Our Music Instructors

First Academy of Music of First Presbyterian Church provides high-quality musical instruction in a Christian environment for students of all ages and levels of skill. Vocal and instrumental lessons are available with the finest teachers who hold degrees and are experienced in their area of instruction. Instructors include professional educators, church musicians, symphony players, and active performers. Our desire is to nurture your musical interest and ability so that you will enjoy the benefits of music making for the rest of your life.

We extend our congratulations to Music School Director Cheryl Bauer who will be retiring after the summer session. Beginning in August, Associate Director of Sacred Arts for First Presbyterian Church, Thom DeLessio, will begin his role as Director of First Academy of Music. 

Please join us in celebrating these exciting changes!

Cheryl Bauer
Cheryl Bauerdirector and flute instructor

Meet our Program Director

Cheryl started piano lessons at age 6 in her hometown of Ashland, Ohio, and then pestered her parents until they allowed her to switch to flute lessons when she was 11. She has rarely been without her flute since then.

Cheryl earned a Bachelor of Music degree (magna cum laude) from Ashland College in Ohio and an MA in flute performance from Western Carolina University where she studied with Eldred Spell. She is a former orchestral and chamber ensemble flutist. Cheryl is a classical music enthusiast who loves Mozart and Bach, but you might find her car radio tuned to a classic-rock radio station or discover Beatles, Jobim, opera, or salsa music on her playlist. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, and traveling. Cheryl has this to say about her teaching philosophy and style:

“I try to always reinforce what a student is doing right and then break the challenges into small manageable steps. My goal is to help my students reach a point where they don’t need me – where they can make their own musical and interpretive judgments and have the skills to bring the notes on the page to life.”


Michael Howell
Michael HowellFirst Academy of Music assistant

Academy Assistant 

Michael is new to Florida and is a former South Carolinian. He loves music of all kinds, NASCAR racing, and reading. He enjoys interacting with the students and family members while working at First Academy of Music.

Meet Our Professional Educators

Beth Clarke
Beth Clarke piano and music theory | online lessons
Beth is a National Music Teachers Association member with 35 years of experience in private organ and piano instruction. She holds an Associate of Arts degree from Stephens College and a BME in Piano from Indiana University. Before teaching, she played professionally throughout the Midwest and Florida.
Diego Davila
Diego Davila piano
Diego, originally from Peru, is an accomplished performer and accompanist. He holds a music degree from Universidad Nacional de Música de Lima and a BA in piano performance from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Thom DeLessio
Thom DeLessio organ and piano
Thom is the organist, pianist, and Associate Director of Sacred Arts for First Presbyterian Church, who previously served for 20+ years as Director of Music for the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in New Jersey. He is also a collaborative pianist with the Naples Philharmonic Chorale and continues to maintain his NJ-based piano studio virtually. Thom holds an undergraduate degree in Music Education and Organ from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and a graduate degree in Theology and Ministry from La Salle University in Philadelphia.
Nanette Grant
Nanette Grantviolin, viola, cello and string bass
Nanette has built school orchestras in elementary, middle, high school, and college programs throughout the Lee and Collier County School Districts. In addition, she has taught private lessons with students ages 4 to 70. She currently teaches the String Methods and Materials class at FGCU and four-year-olds in the Music Scores! Program. Nanette holds a BS in Music Education from Ball State University and an MS from the University of Illinois.
Leah Hassell
Leah Hassell piano and guitar
Leah is a former Lee County School District instructor in piano, guitar, orchestra, and chorus. She is also a professional accompanist and church worship leader with a BA in music education from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Kathleen Osborn-Gerdes
Kathleen Osborn-Gerdes voice and piano
Kathleen is a music educator, church musician, choral director, and vocal coach. She holds BA in music education, voice, and organ from the University of Northern Iowa, and a MA in voice and choral performance from the University of Iowa. Kathleen earned a doctorate from Penn State University.
Cathy Pflieger
Cathy Pflieger strings, piano, and voice
Cathy is an active orchestra and chamber music performer. In addition, she has taught orchestra and chorus in the Collier County Public School System. Cathy holds a BM in education from SUNY.
Sheila Phillips
Sheila Phillipspiano and jazz piano
Sheila has 25 years of experience teaching traditional piano and jazz improvisation; she was a professional pianist/vocalist in the Chicago area. Sheila holds a BME from Elmhurst College and can sometimes be seen at First Church as an accompanist on piano or organ.
Norma Reynolds
Norma Reynoldspiano and voice
Norma is an instructor in piano and pre-teen voice; she has 19 years of experience teaching music in the public school system. Norma holds a BS and MA (cum laude) in music education from the University of Vermont.
Renata Rozmus
Renata Rozmusviolin and piano
Renata was Strings Coach for the Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts and the Palm Coast Youth Symphony. She is also an active orchestral and freelance performer. Renata earned an MM from the Conservatory of Music in Katowice, Poland.
David Sawtelle
David Sawtellestrings and banjo
David, a resident of Bonita Springs, is an active symphony violinist, conductor, and music educator. He holds a BM from West Texas State University and an MM from Texas State University.
Barbara Wischmeier
Barbara Wischmeier piano and organ
Barbara formerly served as Associate Director of Sacred Arts at First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, FL. She is the former Chair of the Fine Arts Department at St. James School in St. James, MD. Barbara earned a BA in piano from Judson University and a MM in organ from Northern Illinois University.
Don Goller
Don Goller bagpipes
Don has over 25 years of experience teaching bagpipe. He is a Grade 1 gold medalist in the Eastern U.S. Pipe Band Association and performs as the Pipe Major with the Harp and Thistle Pipe Band of SW Florida.
Anthony Herrera
Anthony Herrera guitar, bass, and violin | online lessons
Anthony is an elementary school teacher, and an active concert performer and wedding musician. He holds a BM from the University of New Mexico, majoring in classical and jazz studies, theory, and composition.