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A new, Naples-based music academy for young adults with unique learning styles is settling into its new and temporary home while waiting for its forever home to be renovated.

Southwest Florida Music Education Center opened at 5551 Ridgewood Drive, Suite 100, in Naples in the Toni Stabile Education Building, part of the Artis-Naples campus. The suite was previously a bank.

The school accepts students from age 18 to 30 who aspire to be professional musicians but are looking for a nontraditional curriculum and instruction. Tuition costs $36,000 per year, and the school started small, for now, with just four students. Tuition support is available for students who need it. Students receive 3-4 private individual lessons each week, mental health support and social and life skills, in addition to their core music classes of Music History, Music Theory, Music Technology, and Ensemble.

“We are a first-of-its-kind music academy,” Executive Director Jennifer Clark said. “It was so important that we got it right. We had to start small, so we could fulfill our promise of instructional learning.”

The curriculum was created by the Berklee Institute for Accessible Arts Education.

South Fort Myers-based Stevens Construction completed the interior renovations, building six soundproof music practice rooms, a music laboratory, quiet room, living room, lounge and office space for administrative support in 3,237 square feet of space.

In the meantime, the school paid about $10 million for a 43,000-square-foot building housing at the northeast corner of Interstate 75 and Immokalee Road, at 2655 Northbrooke Drive in North Naples. Montessori Academy of Naples occupies the first floor as a long-term tenant, while the music school eventually will take over the second floor. 

“We knew we would need something between now and then,” Clark said. “The plan is for us to be here for two years and move into the other building in the fall of 2024.”

Hannah Fan, director of music education, is a trained opera singer, dabbled in piano and trumpet and most recently worked at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., managing the special education department. She is one of nine employees at the new school.

“It really allows each student to fully engage with music and better themselves as musicians and as holistic individuals,” Fan said of the curriculum. The school reaches a segment of students that now have a new option.

“Students who have the talent,” she said. “They have the passion. They have that drive. But without supports in place, they might not find as much success in a traditional, strict and rigid conservatory. That’s where we come in. We provide those supports. We provide that opportunity. We just allow them to be the musicians that they were meant to be.”

Clark said the music center is well-positioned to thrive with its new temporary home while its forever home is renovated.

“We work with neurodivergent, young adults who have a passion for music,” Clark said, “and really have an interest in that being part of their future.”


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