Team & Board
Meet The Crew
Chief Executive Officer
Hal Real is the Founder and President of World Cafe Live and co-founder of LiveConnections (now merged with World Cafe Live.) Hal is a co-founder and board member of NIVA (the National Independent Venue Association) and a co-founder and board president of NIVF (the National Independent Venue Foundation). He also serves on the boards of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (immediate past chair) and the Freire (Charter Schools) Foundation, and chairs the Honorary Board of People’s Light (Malvern, PA). In the past he chaired the Boards of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, was a member of the People’s Light and Philadelphia’s Fringe Arts boards, as well as the Chairman’s Council of the Philadelphia Zoo and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Board. Hal plays piano, loves dogs, and is a graduate of Kenyon College and Temple University School of Law.
Chief Operating Officer
Motivated by a lifetime of seeking out live music experiences and a deep love for all things Philadelphia, Kerri was drawn to World Cafe Live from the very beginning and was hired as part of the service staff two weeks before the doors officially opened in October 2004. Rising through the ranks of the Food & Beverage department led to key management roles and additional operational responsibilities. Kerri played a support role to the newly formed LiveConnections nonprofit in 2008, and continued to expand her reach into other departments with a focus on finance. Maintaining a presence in multiple departments lead to her role as General Manager in 2018, where she is driven by the hard work of her dedicated team and the magic that is providing memorable live music and dining experiences for all of World Cafe Live’s guests. Kerri helped navigate the merger of LiveConnections with World Cafe Live in 2019 and now as Chief Operating Officer continues to work on overseeing all departments with a focus on pushing the bounds of what a nonprofit music venue can and should be. Additionally Kerri is a LEADERSHIP Philadelphia Fellow and currently the lead organizer for PIVOT, a collective of independent venues working to raise the profile of Philadelphia as a live music destination.
Chief Advancement Officer
Blair first came to World Cafe Live in 2010 when she interned at LiveConnections. She returned in 2017, as LiveConnections’ Director of Development. Throughout her career, Blair has worked at a variety of arts and culture organizations, serving as the Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony and as the Education Project Manager for the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, creating curriculum on the history of American popular music. Blair has also worked as a Grants Associate for the United States Golf Association and served as the Deputy Director of PA Women’s Vote during the 2008 Obama For America campaign. Blair is a World Cafe Live teaching artist and performing singer-songwriter. She has released two albums and in 2015 won the grand prize for lyric-writing from American Songwriter Magazine. Blair is continually inspired by World Cafe Live’s songwriting residencies, particularly those that place teaching artists in creative collaborations with young people.
Producing Director of Arts & Learning
David’s work in the arts ranges across theater, music, civic engagement, education and accessibility. He co-founded LiveConnections, which specialized in music education and socially-engaged music and which merged with World Cafe Live 2019. As part of WCL’s leadership he conceives and produces education and community programs. David has directed more than 30 productions at People’s Light, where he’s a long-time member of the artistic company. He’s collaborated often with Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, including directing A Fierce Kind of Love, a play telling the story of the intellectual disabilities rights movement in PA, which had multiple sold-out runs in Philadelphia. At the National Constitution Center he’s Artistic Director of Living News (since 2006) and directed Fighting for Democracy. His arts and civic engagement work also includes projects around the country with Theater of War and Animating Democracy and writing and directing Voices of Voting for the Committee of Seventy. He’s been a frequent director at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Act II Playhouse and Philadelphia Young Playwrights. David is a recipient of a 2020 Leadership Award from the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia and a Brighter Futures award from the City of Philadelphia’s Intellectual Disabilities Services for his work in accessibility and the arts. He teaches Arts Leadership at Arcadia University and is a graduate of Yale University.
Director of Food & Beverage
Chef Rob’s road to professional kitchens was driven by an entrepreneurial spirit when a unique opportunity presented itself to operate his own restaurant. After selling his first establishment, he decided to return to the basics and climb the ranks in established kitchens. Absorbing every ounce of knowledge around him, he accepted a position at World Cafe Live’s former location in his hometown of Wilmington, DE and spent years covering all aspects of the business from large scale a la carte service to formal catered dinners to specialty pairing menus. Now as the Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Rob is responsible for the dining experience of over 100,000 guests a year, overseeing service in two spaces daily and over 200 catered events annually while playing an integral role in the next stages of the organization’s development.
Director of Operations
Music has always played a huge part in Lauren’s life, so when she was faced with making a decision about her future career, she knew music was meant to be a part of it. She went on to study Sports, Art & Entertainment Management at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. After graduating, Lauren made her way back home to Delaware where in 2012 she landed a job as Box Office Supervisor at World Cafe Live’s former Wilmington location. She continued her career with the venue as Ticketing & Guest Services Manager in Philadelphia, and now serves as WCL’s Director of Operations.
Lauren Bessler (SHRM-CP, CPSP) has been with World Cafe Live since 2011, starting off as a member of the front-of-house team and eventually settling into her role as Administrative Manager. A former classically trained singer, she is thrilled to be able to explore and develop her passion for all things human resources and accounting in a space devoted to the love of the arts. Lauren thrives on developing ways that World Cafe Live can continue its reputation as a great place for all who enter, staff and guests alike. When she’s not catching a show after work, you can find her tending to her entirely-too-many houseplants, knitting sweaters and shawls next to her pets, and exploring the hidden gems of Philadelphia with her husband.
Jorgan has been a member of the World Cafe Live Production team since 2007. Initially focused on producing demos and albums in recording studios, Jorgan delved into concert production and promotion while living in a DIY artist collective/concert space. Subsequent years of experience touring North America and Europe with several artists have given him a grounded viewpoint of concert logistics. As Production Manager for World Cafe Live, Jorgan leads a crew of skilled lighting and sound technicians while overseeing production for events of all types.
Senior Talent Buyer
Jeff has been a Talent Buyer in the Philadelphia region for over 10 years, previously working for Boot & Saddle and Neshaminy Creek Brewing before joining World Cafe Live in 2018. He got his start booking shows by renting out VFW and Rec halls in Bucks County as a teenager. Jeff is also a musician himself and has toured nationally and internationally as the drummer for Restorations. Now as WCL’s Senior Talent Buyer in charge of booking both stages, Jeff is dedicated to bringing live music of various genres to the community.
Tori began her journey with World Cafe Live as a marketing intern in 2013, unless you count the many concerts she attended as a longtime fan of the venue. During her studies at neighboring Drexel University in the Music Industry program, she wrote concert and album reviews for a local music blog, assisted on several releases with Mad Dragon Records, and worked as a publicist for local artists. Tori graduated from Drexel in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry and minors in Business Administration and Communications. She found her way back to World Cafe Live shortly thereafter and has been with the venue full-time ever since. Now as head of the marketing department, Tori manages all advertising, promotions, and communications for WCL.
Private Events Manager
Bridget first got a taste for the music industry when she interned at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. After graduating from Stockton University with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management, she moved to Philadelphia to further her career in the live events industry. She spent her first year in the city doing off-premise catering, before returning to the industry she once fell in love with as an Events Coordinator at World Cafe Live. Now as the lead of WCL’s Special Events department, she works with all types of clients to produce corporate events, social events, weddings, mitzvahs, and everything in between. When she’s not at work, you can find Bridget in a yoga class or trying to pet every dog in Fishtown.
Interested in joining the WCL team? Visit our employment page here.
Hal Real, President & CEO // Founder of World Cafe Live and President Real Entertainment Group
Lori Landew, Chair // VP, Content Legal, Audible Inc.
Paralee Knight, Vice Chair // Community Affairs Representative, Wells Fargo Foundation
Sally Bullard, Treasurer // Financial Executive (retired)
Courtney M. Johnson, Secretary // Chief Administrative Officer, Philadelphia Zoo
Steve Barnes // Chief Financial Officer, Accolade, Inc.
David Bradley, Producing Director of Arts & Learning // Theater Director, Educator & Arts Consultant
Tony Brown // The Curtis Institute of Music (retired)
Val Chavenson // Independent Consultant
Robert J. Crowder // Managing Director, Chapman Farrell Group
Helen Leicht // Assistant Program Director, Midday & XPN Philly Local Host at WXPN 88.5 FM
Andrew Lipke // Musician & Teaching Artist
Tamar Lelkes Oded, Co-Founder // Independent Consultant
Robert Penn // Customer Success Director, Witbe, Inc.
Sharon Rankin // Photographer & Philanthropist
Greg Reh // Principal, Deloitte, LLP
Alex Shaw // Musician & Teaching Artist
David B. Thornburgh // President & CEO, Committee of Seventy