How we Started
After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in the spring of 2014, Jason Steinberg moved to the tiny island of Pohnpei, Micronesia to teach high school English. While teaching at Madolenihmw High School, the students showed a passion for playing basketball. Having coached basketball for three years, Jason jumped at the opportunity to coach the boys and girls of MHS.
The problem was that the students didn’t have sneakers or jerseys. For weeks, students would show up every day after school and practice barefoot or in flip flops. Students would pass up their bus ride home from school in order to play two hours of basketball in their bare feet. Without sneakers, they would often finish practice with cuts and injuries and then have to walk home to their village, which for some of them was up to 10 miles away. Jason recognized the students’ passion and decided to start fundraising in order to purchase sneakers and jerseys for the team. Together, Jason and the students of MHS raised enough funds to provide sneakers and jerseys for every student who wanted to play.
The students on the team didn’t just show improvements in their basketball skills, but also became more attentive in school and felt happier on a day-to-day basis. Jason saw similar changes in the students participating in the music club at school – students who would regularly attend the music club showed improvements in schoolwork and heightened confidence. Jason left the island feeling more confident than ever that expressive outlets such as sports and music can have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. He also knew that there must be other kids around the world whose lives could be improved through sports and music, but who wouldn’t be able to afford the proper equipment.
When Jason returned to the States after the school year, he created the International Sports and Music Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping schools and shelters around the world plan and fund sports and music initiatives in their communities. Soon ISMP grew into an international family of people who passionately believe that sports and music can make the world a better place.
Jason Steinberg is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for sports, music and social justice. After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, he taught English and coached high school basketball in Micronesia. When the team couldn’t afford sneakers or jerseys, Jason began fundraising and the seeds of ISMP were sown. When he isn’t spending time on the ground with our international partners, Jason lives in Brooklyn, New York. Jason spends his free time playing guitar, shooting hoops, reading Kurt Vonnegut and going to concerts.
Eric Branse joined ISMP in 2015 and serves as the Assistant Director. He currently lives in Boston where he works as a software consultant. He has a lifelong passion for sports and music and spends his free time running, devouring books and chess puzzles, and following Phish up and down the East Coast.
Arie Wolf is a computer programmer, world traveler, and aspiring cheese maker. He spends his summers working at the summer camp where he grew up, and his desire to bring the happiness he sees in his campers to children around the world led him to us. As Chief Technology Officer, he runs the ISMP website and handles all technical matters for the organization. When he's not working Arie enjoys rock climbing, crossword puzzles, and being silly.
Derek Sekuler was called to join ISMP as the partnership with Ritsona Refugee Camp was forming by an infectious love of soccer. Chances are that he’s watching soccer right now. With a background in marketing and recruiting, Derek oversees all of the content that ISMP creates and distributes. If you know who both Francesco Totti and Jerry Garcia are, Derek would like to buy you a beer.
Jonah Mahrer is a management consultant living in Los Angeles. The rich history of sports and music in his family’s heritage brought him to ISMP. Jonah is committed to teaming and growing with strategic partners and corporate sponsors that align closely with ISMP’s mission. When he isn’t working to make meaningful connections for ISMP, Jonah is rooting for the UNC Tar Heels (his alma mater), scuba diving around the world, and jamming out to the Grateful Dead.
Board of Directors
Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young
The Chairman of the ISMP Board of Directors is Zachary Toal. Zach works as a senior financial consultant in Washington, D.C., and has additional experience in political and nonprofit consulting. Zach studied Peace War and Defense as an undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill and received his Masters in International Economic Affairs from George Washington University. Zach credits sports and music as two fundamental parts of his upbringing, and they continue to drive his belief that sports and music can change the world.
Director of El Sistema USA
Educator at Duke University
Katie Wyatt is an accomplished musician, educator and innovator. She teaches “Music and Social Entrepreneurship” at Duke University and is the Executive Director of El Sistema USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides intensive orchestral music training to underserved students around the country. Katie is a national leader in the orchestra field in creating programs that give children access to the transformative power of music. She was named one of Musical America's "30 Under 40" in 2013.
Director at Robert Jacobson Sports
Glenn Leibel is a teacher, a coach, and the Executive Director of the Robert Jacobson Sports Foundation (RJS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to give kids in New York the opportunity to join a sports team. RJS organizes everything from wrestling to cheerleading, allowing children of different economic backgrounds to play together. Glenn was raised in the Bronx, NY before attending the Ohio State University for undergrad and Pace University for his Masters in Education. No matter what day of the week it is, you can usually find Glenn on a sports field or in a gymnasium.
Attorney at Steinberg & Gruber
Robert Steinberg is a coach, a volunteer firefighter and an attorney living in Oceanside, New York. He received his undergraduate education at Penn State University, where he wrestled and played rugby before attending Brooklyn Law School. Robert is an avid fan of the Allman Brothers and the New York Jets. In his free time, Robert enjoys spending time with his family, studying foreign languages and cooking.
JASON STEINBERG, EX OFFICIO
Founder, Executive Director
(Learn about Jason In our Core Team section)
We're grateful to work alongside incredible people and organizations to help make the world a better place. Thank you for all your incredible work and for everything you do.