Guests attend zoom session with Dr. Rhonda Bernard

Southwest Florida Music Education Center holds first community engagement event

The public and prospective students were invited to learn about the innovative new music program.

NAPLES, Fla. (April 5, 2022) – Students, parents and professionals received insight into the groundbreaking post-secondary music education programs for musically talented, neurodivergent young adults offered by the Southwest Florida Music Education Center (SWFLMEC) at Artis-Naples on March 26.

At the center’s first event, prospective students received information on the program and then were invited to experience instruction with the Center’s Director of Music Education Hannah Fan by forming an impromptu ensemble that resulted in a brief performance for parents and supporters.

Via Zoom, they heard from Dr. Rhoda Bernard, founding managing director of the The Berklee Institute for Accessible Arts Education (BIAAE) of the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She outlined the Center’s curriculum, created by her staff at BIAAE, and discussed the impact of BIAAE’s current Saturday program, which served as the inspiration for SWFLMEC.

“We are making a remarkable difference in people’s lives,” she said, telling a story about a graduate of BIAAE’s program who sings professionally on Broadway.

SWFLMEC Founder and Board Chair Rob Moher noted that the SWFLMEC’s certificate programs, which have been in the works with BIAAE for just over a year, are nationally significant and will serve as model for other programs.

Parent Hetty Weinstein said seeing her son Michael playing guitar with other potential students at the session brought tears to her eyes.

“My son loves music, and this gives him a chance to feel like he’s part of something,” she said. “He’s always wanted to go to college, but with his disability has been unable to. This is such a gift for the community. We thought we might need to leave here for a place with more services, but here we are, right in our back yard.”

Nancy Gardella said she is also thrilled to have an opportunity for her son Jonathan, who plays violin.

“Berklee is one of the finest music schools, and to have their expertise connected to my son’s particular disability and to meet the students where they are is a priceless opportunity,” she said. “This community has the resources to support a model program of this kind. Finally, there is something for people who have disabilities but also talent.”Fred and Debra Kotynski

Since 2019, SWFLMEC has offered the community small-scale, low-cost collaborative music education for neurodivergent and neurotypical peers through a program entitled The Creative Group. This fall, the Center will begin offering two-year and four-year post-secondary music certificates at Artis-Naples’ Toni Stabile Education Building, focusing on core areas of musical skill development for students who learn differently than their typical peers.

Phase two of the project will include a new campus, student living center and dormitory. The Southwest Florida Music Education Center is currently seeking groundbreaking support to build the new music center and dormitory, including land purchase and campus development. For more information about certificate programs or to support the project, contact Jennifer Clark at or 239-205-8258 or visit

About the Southwest Florida Music Education Center

The Southwest Florida Music Education Center is a not-for-profit organization serving neurodivergent young adults with a strong interest in music. Based in Naples, Florida, its mission 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. For more information, visit

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Dr. Teresa Taylor

Dr. Teresa Taylor

Consulting Director of Mental Health

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.