Serving Southwest Florida Music Students since 1991

The Music Foundation of Southwest Florida, Inc.


2017 Summer Camps Faculty and Staff

Camp Director & Recreation/Break Coordinator-Erin Gisse

Erin Gisse earned her Bachelor’s degree at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, where she majored in Education and Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Public Service.  She has been teaching in Lee County for the last 10 years and was recently recognized as the Lee County Physical Education Teacher of the Year as well as a Golden Apple Finalist.

Executive Director,  Music Foundation of SW Florida-   Ruth Christman

Ruth Christman earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Concordia University and her Master’s degree in Oboe Performance from Northwestern University. She also has a Professional Studies degree in Oboe Performance from The Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, now  Lynn University.    Ruth is active as both a performer and teacher and is an adjunct faculty member at Florida SouthWestern College.

Band - Matthew Murrell 

Matthew Murrell earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Florida International University in Miami. He has been the band director at Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School for the past 6 years. He also performs professionally in the community
as a trombonist.

Band and High School Saxophone Ensemble - Zach Deeter

Zach Deeter received his Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.' He has taught for 6 years, all in Lee County, and is currently the band director at Island Coast High School in Cape Coral. Additionally, he performs professionally as a woodwind specialist for various theater companies, including the Naples Players, Theatrezone, and Creative Theater Workshop.

Culinary Arts - Tia Paul
TiaPaul has been an educator in Lee County for over 10  years. She earned her degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Her more recent accomplishments include teaching middle and high school mathematics alongside her role as an instructional leader and coach at Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School. Helping students experience success is her passion and having grown up in northern Ohio farm country, she spent her formative years keeping a garden with her grandparents and enjoyed cooking with her mother. She brings a unique perspective of teaching students the natural relationship between mathematics and culinary arts. Her classroom is a place filled with interaction, activity, positivity and respect.

Digital Design - Vincent Lewis
Vincent Lewis is from Moore Haven Florida. He obtained his BS degree in sports business from Hampton University in Virginia. He also obtained his teaching certification and masters in educational leadership from FGCU. He is certified in Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Adobe Photoshop. He has been teaching for 11 years for the Lee County School District all at Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School.  He currently teaches 6th thru 8th grade Computer Applications 1 & 2, Computing for College and Careers, Business Keyboarding, and Fundamentals of Web and Software Development.

Guitar - Mitch Vitale

Mitch Vitale is currently a math teacher at FSW Collegiate high school. He has been playing guitar for over 20 years and holds a guitar club after school. He currently plays electric guitar at Life Church and in his spare time writes guitar instrumentals.

High School Clarinet Ensemble - Candace Cohowcz

Candace Cohowcz earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Instrumental Performance from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Bower School of Music in Fort Myers, Florida. Candace has taught both middle school band and orchestra in first Hendry and now Lee County for the past five years. She also teaches private clarinet lessons in addition to performing professionally in the community. Candace is an active member of the Gulf Coast Symphony and has served as  second clarinetist for the past three years.

Jazz Band and High School Brass Ensemble - Tony Castillo & Patrick Neuman

Rodolfo “Tony” Castillo is the director of bands at the Canterbury School in Ft. Myers and the Florida Southwestern College. Mr. Castillo holds a M.M. degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and it's currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Music Education degree at the University of South Florida. As an active trumpet player, Mr.Castillo performs regularly with many local and regional music ensembles. 

Patrick Neuman earned a Bachelors Degree in music from the University of Wisconsin, a Masters Degree in music from
Northwestern University, and a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.                                 
 His accomplishments include: Middle and High School instrumental music teacher / director of bands for 14 years in Elgin, Illinois and Delavan, Wisconsin:  Principal trumpet, Milwaukee Civic Orchestra and Elgin, IL and Beloit, WI Symphony Orchestras and free-lance performer  in Wisconsin, Illinois,  Michigan and Florida: 

Musical Theatre - Erin Cantwell
Erin Cantwell received her Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Western Kentucky University where she studied classical voice, theater and guitar. Over the years, Erin has taught Arts and Humanities and Drama at Bluegrass Middle School in Kentucky.
She taught seven years at Gateway Charter High School, teaching Advanced and Show Choir, String Techniques and Guitar. She is currently the music teacher and choir director at Heights Elementary School.

Music Exploration - Dorothy Yorty & Kristen Beattie

Dorothy Yorty teaches music at Patriot Elementary.  She has been an Elementary Music teacher for 19 years.  She is co-chair of the Lee County Elementary Honor Choir, and serves on the board for Southwest Florida Orff Chapter. She has a degree in music with a vocal concentration and a minor in piano.  She is a wife and mother with 4 children, 1 son-in-law, and 7 grandchildren.  Her mother and father live with her and her current baby is her Chihuahua, Lola.

Kristen Beattie is the music teacher at San Carlos Park Elementary School Center for the Arts. She has been the music teacher there for three years and was a first and second grade teacher before that. Last year Kristen was recognized as the Lee County Music Teacher of the Year. She is also the secretary of the South West Florida Orff Chapter. Kristen grew up in Lee County and was a camper at the Music Foundation’s Camp!

Percussion - Todd Betz

Todd A. Betz received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music from the University of South Florida under the direction of Mr. Robert McCormick.  Mr. Betz is Principal Percussionist of the Southwest Florida Symphony where he has been a member for 25 years.  Mr. Betz also performed with the Sarasota Orchestra from 1991-2007.  He had the pleasure of teaching from 1995-2004 at Florida Southern College as the adjunct Percussion Professor. Mr. Betz’s other teaching experiences are 20 years teaching High School Drum Line and musicians in Pasco, Polk, and Lee Counties.  Most recently, Mr. Betz served as Youth Orchestra Manager for 10 years and the Educational Director for 2 years at the Southwest Florida Symphony.

Piano - Betsy Randoph

Betsy Randolph received her Bachelor's Degree from Stetson University and is certified in both the Florida State and National Music Teachers Associations. She is currently vice president of the Southwest Florida Music Teachers Association. She has operated a private piano studio in Fort Myers for over 30 years and has worked for several local churches as pianist and children's choir director. She is certified by Choristers Guild National to teach Young Voices in addition to teaching basic music education at
local preschools for Gulf Coast Symphony's Early Gateways to the Arts Program.

String Orchestra - Nadia Bangash

Nadia Bangash started to play the cello in the 5th grade and has now been playing for over 20 years. After high school she received her Bachelor's degree in Music Education form The Ohio State .University in 2006. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Florida to pursue her career in Music Education and become a Music Teacher at various schools in Polk, Hillsborough and Orange Counties. While holding a full time teaching position for OCPS, Nadia was accepted into the Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida in 2010. She studied Music Education and graduated with her Masters in Music in 2013. Currently she is the Orchestra Director and Music Theory Teacher at North Fort Myers High School, Center for the Arts and Media. She also teaches privately and performs locally.

Theatre Production - Michael Lynch

Michael Lynch has been a theatre educator in Ft. Myers for 7 years at Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School. He has been involved in various aspects of theatre since he was a twelve year old student at Caloosa Middle School. He has d.irected various shows
ranging from the classical Medea and Le Farce de Pierre Patelin, to musicals such as Alice @ Wonderland and Phantom of the Soap Opera. He currently sponsors an active Junior Thespian Troupe which has scored Superior ratings at the state level since starting the troupe five years ago. He is excited to bring his love of theatre to this year's Summer Arts Camp and looks forward to the growth of his students.

Ukulele - Jason Thomashefsky

Visual Arts: Collage/Painting & Mixed Media - Kellen Beck Mills

Kellen Beck Mills received her Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is National Board Certified in Art Education and has an endorsement in Gifted Education. She exhibits her work in galleries and arts organizations in and out of town and recently won Best in Show in the Alliance for the Arts "All Florida Juried Show".

Visual Arts: Sculpture and Digital Arts - Nikki Bizjak

Nicole Bizjak, M.S.T., currently teaches Art and E.L.A. at the Alva School. She has a Master's degree in Teaching with an Art concentration from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She also has undergraduate degrees in Interior/Architectural Design and Art History. She previously pursued a career designing kitchens and baths. She was awarded 2nd Place in the nation in Elkay's Kitchens of the 21 st Century.

Visual Arts: Offbeat Art Explorations - Patricia Collins

Patricia Collins, born & raised in Massachusetts, earned a BFA in Communications Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Life in NYC, energized by artists, street art and a DIY gallery scene, influenced her creative approach to materials and art making,
which she enjoys sharing in activities with young artists. Collins has done art workshops & presentations through the Lee County public schools and the Lee County library summer program, and taught Sets & Props, and Visual Arts classes at the Alliance of the
Arts Summer Camp. She recently completed murals for Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, North Ft. Myers, FL, and the Kappa Development Foundation, Ft Myers, FL, which both included participation by area students. Since moving to Ft. Myers her work
has been exhibited twice at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL; Verge, Miami Beach 2010; Scope Miami 2011, the Florida Museum for Women Artists in Deland, FL and other venues. Solo shows include the Collier County Museum of the
Everglades, and Howl Gallery, Ft. Myers, FL. Her limited edition artist book, Urban Anxieties is in MaMA Queens Artists' Books collection.