Faculty & Staff
Ben Baker | Bass
Originally from Cedar Falls Iowa, Ben has been studying and playing bass at a young age, and has worked with professors at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith as well as the University o Northern Iowa. He has played with a number of groups in the north west region of Arkansas including the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, the UAFS Jazz Band, the UAFS Jazz Cats, the Don Bailey Quartet to name a few. Ben has played for musical theater productions in as a pit musician for over twenty five shows over the past few years, as well as recording on several albums with studios such as Sol Studios and Fountain Square House studios.
Ben teaches bass students of all ages and levelers of playing ability on string bass as well as electric bass guitar. He specializes in jazz and classical, as well as teaching bassists to be as versatile as possible in their playing.
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.
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
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 Chastain | Cello, Guitar
Alli Chastain has studied cello and guitar from a young age. She was the Principal Cellist at All Region while in the Fort Smith Public School orchestra and received the honor of All State cellist multiple times. Alli is best known for her professional career as a performing artist in a rock band. She was a founding member of the band called The Violet Hour (aka TVH Band), which gained her international recognition for her songs and music videos from 2010-2023. In the present day, Alli sings and plays electric guitar and cello for local pop-punk band, All of Her.
Alli teaches cello to students of all levels as well as beginning guitar. She loves working with students of all ages! She also enjoys coaching and mentoring bands and musicians in the various aspects of their music career, including performance, artist management, booking shows, songwriting, using music technology, and more.
Alli holds a Master of Arts Degree in Forensic Psychology, and she is currently pursuing her second Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Music with an emphasis on Music Production.
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.
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.
Rebecca Harrold | Voice, Piano
Rebecca Harrold is a seasoned performing and recording artist and music educator. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, OH.
Among her vast accomplishments, she was the music director for a production of Fiddler on the Roof, and she was the principal pianist for the Boston Ballet School in Boston, MA.
She is currently celebrating her upcoming release, The Tree of Life, with collaborator and producer Will Ackerman, coming in the Summer of 2023. This release is an extension of her previous release, The River of Life and features Rebecca on Vocals and Piano.
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
He lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas with his wife Kara (a sculptor and painter) and daughter Kalliope (a Muse).
Christopher Jones | Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Chris Swicegood | Guitar
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.
Lolly Swicegood | CSA Retrosonics
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 in University. Lolly is also a Modern Artist specializing in Acrylic and vinyl on canvas. She has been fortunate to work and recorded 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 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!
Cory Winters | Violin, Viola, Mandolin, Composition
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.