The mission of SWFLMEC is to create a world-class music education center where neurodivergent students who have a strong interest in music and low to moderate support needs receive education in music and life skills, preparing them for meaningful growth opportunities that enrich their lives and the community as a whole.
It was apparent since infancy that our beautiful daughter Amaya responded positively to music. From the sounds of rattles to Raffi to Bach, her eyes and hands danced. 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 twofold. She developed a strong ear and began taking piano and voice lessons. In middle school, Amaya eagerly participated in chorale, 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 ten years, Dr. Jeff Leigh. She also began playing at local restaurants, preschool chapel time and other venues.
We spent countless hours researching our options for Amaya’s future educational pathways. We visited the best music schools and post- secondary programs that accommodated neurodiverse students. Our search led us to Dr. Rhoda Bernard at The Berklee Institute for Accessible Arts Education (BIAAE) 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.
Inspired by our visit, we founded the Southwest Florida Music Education Center in Naples in 2019. The first program, The Creative Group (an inclusion class) was launched that fall with four students under the direction of Dr. Jeff Leigh and with the in-kind support of space by Artis-Naples. COVID-related impacts created even more innovation and student participation grew.
A generous supporter then challenged us to build a world-class musical center. Thanks in large part to that individual, the Southwest Florida Music Center is now honored to partner with Berklee (BIAAE) to help make this dream a reality.
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.
Robert & Sandra Moher
*Additional diagnoses may be considered through the application/enrollment process
Merriam-Webster defines neurodiversity as:neurodiversity (n) – (1) individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population, (2) the concept that difference in brain functioning within the population are normal and that brain functioning that is not neurotypical should not be stigmatized, (3) the inclusion in a group, organization, etc. of people with different types of brain functioning.
The Southwest Florida Music Education Center brings community access to cutting edge music education programs developed in partnership with the Berklee Institute for Accessible Arts Education (BIAAE), including continuing education opportunities for music teachers with a focus on teaching students with disabilities. To learn more about BIAAE, visit college.berklee.edu/biaae.
In her role as consulting director of mental health, Dr. Teresa Herrero Taylor will provide behavioral and program support to student musicians and staff. Born and raised in Boca Raton, FL, Taylor has practiced as a licensed psychologist and doctoral-level board certified behavior analyst for over 15 years, conducting evaluations and providing individual, group and/or family intervention and therapy working with both children and adults with anxiety, depression, ADHD, executive functioning weaknesses, autism spectrum disorder, social skills weaknesses, behavioral difficulties at home or school, and/or other life adjustment needs. An experienced, independent, motivational leader, she is passionate about mission-driven work and is excited about empowering neurodivergent young adults to be at the center of change through music and the arts. She has been an adjunct assistant professor in the Graduate Psychology Department at Rider University for the past nine years and has worked in New Jersey public education for more than 20 years, overseeing behavioral, social skills, and mental health assessment, intervention, and programming across multiple school districts as a director of special services.