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Faculty & Staff

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Ben Baker | Bass, Cello

Originally from Cedar Falls Iowa, Ben has been studying and playing bass from a young age, and has worked with professors at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith as well as the University of Northern Iowa. He has played with a number of groups in the north west region of Arkansas including SONA, the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, the UAFS Jazz Band, the UAFS Jazz Cats, and the Don Bailey Quartet to name a few. Ben has played for musical theater productions in over twenty five shows over the past few years as a pit musician, as well as recording on several  albums with studios such as Sol Studios and Fountain Square House studios. 

Ben teaches students of all ages and levels of playing ability on string bass, bass guitar, and cello. He specializes in jazz and classical, as well as encouraging musicians to be as versatile as possible in their playing. 

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Dylan Blackwood | Theatre & Dance

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. 

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Rachel Burgos-Griner | Music Therapist

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

Music Therapists.

 

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. 

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Beth Duquette | Saxophone

Beth Duquette, a graduate of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) in 2020, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Throughout her academic journey at UAFS, Beth studied the saxophone under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Barrick and Mr. Damian Cheek. During her time at UAFS she actively participated in the UAFS Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, and Saxophone Ensemble. 

 

In 2017, she was chosen to showcase her talents as a member of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Band. In 2018 Beth was featured in a masterclass with Dr. Eric Troiano at the Arkansas Saxophone Symposium. Furthermore, her dedication and hard work led to her selection as the principal saxophonist at the CBDNA Southwestern Division Intercollegiate Honor Band in 2020.

 

Beyond her personal musical pursuits, Beth enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for the saxophone to her students. She strives to cultivate a growth mindset in each of her students, empowering them to embrace challenges and unlock their full potential.

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Martin Eady was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As a child he showed a passion and curious affinity for music.  He began taking lessons under Gini Law. In high school he studied under Dr. Rosilee Russell.  As a college student he studied under Dr. Craig Nies, culminating in Eady's winning the 2003 Vanderbilt Concerto Competition. Post College, Martin has continued to serve as a mentor and resource for pre-college students with musical or academic aspirations.  Martin is also a great fan of Razorback sports, traveling, and baking festivals. 

Martin Eady | Piano

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Bruce Garnett Fowler | Percussion

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. 

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Randy Graham | Trumpet

Randy Graham is a recent retiree from the Van Buren school district having been a band director/instrumental instructor and general music teacher since 2003. Mr. Graham has also pursued an active playing career in the Fort Smith area being a member of the Fort Smith Symphony trumpet section since the early 1990s. 

Beside being involved in orchestral playing, Mr Graham has also performed as a freelance trumpeter in many area churches, performing for many weddings, and also performing for traveling groups such as “The Temptations” and the Christmas performances of “Mannheim Steamroller” at the Arkansas Best Performing Art Center. Randy is a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he performed in the North Arkansas Symphony among other University ensembles and freelance playing in the NWA area while he studied with former professor of trumpet Mr. Robert Bright earning both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Instrumental Music Education in 1986.

As a private trumpet teacher, Mr Graham has taught students at all levels of development during his professional teaching years and also in a number of Northwest Arkansas schools during his time as a college student.

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Grant Harper | Voice

Grant Harper is a Fort Smith native. Born and raised in the area, he cultivated his love of music early on in the FS Public School system, being a trumpet player and singer. Attending Oklahoma State University, he majored in Trumpet Performance and Voice Music Education. While there, Grant studied under Dr. Z Randall Stroope (choir/voice/conducting) and Dr. Ryan Gardner (trumpet). He was honored with a National Trumpet Competition Ensemble Division win in the Spring of 2016, and multiple solo performances with the OSU Concert Chorale and Chamber Choir during their appearances at the ACDA National Conference the same year. In 2018, Grant was announced as a District Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (now called the Laffont Competiton) in Tulsa, and advanced to the Region Competition. That Fall, Grant began his Graduate Studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying under Cesar Ulloa. There, he performed in multiple Operas, Musical Theater Productions, and Scenes Compilations as well as multiple Chamber Music performances around the Bay Area. He also performed in Masterclasses with Debrah Voigt and Patricia Racette as well as with Martin Katz. Grant was featured in a performance with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in summer of 2019, and was a regular performer for Education Events for the San Francisco Opera. Before COVID reshaped the arts world, Grant had verbally accepted an offer to be a Young Artist at the Kansas City Lyric Opera company, performing 2 roles during the 2020-21 season. Since returning to Fort Smith amid the Pandemic and finishing his Masters in Voice Performance from SFCM in 2020, Grant has had several solo performances, including a showcase at the Bonneville House for their 2022 Holiday Open House.

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David Holland | Guitar, Ukulele, Electric Guitar

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 

bicentennial concert.

He lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas with his wife Kara (a sculptor and painter) and daughter Kalliope (a Muse).

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Christopher Jones | Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Christopher Jones is an active musician and music educator in the River Valley. Born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mr. Jones has been active in the music community for a number of years and in a number of areas, including vocal, instrumental, and jazz music. A choir director in Van Buren for four years, Mr. Jones has spent time as an instructor in multiple areas, specializing in low brass and vocal music. As a member of the University of Arkansas- Fort Smith music program, Mr. Jones performed in vocal ensembles such as the UAFS Chorale and the UAFS Jazz Catz as a featured soloist, and also performed in instrumental ensembles including the UAFS Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band with featured artists such as Eddie Daniels and Harry Watters.

 

Mr. Jones has been a member of the faculty at the Community School of the Arts since 2019. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music Education- Instrumental Music from the University of Arkansas- Fort Smith in May of 2018. His background also includes multiple successful auditions and placements in the Arkansas All-State mixed chorus, concert band, and jazz band.

 

Mr. Jones currently resides in Fort Smith with his wife Aleyah, his daughter Alyvia, and his two canine boys, Pepper and Chili. In his free time, Mr. Jones enjoys gaming, relaxing with his family, and calling the Hogs.

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Sherry Jones | Visual Art

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.

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Alicen Kootz | Violin

Alicen is a classically trained violinist with more than 20 years of experience in genres ranging from medieval and classical to jazz and contemporary. She has previously performed with the Springfield Drury Civic Orchestra, bluegrass ensembles, and the band Higher Ground. Among her musical accomplishments, she was the Principle Second Violinist for the Southwest Baptist University Student Orchestra from 2008-2011, Concertmaster for the Southside High School Orchestra in 2008, and a multi-time All-Region and All-State orchestra member.

A well-rounded musician, Alicen has also studied voice and composition, and she has composed pieces for commission. She says, "Music is the only universal language, and I want to help people become fluent!" She loves introducing students to the world of music!

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Sheila Mann | Voice

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.

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Cheryl Ratcliff | Oboe

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.

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Paula Jaramillo Sanjuan | Violin

Violinist Paula Jaramillo Sanjuán holds a Master’s degree from The University of Oklahoma, where she studied with Dr. Gregory Lee, and where she is currently a candidate for the Doctoral program in violin performance.

Her musical activities have taken her across Latin America and North America, becoming part of remarkable projects in performance, pedagogy and research. Such experiences have introduced her to a wide variety of venues, students and contexts, enriching her knowledge and tools in the professional and personal field. A devoted and passionate pedagogue, Paula has taught from private lessons to large ensembles, both in English and Spanish, and seeks to provide musical education of high quality and share it with diverse populations throughout the globe.

As an experienced orchestral musician, Paula has performed with the Norman Philharmonic Orchestra, The Symphonic National Orchestra of Colombia, and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogotá, and was selected to be part of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of Colombia and the Juvenile Philharmonic

Orchestra of Bogotá.

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Rilla Stone | Piano

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.

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Cody Walls | Director of Theatre, Voice

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! 

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