Our Founder’s Story

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 Arts Education and Special Needs (BIARSN) 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 (BIAESN) 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

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