Academics

Ensemble Directors

 

Robyn Wilkes Robyn Bell is the Director of Instrumental Studies at the State College of Florida in Bradenton where she conducts the Symphonic Band, Bradenton Symphony Orchestra, and teaches classes in music appreciation. She is also the conductor and music director of the Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota. In addition to her responsibilities with the Pops and SCF, Dr. Bell has also served as the conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra Youth Symphony, and performs at area churches on trumpet and percussion. She received her B.S. Degree in Music Education, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in 1997 and attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as a graduate assistant for the “Pride of the Southland” Marching Band, earning a Masters Degree in Instrumental Conducting in 1999.  She completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree from Boston University in 2015, with a research emphasis on popular music in secondary education. 

 Dr. Bell is a member of the National Association for Music Educators, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, Florida Orchestra Association, Women Band Directors International, College Band Directors National Association, and the National Band Association. She served as Treasurer for the Seventh District of the Georgia Music Educators Association for five years and has served as President of the Women Band Directors International.  She has received the Silver Baton Award from that organization and has been recognized by GMEA for her outstanding contributions to music education in 2004 and 2006. In 2007, Dr. Bell was awarded the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association in recognition of her band’s performance at the University of Georgia’s annual Janfest event. In March 2012, Ds. Bell was made an honorary life member of Tau Beta Sigma, a national band sorority dedicated to serving college band programs. She has won the NISOD Award for teaching excellence at the State College of Florida and served as Faculty Senate President in the 2015-2016 school year.

Prior to coming to the State College of Florida, Dr. Bell was the band director at Ridgeland High School in Walker County, Georgia from 1999 to 2008 where her bands won numerous region, state, and national marching and concert band competitions.  During the 2008-2009 school year, she served as Instructor of Music at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia where she conducted the jazz band and chamber orchestra and taught classes in music history, music appreciation, and symphonic literature.   


 Don Byrn, Pianist, Composer, and Musical Director, moved to Sarasota from Hawaii and now plays classical piano concerts, rock and jazz at local venues, and accompanies services for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota. He also works as a vocal coach for the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.

Before Hawaii Don spent 15 years touring the globe, during with time he played and conducted over 300 shows a year, including performances by Burt Bacharach, Lorna Luft, Nestor Torres, John Raitt, Jim Nabors, and Charo, as well as Musical Directing the National Tour of "7 Brides for 7 Brothers". Don has also performed with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Don received his Piano Performance and Music Technology degree from Duquesne University as well as his Master’s degree in Composition. He has become known for his arrangements for jazz, show bands and has composed pieces for everything from classical guitar, concert choirs to new music, electronic ensembles and large orchestra. Don is also an avid backpacking explorer, speaks Spanish and basic Russian.  


 Before joining SCF, Dr. Pete Carney taught jazz and classical music at Saint Xavier University, The City Colleges of Chicago, while performing as a saxophonist and directing the Chicago All-City Jazz Ensemble. Most recently he conducted The University of Illinois Concert Jazz Band and Orchestra at The Jazz Education Network Conference in Louisville.  

In 2009 he began working on a new method for listening to music, frustrated with the traditional music history textbooks that were available. Knowing his students would rather read their smartphones and listen to music from YouTube, Carney worked for two years to create a new educational system based on Socrates’ ancient method of continuous questioning, which he called “Interactive Listening.”  

A month after it’s release in 2012, Interactive Listening was named by Apple Inc. as the #1 Editor’s Choice out of 22,000 titles in all iBooks, beating Curious George and Rachel Ray at the top of the chart. Three months later it became the first music education method to be featured on Apple’s website, where it stayed for 2 years.  Since then Dr. Carney has been a featured speaker at The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, The Texas Music Educators Association, ABC, and NPR.  

Interactive Listening is now taught in hundreds of schools around the world including The University of North Carolina, Florida International University, all of Duval County, and The United Nations International School in New York.  

As a jazz musician, Carney also enjoys a career as a saxophonist and arranger who has worked with Grammy winners Kirk Franklin, Tito Puente, the Winans, and rock legends, The Plain White T’s. His greatest experiences—opening for B.B. King in a Mississippi cotton field, Al Green at The Superdome, and Aretha Franklin in Chicago. He has performed with The Tommy Dorsey Band, Milt Jackson, Curtis Fuller, Arturo Sandoval, The Zapp Band, Willie Chirino, and The New World Symphony. Touring on the Chitlin’ Blues Circuit for three years as a sideman, he worked for Blues Hall of Famers, Little Milton and Tyrone Davis.  

As a writer for Chicago blues, theater, gospel, and jazz groups, he has scored for shows at the Chicago Blues Festival, Imatra Big Band Festival in Finland, Lucerne Blues Festival, Looking Glass Theater, Pori Jazz Festival and others. Carney’s composition Redline Groove, was lifted anonymously for the DePaul Basketball Band who played it during March Madness at Madison Square Garden.  

Traveling with soul singer Otis Clay he performed at jazz festivals in Italy, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, Sweden, England, and Germany before launching his own jazz group, Orange Alert.  

Going out on his own, his jazz group headlined the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Milwaukee’s Jazz in the Park, Halo-London, and was the first American to be featured at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival in Scotland. His albums, Orange Alert and Redline Grooves have been featured on NPR Electro Lounge, NBC, and BBC who raved, “It’s very funky isn’t it sir!”  

As an undergraduate, Carney earned two degrees from The University of Michigan with degrees in classical saxophone and music composition. He studied with William Albright, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Donald Sinta, and Glenn Watkins. Turning to Jazz, he studied at the University of Miami and completed his Master’s in Jazz at Florida International University. Carney recently completed his Doctorate in Jazz at The University of Illinois. His dissertation research focused on his discovery of undocumented structural modeling of Louis Armstrong and Alice Coltrane by the rock band Radiohead.  

Exploring improvisation beyond jazz, he recently completed the one year certification for the Improvisation Training Program, at Chicago’s famed Second City. After graduation from the comedic improvisation program, he was selected by the writing program director, Joe Janes, to perform at Second City in the coached ensemble Tempest 

Blurring the lines between teacher, designer, musician, and improviser, Carney was recently invited to give a TED Talk on “Designing Curiosity” at TEDx Jacksonville. Link. His TED Talk based on Interactive Listening was broadcast live to a global audience of 15,000 viewers. 

In 2016, the state of Florida adopted Carney’s self-published method as the official state music textbook for high school and middle school. 


 

Rex Willis  Rex Willis teaches Classical Guitar, Composition, Music Theory, Music History, Music Appreciation, and Guitar Ensemble. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music  from Florida State University and while there, participated in composition master classes/readings with visiting composer Aaron Copland. Willis studied guitar with Bruce Holzman and participated in Guitar Master Classes with Christopher Parkening and Pepe Romero.

A published composer, Willis has had his music performed all over the world. Willis's original music has been reviewed in the top classical guitar publications as  "accessible . . . skillful . . . powerful . . . seductive . . . an absolute gem of a piece . . . highly desirable". Willis received a world premiere for Guitar Octet in June 2014 at the prestigious GFA Annual Convention at Cal State University Fullerton. He has composed the film scores for several award winning independent movies including two for One Day Films of Tampa. He composed the score for the musical ¡Ybor! and wrote the book, lyrics, and music for a new musical Something for Nothing.

Willis has been a featured performer with the Florida String Quartet (Sarasota Orchestra affiliation), Sarasota Pops, Artist Series of Sarasota, North Port Orchestra, Florida State Music Teachers Association State Convention, Miami International Guitar Festival, Brno International Guitar Festival (Czech), the Gwinnett Philharmonic Association Concert Series (Atlanta), and the Sarasota Orchestra. Willis performed with Gloria Musicae, a professional choral group, in December 2013 along-side world famous harpist Ann Hobson-Pilot. Willis also released three CD's featuring his original classical guitar compositions.

Willis's professional and collegiate music directing and conducting credits include: ¡Ybor!, The Gondoliers, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Boy Friend, Into the Woods, Bye Bye Birdie, Children of Eden, The Music Man, West Side Story (Fall 2014), the guitar orchestras at The Stetson Guitar Workshop, the Brno International Guitar Festival, the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) State Festival, and the Florida Community Music College Symposium where he was the site coordinator of the guitar ensemble division for multiple years, and again in 2015. In May 2012, Willis was the featured composer in residence at Glendale Community College (Arizona) where he conducted a concert of his guitar ensemble music that included the world premiere of a newly commissioned/now published work for the occasion. He was the featured conductor for the 2014 FMEA Guitar All-State event in January and followed that in April conducting an all-day Guitar Ensemble Festival at Harrison School of the Arts in Lakeland.

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