Faculty & Staff
Ben Baker is a bassist originally from Waterloo Iowa, who began his music studies in the Cedar Falls public educational system. During his high school career, he was a member of the schools Jazz One Ensemble, Wind ensemble, principal Bassist in their Symphonic Orchestra, and was twice selected for the Iowa All-State Orchestra. After high school, Ben went on to pursue a bachelor's degree in music at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith. While continuing his studies there he has begun a notable local career as a bassist.
As a member of a number of varying ensembles Ben’s performance career ranges from classical, to jazz and fusion, to musical theater, performing with groups such as the Don Bailey Trio, the Arkansas Philharmonic orchestra, and with companies such as the Young Actors Guild, The Arkansas Public Theater, and Theatresquared.
Now Ben has made his home in Mansfield Arkansas, traveling frequently to Fort Smith where he is continuing his studies as an undergrad student, and the Northwest Arkansas area to perform.
Dylan Blackwood is an Arkansas based performer with a background in classical ballet, theatrical jazz, acting, classical acting, and voice.
Dylan earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Ouachita Baptist University. Some of his credits include Featured Dancer/Joseph P Murphy in The Stephen Foster Story(Stephen Foster Drama Association), Neleus/Featured Dancer in Mary Poppins (Stephen Foster Drama Association), Ensemble in Guys and Dolls (Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre), Featured Dancer/ Dance Captain in Mary Poppins (Murry’s Dinner Playhouse), Wikersham in Seussical (Ouachita Baptist University), Featured Dancer/Dance Captain in Fiddler on the Roof (OBU) and Sheldon Potts/Dance Captain in Junie B. Jones The Musical(OBU). Dylan placed Second in the regional NATS Upper Division Musical Theatre Competition. For his role as Sheldon in Junie B Jones he received the Irene Ryan Nomination for acting.
Ms. Rachel Burgos is a Board-Certified Music Therapist who is passionate about her work.
She specializes in treatment of children and adolescents who have developmental and psychiatric needs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Therapy from Indiana Wesleyan University and has a host of work experiences in developmental and psychiatric therapy. Rachel is certified through the Certification Board for
She has worked as a music therapist in clinics at both Oral Roberts University and Indiana Wesleyan University, the Headstart Preschool in Marion, Indiana, and as a Case Management Rehab Specialist at Integrity Pathways in Oklahoma. She has also worked in various orphanages and nursing home facilities. Most recently, Rachel began her own practice called Harmonic Haven Music Therapy.
Alli has studied cello and classically trained since she was very young. She was the Principal Cellist at All Region while at Southside High School. Alli is best known for her professional career as a touring artist in a rock band. She is a founding member of the band called The Violet Hour or TVH which has gained her international recognition for her songs and music videos. Prior to forming TVH, Alli performed with Untold Story, a Christian Rock band that toured Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Alli sings vocals and plays both acoustic cello and electric cello in TVH. The band has released five studio albums and numerous singles and is endorsed by several companies including Raze Energy and Dovetail Strings. They have shared the stage with iconic artists including Mark Mendoza and members of Thin Lizzy, Saving Abel, and others. The band is a family friendly rock group and has a platform which brings awareness to the seriousness of such areas as domestic violence and child abuse. Their video Toxicutie which brings to light the devastation that comes with domestic violence, won First Place in the International Film Festival in Tagore.
Alli teaches cello to students of all ages and levels as well as beginning piano and guitar. She loves working with young people. She also coaches and serves as a mentor to bands and musicians in their performance, stage-presence, and songwriting. Alli holds a Master of Arts degree in Forensic Psychology.
Wendy Dane began performing violin & guitar at the early age of 12 in a variety band with her two brothers. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Music, she continued her education obtaining Kindergarten through Grade 12 Instrumental Music Certification. Wendy has completed Suzuki Association of the Americas registered teacher training for Violin Books 1-8. She has been referred to as a ‘Master Teacher’ by one of the East Coast’s leading advocates for childhood education. Wendy has initiated string programs in public and private schools, has taught students from preschool through college levels, and is in high demand as a guest clinician at various string workshops.
As a freelance musician, Wendy performs numerous musical styles including classical, jazz, bluegrass and Celtic. Ms. Dane won her division of the Minnesota State Old Time Fiddle Contest in 2000 and 2007. She maintains an active playing schedule.
Moving from Wisconsin, Wendy and her husband Peter are excited to be living and working in Arkansas along with their three big dogs: D’Artagnon, Brownie-Red and Jeep-Wrangler.
Director of Strings
& Suzuki Instructor
Bruce Garnett Fowler was born and raised in Los Angeles California, where he received the bulk of his real world music education. He has been a full time musician for the past seventeen years in Fort Smith, Arkansas and the surrounding areas. Born with a passion for music, this love was cultivated at an early age before he started playing drums. He grew up in a household where you would hear anything from 60s soul to opera. As a result, he began to take private drum lessons at age 13. He possessed an intuitive understanding of music and music arrangements in modern genres. By age 16, Bruce was performing professionally in genres ranging from rock, soul, jazz, to classical in the greater Los Angeles area. By age 20, Bruce had formed and led his own band which recorded an album in 1976. Bruce was inspired to play drums by accomplished drummer, musician, composer, arranger, Grammy award winner, Andre Fischer whom Bruce knew personally. Fischer mentored Bruce for 5 years, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience in studio recording, live performance, and the understanding of business and professionalism as a musician and drummer. Notably, at age 20, Bruce had the opportunity to perform for and be personally critiqued by Marvin Gaye. Bruce's passion for music and drumming is obvious when watching and listening to him perform, and is equaled by his passion for teaching.
BRUCE GARNETT FOWLER
Guitarist David Holland hails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he works as a performer, teacher, and composer. He holds a B.A. in Jazz Studies from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith; and a M.M. in Guitar Performance from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he studied jazz guitar with Dr. James Greeson and Mr. Ben Harris. He has also studied classical guitar with maestros Juan Mercadal and Rene Gonzalez at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
David teaches jazz and classical guitar as adjunct instructor at The University of Arkansas Fort Smith and at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. David performs regionally with his jazz trio The Unit, The Tabitha Graves Quartet, and his bluegrass band The Crumbs.
David debuted as a classical composer in 2016 with a performance of his setting of Ruth Krauss’s children’s book, The Carrot Seed, for string quartet and narrator, presented by the Fort Smith Symphony’s Story Book Strings. In April 2018, The Crumbs appeared as guest artists with the Fort Smith Symphony, performing a score David orchestrated especially for Fort Smith’s
He lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas with his wife Kara (a sculptor and painter) and daughter Kalliope (a Muse).
Composition/Theory, Electric Guitar
Carol Lee is a practicing artist who lives in Fort Smith. She is an art educator, a published author/illustrator and former art gallery director. She holds an Associate’s degree in Science from Northwest Connecticut Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Art from the University of New Mexico, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Not only had she curated art shows in Kansas and New Mexico but she has also had her art work in many art shows in Kansas, Connecticut, and New Mexico. As well, she has Public and Community art work in all three of those states. Her art can be found in private collections throughout the US and a few pieces in other parts of the world.
While she has been trained in, experimented with and can teach several art disciplines, her favorites are mosaics, ceramics, fiber art and woodworking.
Carol Lee grew up in a creative family in Kansas, where she first performed at the age of 14 months. She says that one of her favorite childhood memories is the sounds of a crowd collectively gasping and then applauding. She is thankful she had supportive parents and grandparents, as all forms of creativity were encouraged in her family. As she got older, she realized that not everyone had that type of familial support in their lives. That is one of the driving forces behind why she offers art instruction to all ages. She says, “I was blessed to have the type of family who practiced and encouraged creativity. So, it is my goal to provide opportunities and encouragement for others. Everyone is creative, but maybe haven’t had the opportunity to explore that creativity. That’s why I’m here to help.”
Hello! My name is Christopher Jones. I am a music teacher in the Greenwood Public Schools and graduated with my Bachelor’s of Music Education from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith in May 2019.
My principle instrument is trombone but have had many experiences in both vocal and instrumental music. I was born and raised in Fort Smith and graduated from Northside High School in 2014.
I married to my wonderful fiancee, Aleyah Youngblood in October 2019. I also have two older brothers, Kenneth and Daniel, as well as an identical twin brother, Christian. I have a passion for music, technology, and cats.
Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba
Sherry Roe Jones, a native of Harrison, Arkansas has been drawing since she can remember. Her architect father always kept his children entertained at his office with mounds of scrap blueprints and his large carousel of Prismacolors in every color imaginable! At the age of fifteen, Sherry began oil-painting under the guidance of Gene Brantley of The Gallery in Harrison. From the start, oils were an easy and enjoyable medium for her.
Taking a more practical route, Sherry majored in nutrition and is a registered dietitian but she continued her art studies during college and beyond, taking art classes at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as well as drawing classes at the Arkansas Arts Center.
She has won recognition in regional art competitions and recently had a gallery showing at the Center for Art and Education in Van Buren. Sherry’s specialty is portraiture and she works in oil, charcoal, graphite and pastel. Sherry is a member of the Greenwood Art Guild and she resides in Dayton, Arkansas with her husband, Kevin Jones, and daughters Karly and Katy Grace.
Shalon started her professional music career in Taiwan where she was an instructor of classical and pop piano methods at Hsin-Kuo University of Management, To-Tzu Music House, Luyuti Music House, and Yaio Music House.
Shalon then moved to Oklahoma City where she received both her Bachelors and Masters Degree in piano performance from OCU while under the instruction of Amy I-Lin Cheng and Sergio Monteiro. Shalon was one of the top performers at the OSI Performance Management International competition in Tulsa and also at the Ladies Music Club Scholarship Competition at OCU, and has performed for the InterHarmony International Music Festival in Hinterzarten/Schwarzwald, Germany.
During her time at OCU, Shalon was a sought-after accompanist and pianist; she also played in many Honor’s Recitals and Competitions. Shalon has been an accompanist and adjunct instructor of piano at University of Central Oklahoma. She also accompanied for Canterbury Youth Choruses under the direction of Judith Willoughby. Shalon enjoys accompanying and serving with her husband at Heritage Church where they serve as the
Sheila McKinney Mann has been in music education for over thirty-five years. A native of North Carolina, she earned the Bachelor of Music in vocal music education from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Her love of sacred music led her to attain the Master of Church Music in vocal pedagogy from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Her first school position was as adjunct vocal instructor at Gardner-Webb College in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where she taught private voice, music appreciation, and music education for elementary teachers. Following that, she was music and choir teacher at Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. She served as the Greenwood High School choir director for 27 years before retiring in 2012. Mrs. Mann was the music director for many musicals during her tenure at GHS, including The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Annie Get Your Gun, Footloose, The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Aladdin Jr., and Annie Jr. She most recently served as the music teacher at St. Boniface Catholic School, directing two musicals each year in addition to her other duties.
Mrs. Mann has served as Director of Music in several churches including Fallston Baptist Church in North Carolina, Fern Creek Methodist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Greenwood United Methodist Church in Greenwood, Arkansas. Currently she is the Director of Music at Central Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, where she has served since 1988. Her responsibilities include the direction of the Chancel Choir and Chancel Handbells.
Sheila has been with the Community School of the Arts since the beginning and at the UAFS Academy of the Arts since 2012, teaching private voice and children’s choirs, as well as serving as music director for musical theatre productions for 3rd-12th graders. She met her husband, George, while they were both in graduate school in Louisville and they have been married since 1979.
Oboist, Cheryl Ratcliff, has been a staple of the music scene in western Arkansas for more than 30 years. A native of Van Buren, Cheryl has been a member of the North Arkansas Symphony, Ozark Festival Orchestra, Fort Smith Symphony and Community Band of Western Arkansas. Her students have consistently won honors in All-Region and All-State ensembles as well as Solo and Ensemble Festivals. Mrs. Ratcliff is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (Education), and Arkansas Tech University in Russellville (Educational Leadership). After a 30-year career of teaching, she retired from the Fort Smith Public Schools in 2016.
Recently retired, William Ratcliff served as the Director of Bands at Alma HS in Alma Arkansas, where his program was recognized nationally for its excellence during his 16-year tenure. Previously he taught at Northside HS in Fort Smith AR, Kimmons Junior High School in Fort Smith AR and at Jonesboro HS in Arkansas. Mr. Ratcliff also served for a number of years as the Trumpet Instructor at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Mr. Ratcliff is a frequent guest clinician and adjudicator in Arkansas and surrounding states.
Currently he serves as an adjunct band faculty member for the Fort Smith Arkansas Public Schools and Charleston Arkansas Public Schools. Additionally, he currently serves as the Music Director of the Arkansas MusicWorks Brass Band and the 2018 U.S. Open Brass Band Grand Champion Ensemble. As a professional musician he has performed with the North Arkansas Symphony, Fort Smith Symphony, Ozark Mountain British Brass Band, Arkansas Musicworks Brass Band, the Western Arkansas Jazz Orchestra, and The Marshals of Swing Big Band. He has also performed with The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Hamlisch, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, and other touring groups.
Mr. Ratcliff’s professional affiliations include the Arkansas Bandmaster’s Association, Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, National Band Association, Texas Bandmaster’s Association, Phi Beta Mu International Bandmaster’s Fraternity, American School Band Director’s Association, the International Trumpet Guild, and was included in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 editions of “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.” William Ratcliff holds a Bachelors degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Music from the University of Arkansas. He resides in Van Buren Arkansas with his wife Cheryl and their two German Shepherd dogs, Freyja and Karma.
Trumpet, French Horn, Theory/Composition, Conducting
Rilla Stone earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano from Oklahoma State University in 2017. While at Oklahoma State, she studied piano with Dr. Thomas Lanners and piano pedagogy with Professor Heather Lanners. During this time, she actively performed as a soloist and collaborated with many vocalists.
Rilla furthered her education at Wichita State University, where she graduated with a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy in 2019. While at Wichita State, she studied piano with Dr. Julie Bees and piano pedagogy with Dr. Justine Sasanfar. She was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship where she taught class piano for music majors and private lessons for elective college students. Rilla had many opportunities to perform as a soloist in recitals and masterclasses. She also accompanied the Wichita State University A Cappella Choir and Women’s Glee Club. During this time, she also served as a church musician.
Rilla is passionate about teaching piano. She strives to inspire a love of music in her students through creative expression and holistic musicianship.
Chris Swicegood is a native of Fort Smith who graduated from Southside high school. He attended UAFS studying jazz improv with Don and Terri Bailey and then found his way to Texas Christian University where he received his Undergraduate and Masters degrees in classical guitar performance (2005,2007).
In Fort Worth, and later Madrid Spain, he was fortunate enough to study with guitarist/composer José Luis Merlin. His passion rock music led him to apprentice with notable sound engineer Henry Hirsch in New York at his analog Waterfront studios from 2008 to 2011. There he worked as both a session guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and as Henry’s assistant. Chris, and his duo with his wife, “Chris & Lolly” have released over a dozen recordings through their own publishing company LilasongsLLC.
Laurel Patrick Swicegood began her life in Musical Theatre performance in Community Theatre as well as school in the second grade. After graduating high school from Deer Creek in Oklahoma City she was awarded the Norton Scholarship to study at Texas Christian University. She graduated in 2007 with her BFA in musical theater performance. Lolly, as she’s known, has been fortunate to perform many theatre classics: “On The Town”, “Baby”, “Annie”, “Once upon a mattress”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Anything Goes” and “Cabaret” just to name a few. She also was able to study costume history, costuming, makeup and set design while at TCU. Lolly is also a Modern Artist specializing in Acrylic and vinyl on canvas. She has been fortunate to work and record in many recording studios including Waterfront Studios and Blackbird. Her true passion is performing blues, jazz and rock and roll with her best friend and husband Chris Swicegood. Together they write and perform globally in duo ‘Chris and Lolly’.
Cody is an Arkansas based actor who holds his Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Ouachita Baptist University.
Previously, Cody has toured the country with Bright Star Touring Theatre performing roles such as Velveteen in The Velveteen Rabbit. Other roles include Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls(Arkansas Shakespeare) Don Jon in Much Ado About Nothing (Arkansas Shakespeare), The Park Keeper/Dance Captain in Mary Poppins (Murry’s Dinner Playhouse), and Dickon in The Secret Garden (Ouachita Baptist University).
Cody would like to thank his family and friends for their love and support!
Director of Theatre, Voice
Cory Winters began his musical studies as a violin student with the public school orchestra program in his hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He went on to attend the University of Central Arkansas, where he studied violin, viola, and composition. His composition teacher at UCA was Dr. Paul Dickinson.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 2010, Mr. Winters continued his education at Belmont University. He studied composition with Dr. William Pursell and Dr. Mark Volker, earning an Master of Music in 2012. Cory’s musical influences include Irish and American folk music, shape-note singing, blues, country, and a variety of art music.
He currently resides in Van Buren, Arkansas, and teaches violin, viola, and composition lessons at the Community School of the Arts Fort Smith. In addition to his musical interests, Mr. Winters is an avid reader and enjoys studying history, musicology, and astronomy.