The Buttonwood Tree

Our Board & Staff

Board of Directors

John Bell


John Basinger

President Emeritus

John has been with The Buttonwood Tree since its inception in 1989. He is a Retired Professor, Actor, and Board Member for The National Theatre of the Deaf.
Institutions John has associated with over the years: Bluffton University, University of Chicago, United States Army, Kakamega Secondary School, Kakamega Kenya, Wesleyan University, Yale University, The National Theater of the Deaf. National Storytelling Association, The Omega Institute, Paramount Pictures, Long Wharf Theater, The Hartford Stage Company, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Three Rivers Community College, NEAR, Inc., Degrees, BSc, MAT, MA (Theater).

Awards: Distinguished Alumnus Award, Distinguished Faculty Award. Middletown Arts Council Award; Connecticut Humanities Council Award

Activities: Write Plays, Write Poetry, Memorized and Perform John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Conceived of and Perform THE KING, a one-character adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Sheila McKinley-Bell


Ms. McKinley-Bell has been a homeowner, real estate investor and member of the community in the City of Middletown since 2003. She has served as a volunteer with The Buttonwood Tree since 2012 and joined the Board of Directors as Board Secretary in 2014. She is the Principal Consultant for Shoreline HR Consulting and has been a HR Executive and Entrepreneur for over 30 years. She achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh and holds a Master’s in Business Administration and an Advanced Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from UCONN. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional. Ms. McKinley-Bell is also certified by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Professor Barry Chernoff joined the Wesleyan Faculty in 2003 where he holds the Robert K. Schumann Chair of Environmental Studies. He is currently chairs the Environmental Studies Program and is Director of the College of the Environment. He teaches courses in Environmental Studies, Tropical Ecology, Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation, Quantitative Analysis and Evolutionary Biology for the departments of Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences.


Barry Chernoff

Board Member


Anne-Marie Cannata Mcewen

Executive Director

Anne-Marie first became acquainted with TBT in 2003 when she learned members of her favorite band, Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, were performing at The Buttonwood Tree. When her daughter learned about the appearance there, she made the request of her mother who was in the Parent Leadership Training Institute program at the time. The trio performed at Middletown High School for 300 music students. Little did she know it was only the beginning of her “Booking” career.

She retired from a career in Dental Hygiene and her 21 year marriage in 2003 and laughs (gratefully) at how a new job teaching a Dental Assisting course at Middlesex Community College literally knocked on her door. She also then focused on her food business, running a booth at the Durham Fair and other fairs around the State, which she did for over a decade. She opened a “Good Food” cart in downtown Middletown in 2004 and late night at Wesleyan, until retiring in 2006.

In February 2007, Anne-Marie responded to The Buttonwood Tree’s newspaper ad looking for help with grant writing. A few months later Kunle Mwanga invited her to join the board. A year later, she followed her instinct and volunteered to serve as ED. She’s been thoroughly enjoying the music, the people, the community and all the good that comes from it ever since. For three years she also worked the overnight shift at the Warming Center when it first opened, during the cold months.

She enjoys the outdoors (especially at sunrise and sunset), hiking, swimming, running … tennis and ping-pong, discussing spirituality, reading and helping people to become their best Selves. She has three children, two grandchildren and through her marriage in 2015, three children, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter born in May 2018! She met her husband, Mike McEwen at Laughter Yoga at The Buttonwood Tree and is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. She is in the Celebration Singers choir and a member of First Church, Middletown, on Court Street. She is blessed to be one of more than a dozen marriages that have come out of The Buttonwood Tree, and often says, “Love is in the air at The Buttonwood Tree.

Derrik R. Bosse


Derrik Bosse is a music teacher and performer residing in Berlin, CT. He is a 2016 graduate of Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems (and a Minor in Music). He has performed with many different musical groups throughout CT, and has mastered many styles of music. Notable acts include Klezmer Fusion Collective, Ceschi Ramos, Kindred Queer, Funk Physics, and currently My Favorite color, an improvisation- based group that rehearses at the Buttonwood Tree. He has also appeared on WHUS 88.1 as part of The I Do Not Know Show, providing all-improv music and the occasional dialogue.

Derrik has been our webmaster since June 2021. He also hosts the occasional open mic, and has been helping behind-the-scenes with The Human Room Open Voice. 

Derrik enjoys many types of music, namely baroque, traditional folk, and world music. He can be seen performing live on bass, keyboards, or recorder. He is currently learning coding, and aspires to develop his IT skills heavily in the coming years.