Filling the Gaps in Music Education: New Center Brings Notes of HopeNov 21, 2021 08:07PM ● By HOLLY HAMILTON
It was apparent since infancy that his beautiful daughter, Amaya, responded positively to music.
“From the sounds of rattles to Raffi to Bach, her eyes and hands danced,” recalled Rob Moher, founder of the Southwest Florida Music Education Center.
She was intrigued by dad playing piano and joined in alongside him as soon as she could.
Although Amaya struggled with health issues, her musical abilities blossomed. She developed a strong ear and began taking piano and voice lessons. In middle school, Amaya eagerly participated in chorus, concerts, youth band, and recitals. Music became her outlet, beloved friend, and eventually her refuge. In high school, she worked diligently to create a demo CD under the direction of her piano teacher of 10 years, Jeff Leigh. She also began playing at local restaurants and other venues.
Her parents, Rob and Sandra Moher of Naples, spent countless hours researching options for Amaya’s future educational pathways. They visited the best music schools and post-secondary programs that accommodated neurodiverse students, and their search led them to Rhoda Bernard at the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs (BIAESN) in Boston.
“They have the best of both worlds—an outstanding commitment to musical excellence and a desire to adapt teaching strategies to meet the needs of their students,” says Sandra.
Inspired by their visit, the Mohers founded the Southwest Florida Music Education Center in Naples in 2019. Its first program, the Creative Group (an inclusion program for both neurotypical and neurodiverse students), was launched that fall with four students led by Leigh and with space generously provided by Artis-Naples. Covid-related impacts created even more innovation, and student participation grew.
A generous supporter then challenged the couple to build a world-class music center. Thanks in large part to that individual, the Southwest Florida Music Center is now partnering with BIAESN to help make this dream a reality.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit will provide comprehensive music education for neurodiverse individuals such as those with learning differences, autism spectrum disorders, social pragmatic communication, and anxiety-related disorders in the context of neurodiversity.
“We are excited to see what the future holds, not only for our daughter but for other talented young adults who wish to pursue their musical dreams but who may not follow a traditional learning path due to their learning differences,” say the Mohers.
The Southwest Florida Music Education Center offers integrated programming for all interested students through the Creative Group in Naples. The group is working to acquire property and buildings to accommodate a 21,000-square-foot music education center that will house the full-time music program, culminating with a two- or four-year music certificate from BIAESN. Phase two of the project will include an onsite student living center and dormitory.
The Southwest Florida Music Education Center is seeking groundbreaking support to build the new music center and dormitory, including land purchase and campus development.
Holly Hamilton is a Southwest Florida-based storyteller focusing on people, places, and partnerships.