada, such as Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Blissfest, Farm Block Fest, Frederik Meijer Gardens, and The Ark in Ann Arbor. In addition to his performances, Millard generously shares his knowledge through songwriting masterclasses, enriching local communities along his journey. His multifaceted contributions continue to inspire and resonate with audiences, fostering a deep appreciation for music and storytelling.


Pete Kehoe


Pete comes from a long line of teachers in his family, and is the 4th generation to do so. Pete has studied piano, French horn, electronic music/synthesis, music theory, composition, arranging & jazz at such fine institutions as the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Western Michigan University, Aquinas College & Central Michigan University. He has been teaching music (guitar, piano, music exploration & songwriting) for over 30 years.


Chris Koury


In 2023, BWCA welcomed Instructor Chris Koury to its teaching staff, adding his extensive music education background. Serving as the resident guitar instructor at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey and an adjunct professor at North Central Michigan College, he shares expertise in music history, theory, and composition. With three decades of teaching experience, Chris is not only an educator but also a performer, gracing stages across northern Michigan with his singing and instrumental talents. His active participation in the Little Traverse Civic Theater company further enriches his artistic endeavors. BWCA is thrilled to have him contribute to our team's dynamic.