Leadership & Providers

Leadership

Founder

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Karen DeMuth, BSN, MBA

Founder & Executive Director

Karen attended FSU and received her MBA from Nova Southeastern University. She worked in healthcare for over 15 years as a nurse manger, administrator, consultant for HIV and Cancer.

 

Karen lived in Florence, Italy for five years and now resides in Atlantic Beach with her husband and four children. Dante, her youngest was born with Down Syndrome and without an esophagus. Dante is nonverbal with hearing and visual deficits, however his love for music inspired her to start Connecting Thru Music.

Board of Directors

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Craig Johnson, EA MBA

Tax Advisor / Small Business Strategist

Craig Johnson has lived all over the United States and this diversity provides valuable insight that he passes along to every client. Craig is a federally authorized tax practitioner empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as an  Enrolled Agent. He holds business administration and business management undergraduate degrees as well as an MBA from the University of North Florida. Craig provides strategies to individuals, business owners, and organizational leadership across many industries and his guidance is based on years of experience navigating the tax code and in operational small business roles.

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Nancy Staats, MD

Board Certified Anesthesiologist

Nancy hails originally from Detroit, lived in Baltimore and central New Jersey, and feels so fortunate to now be in beautiful Atlantic Beach.  She recently retired after working as a board-certified anesthesiologist and managing surgery centers for 27 years.  She has experience on several boards both medical and non-medical, involving fundraising, administration, and recruitment.  She and her husband Peter have 3 grown children and 1 overgrown dog.  She is looking forward to taking Connections Thru Music to new levels! 

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Brandon Forschino

Founder & President, Out of Dust Marketing

Brandon, President and Founder of Out of Dust Marketing & Communications, is a marketing and communication professional who has a heart for Ministry and helping small organizations grow. My specialties include Digital Advertising, including Google Ads, and Facebook Advertising, Social Media, Public Relations, Business Development, Email Marketing, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

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Debbie Dipietro

Debbie recently accepted the position of Social Media Director for Dentamark, the in-house marketing agency.

In 2017, Debbie published her first book with Blue Mountain Arts, Short Morning Prayers. For many years she managed The Warm Milk Journal, a blog about getting a good night sleep.

For two years, Debbie hosted her podcast Courageously Go!, a show for women on living a courageous life. It is still available on iHeart Radio.  

Debbie has two grown children, Stephen and Aimee. She knows what it is like to raise a child with special needs (her son was diagnosed with being on the autistic spectrum at age four) and is excited about the opportunity of helping Connecting Thru Music fulfill it’s wonderful mission and vision of helping improve the lives of special needs kids in DCPS  with music therapy. 

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Norianne Wright

Norianne was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL and has always had a passion for the arts, studying piano and dance from a very young age.  She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee where she earned degrees in both Mathematics and Anthropology. While in Nashville, she was on the board of the Vanderbilt Dance Group and performed with the modern dance company Nashville Dance Project.  Missing her Florida home, Norianne returned to Jacksonville to continue her dance career competing on the Ballroom and Latin Dance Circuit and teaching at the dance studio where she was trained. Norianne is grateful to be involved in impacting the lives of children with special needs and their families through Connecting Thru Music.

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Michelle Glass, Esq.

Michelle  has devoted most of her law career to the area of real estate. After eight and a half years acting as the Managing Attorney for the Real Estate Division of a regional law firm, Michelle left the firm to pursue her life-long dream of opening her own law firm in January 2016.  The importance of giving back to the community is not lost on Michelle as she strongly supports giving back. Individuals with special needs have been an area that she has donated her time and effort towards for many years. given the opportunity to work with Connecting Thru Music. Music is a love of hers and her families, so it feels like a natural fit to do something so simple as providing so many special children the opportunity to learn, share and live.

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Carena Winters, PHD

Associate Professor of Kinesiology

Carena S. Winters, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM, ACSM-CEP, EIM Level III, is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Jacksonville University, where she also serves as the Director of Healthy Campus and leads the Exercise is Medicine on Campus initiatives. Dr. Winters earned her Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and M.P.H. in Epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh.  She earned her B.S. degrees in Psychology and Adult Fitness from Eastern Kentucky University, while competing as a Division I runner.  Dr. Winters created and launched Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC), a global physical activity initiative, with Dr. Robert E. Sallis in May 2009. As part of her leadership of the Exercise is Medicine on Campus Committee, Dr. Winters created a Recognition program to highlight the efforts colleges and universities are making to provide opportunities to increase health outcomes and decrease health risks of campus community members by creating a culture of daily movement.  In 2019, a total of 139 campuses were recognized worldwide, including institutions such as JU, the University of Alaska, Anchorage, Penn State, Auburn, Ohio State, High Point, and Illinois State in the US, as well as institutions from Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, and New Zealand. Dr. Winters has been an invited speaker on EIM-OC throughout the United States and globally in Ireland, China, and Italy.  Dr. Winters is a member of the Exercise is Medicine Advisory Board and the outgoing Chair of the Exercise is Medicine on campus Committee. In 2019, Dr. Winters was presented with an EIM Global Service Award for her work on this initiative. She serves as a Clinical Director for Special Olympics and is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, with the EIM Level III Credential. Dr. Winters’ passion is sharing her knowledge of exercise physiology and the powerful effect of exercise as a medicine in the classroom and the global community.  

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Heidi Smith, Secretary

Owner, CSMITH Photography

​Heidi Cleaves Smith was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and is a University of North Florida alumni. She has worked in the photography field for 20 years, photographing people, events, products, and most recently masterpieces of American Art. Her passion for art and music drive her dedication to make Connecting Thru Music a success.

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Kayla Putzke

Student Board Member

Kayla Putzke is a student liaison representing Christ’s Church Academy’s Tri-M music honor society as president.

She will be attending Jacksonville University in the fall of 2020 as a music education major. She hopes to one day get her masters degree in music therapy. 

Providers

Music Therapists

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STEVEN AMBURN, MT-BC

Steven studied music therapy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO and earned his board certification in 2014. Steven spent two years working with patients and families at Blue Ridge Hospice in Winchester, VA from 2014-2015. Steven relocated to Jacksonville, FL in 2016 and opened First Coast Music Therapy, LLC. Steven now provides music therapy services for clients of all ages with diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Depression and other neurologic diseases as well as school groups for children with special needs and clinical services for children with cancer and blood disorders at one of the leading pediatric clinics in Northeast Florida.

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LAURA KAY CAHOON, MM, MT-BC

Laura Kay earned her Bachelor’s in Oboe Performance from the State University of New York at Potsdam with a minor in psychology in 2015. She went on to study music therapy at the University of Kentucky, receiving her board certification in 2017 and her Master of Music in Music Therapy degree in 2018. Before relocating to Jacksonville, Laura Kay worked for two private practices in Lexington, KY, serving individuals and groups with a variety of diagnoses in both the public school system and at locations throughout the county.

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MADISON WHELAN, MM, MT-BC

Madison has been a board-certified music therapist since December 2016. She completed her Bachelor’s degree and internship at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and recently earned her Master’s degree from Florida State University. Madison also holds the designation NICU-MT for completion of the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy training. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Madison provided music therapy services for children and adults in Tallahassee, FL.

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ERICA FERNANDEZ, MM, MT-BC

Erica Fernandez, MM, MT-BC earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music from Florida Atlantic University in 2017. She went to study music therapy at Florida State University, where she earned her Master’s Degree in 2019. Erica became board certified in December 2019 and holds a NICU-MT certification for the completion of the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy training. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Erica worked in Tallahassee, FL where she provided music therapy services for individuals with a variety of developmental diagnoses in schools, private settings, and for older adults in memory care and assisted living facilities.

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Madelyn LaPrade, MM, MT-Bc, NICU-MT

Madelyn earned her Bachelor of Music in bassoon performance from the University of South Carolina in 2015 and her Master of Music degree in Music Therapy from the University of Kentucky in 2018. After completing her internship at the Tampa Bay Institute of Music Therapy in Florida, Madelyn earned the MT-BC and NICU-MT credentials in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
 
“Prior to relocating to Jacksonville, Madelyn worked at a residential treatment center in Northern Virginia providing music therapy for children with adverse childhood experiences, including trauma, abuse, and neglect. She also has experience working with older adults with dementia and veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Music Teachers

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Dinah Frilling

Licensed Kindermusik Educator, singer and rhythm guitarist for Cain’t Never Could (and yes it is spelled Cain’t haha), a local old time string band, and performer for Body and Soul: The Art of Healing, a music therapy program that brings musicians into local hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers to play for patients and their families. 
As a children’s music teacher and working musician, my goal is to connect to others through the powerful medium of music. I believe that music is the universal language, a common bond that connects us and soothes our souls. I welcome opportunities that allow me to share my love and appreciation for music with others!

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Robert Kirby

Guitar, Bass, Drums, Piano, Trumpet, French Horn, Recording and Production, Band, Ukulele and more.

As a graduate of Roanoke College and a recipient of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, Robert has over 15 years of experience touring, recording and composing in jazz, rock, and wind ensembles.  His music has appeared on television and in podcasts.  He has been teaching music for the last 5 years and has recently been approved to teach through the Gardiner Scholarship program for special needs children.  

Robert is inspired by all forms of music, from Beethoven and Chopin, to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, to Hendrix and Metallica, as well as by current trends in music as well. He believes music is a universal language that breaks communication barriers by speaking emotionally and allowing expression between people who might not otherwise be able to.

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Courtney Connors

Courtney is a graduate of West Virginia University with a B.S in Child Development and Family Studies with additional certifications in infant and toddler development and special education. Always singing and dancing thru life Courtney became a licensed Kindermusik educator where she is able to use her music and education background to create musical lessons, activities, and games where movement and music are the tools for encouraging development in children physically, emotionally, musically, and socially. Courtney truly believes that no matter the age or developmental level of a child, Music is the key to communicating and connecting with one and another and loves to share these connections with her.

Interns

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Joshua Ordu

CTM Intern

Joshua, an economics and psychology major at Jacksonville University, will be working with CTM’s music therapists to understand the program and music therapy at a deep level. He will be assisting with data collection, analyzing and reporting so that CTM can continue to learn and provide the best possible service to the children.  Joshua’s internship will culminate with a presentation at Jacksonville University where he will share with the community his findings and understanding of the value of music therapy for children with special needs.

Advisory Board

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Corey Bergman

Founder-CEO, Ukulele Kids Club

The Ukulele Kids Club mission is to harness the healing power of music by supporting music therapy programs and gifting ukuleles to hospital-based music therapy programs so that children in need can be sent home with the gift of music for life.

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Steve Amburn, MT-BC

Owner & Music Therapist, First Coast Music Therapy, LLC

Steven is the owner and music therapist at First Coast Music Therapy, LLC, offering music therapy services to people in and around Jacksonville, FL. Steven provides music therapy for clients of all ages with diagnoses including a wide range of developmental disabilities and other neurological disorders as well as clinical music therapy services for children with cancer and blood disorders at one of the leading pediatric medical clinics in Northeast Florida

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Megan Sides

Managing Director Bach To Rock

Megan attended the University of North Florida where she majored in Public Relations and minored in Public Health. She began working with Bach to Rock Music School in 2016 before they opened. Her position at Bach to Rock allows her to work in marketing, event planning, human resources, and so much more! One of her favorite parts of working at Bach to Rock is working with the kids. Megan also plays guitar, piano, and ukulele.  

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Leighton Serlo

Music Teacher, Bach To Rock

Leighton has been a professional vocalist for 30 years. She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a minor in Voice Performance from UNC Chapel Hill as well as her MBA from the University of North Florida. Leighton spent 13 years working with children at a local nonprofit and is now a music teacher at Bach to Rock Music School. She teaches early childhood, voice, and piano. Leighton has many years of experience working with children of all ages and abilities. She is also a gigging musician and especially enjoys performing for nursing homes. She has also sang with Lady Antebellum!