Jacob holds a Doctoral degree in Administration and Management and has personally helped aspiring actors attain their lifelong performance dreams. In addition to his work with Rise Above, he dedicates his time to help local elementary school students learn and experience the art of the theatre in ways that equip and prepare them for future success. Jacob brings a relentless dedication and virtuoso skill set to every production he produces.
Rise Above Performing Arts (Rise Above) was formed from a dream and the need to provide students in this local area with unique, advanced opportunities and instruction in the performing arts. The idea was to create an environment where students had a safe place to come learn and share their gifts and talents. After several years of working with elementary age students, this organization’s original board of directors realized that there were limited options for students outside of school. Moreover, the opportunities that did exist, did not provide students with recurring, advanced level production experiences. Our program now spans from kindergarten through college. Rise Above believes in these students; they are capable of producing productions of superior quality if given the opportunity and support. To this effort, Rise Above Performing Arts was born.
Even more importantly, Rise Above provides a rich, engaging theatrical learning experience for local youth regardless of their background, gender or social status. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a massive list of volunteers and business partners. Rise Above focuses on increasing accessibility for any child to be involved in the performing arts – at no cost to their families. Many services we provide are 100% free to students and their families. To this effort, over 200 children, teens and young adults receive our services annually with our organization and have opportunities to participate in theatrical productions, summer camp, and our award-winning show choir.
Staff & Board
Emma began performing in musical groups at a very young age as she grew up in Sarasota, FL. She went on to earn a Bachelor's in Vocal Music Education from Hope College in Holland, MI. She was the musical theatre and chorus teacher at Booker Middle School for the VPA program for 5 years and then switched to Gulf Gate Elementary School for 4 years. She recently has taken a step back from being in the classroom full time due to her four-year-old son, Mason, and two year old daughter, Julianna. She has years of experience both in a classroom setting as well as in private lessons for voice and piano.
Joi holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Bowling Green State University, and has taught elementary, middle, and high school music at different times in her teaching career. She is a high performing, model music teacher for Sarasota County Schools. Along with being a performer herself, she has directed musical theatre productions for several elementary schools, as well as for a local dance studio’s musical theatre encore program. She also teaches private piano and voice lessons.
Joi directs multiple Choir and Show Choirs and brings an engaging and instructional approach to her musical direction. Under her tutelage, performers are able to expand their musical talents as she continually produces Nationally Award winning productions including her most recent accomplishment where her Concert Choir placed first in the nation
Toni Dentico is coming to us from Buffalo, NY, she is very excited to become a member of the Rise Above Family. Toni has been the Choreographer for the St. Joseph Collegiate Institute's Music Department for the last twelve years, while there she has choreographed twelve musicals and numerous musical numbers for their Swing Choir. As Co-Director, Toni ran the Artpark and Musicalfaire Summer Camps for the last eleven years. Prior to work at St. Joes Toni was the choreographer at the Academy of Theatre Arts in Williamsville, NY. She choreographed over twenty shows while with the Academy. Toni received her dance training at the David DeMarie Dance Studio where she was a student for many years. She performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic and at Artpark in Lewiston, NY. Toni was awarded the titles of Miss Junior Dance of WNY, Miss Dance of WNY and Miss Dance of America, she was crowned in Miami Florida!
Krista Benson began performing in musical theater at the age of ten. She performed in countless school and community theater productions growing up. Also an accomplished flutist, Krista chose to pursue a vocal degree with a musical theater emphasis in college. She graduated with a BA in music with a Vocal Option from SUNY Geneseo. She then went on to earn a Masters in Music in Musical Theater from The Boston Conservatory. During her time in Boston she had the honor of singing with The Boston Pops, The Thayer Symphony Orchestra and performing on The Spirit of Boston.
Many of her favorite musical theater roles from that time include "Once on this Island" (Timoune) "A Chorus Line" (Sheila), "Guys and Dolls" (Sarah), "The Apple Tree" (Barbara), "The Threepenny Opera" (Polly), "Oliver!" (Nancy) and "The Fairy Queen" (Titania) as well as roles in "Cabaret", "Sweet Charity", "Marat...Sade", and "Hair".
While attending The Boston Conservatory she met her future husband. After they were married they moved to NYC. After too many cold winters spent in Boston and NY they decided to move to southeast Florida. Krista had many opportunities as a professional performer at Stage Door Theater in Ft Lauderdale performing in such shows as "My One and Only", "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (Angel) "No Way To Treat a Lady" (Sarah) and the original musical "Are We there Yet?" (Woman 1).
After moving to upstate NY Krista then took some time away from the spotlight to stay home and raise their two daughters. Upon encouragement from a mentor, Krista began teaching vocal lessons in 2008. Krista's training in both classical vocal technique AND musical theater has made her a unique resource for her students.
Under her tutelage many of Krista’s students have gone on to BFA musical theater programs at highly esteemed universities such as Rider, Montclair, SUNY Fredonia, Ithaca College, Belmont and Coastal Carolina to name a few. Krista’s students have also performed with the Boston Pops, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and have won numerous vocal competitions.
Currently Krista is a faculty member teaching Vocal Technique, private vocal lessons and Musical Theater at Ovation School of Musical Theater in Bradenton, FL.
Her passion for music, musical theater and working with her students is evident in her enthusiasm!!
Rachael discovered her love for dance and theatre at the age of 4. Since then, she has studied tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, ballet and musical theatre at multiple studios. She is a graduate of Booker High School’s VPA Theatre program and the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She has been seen in readings and productions o A (Funny) Imagination! At Dixon Place, Dramatists’ Guild and New York Theatre Winterfest originating the role of Dee’s Sister. She has also appeared in numerous local theater productions throughout her childhood in Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton. Her favorite roles include Into the Woods (Little Red), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Logainne), Fools (Sophia), Annie Get Your Gun (Winnie Tate), and Grease (Frenchie). Rachael has choreographed for various schools and theatre companies including AMDA, Ashton Elementary, Brentwood Elementary, Stage Door Studios, and Booker High School. She has trained with Broadway Artists Alliance and worked with Musical Theatre International as part of the choreography DVD for Lion King JR. She participated in the Junior Theater Festival for three years and received a national award for Excellence in Student Choreography.
Rachael has learned so much from these experiences and has made invaluable connections. Rachael is so proud to be a founding member of this amazing company and to work with so many sweet and insanely talented kids!
Krista is an educator who has helped direct numerous productions including Seussical Jr., Little Mermaid Jr., Beauty and the Beast Jr. and Aladdin Jr. Krista has always enjoyed the arts. In high school and college, she was on Dance Teams and involved in Concert Bands.
Krista has extensive experience in marketing and management. She has a unique talent for bringing stakeholders together to support the work of Rise Above. Krista possess a passion to help individuals find and express their gifts and talents.
Melissa Rand is so proud to be a part of Rise Above. She has watched this group from afar and is thrilled to work more hands on and share her experiences with them! Melissa has been in Florida for 6 years and has appeared in many productions at The Players Centre.
Her favorite recent credits include Will Roger’s Follies (Betty Rogers), A Chorus Line (Diana Morales), Young Frankenstein (Elizabeth Benning), and Cabaret (Kit Kat Girl).
With Ana’s versatility in the arts of photography, graphic design, and marketing, she falls nothing short of consistent excellence in the execution of each of these divisions.
Ana graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and there she began her career first interning at ESPN West Palm, then building her own photography business–Via Daci LLC, and continuing onto her first corporate job at Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach.
Since starting Via Daci LLC and joining Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach, Ana has expressed her unique talents in the visual arts through taking headshots and promotional shots for commercial use of Hubbard Radio employees and on-air talents. Additionally she has also photographed over 40 music artists, namely Charlie Puth, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Ludacris, and many more through concerts; Hubbard Radio’s annual country music festival, ‘Rib Round Up’; interviews; meet-and-greets; and morning tv shows occasionally hosted at our studios as well as generating graphics for events and updating the websites of the company’s seven radio stations.
For Rise Above, Ana continues her excellence in graphic design, designing promotional and marketing content for each upcoming show.
For photo work, Ana’s portfolio and contact is at www.viadaci.com
Ethan Fuhrmeister is a lighting designer for the local Sarasota area. He is a student at State College of Florida. He has been a lighting designer since 2016. He has been involved in Rise Above since Grease the Musical. His dream is to become a lighting designer and eventually create a business around lighting and sound. He is proud to have done over 15 shows with Rise Above alone and over 30 shows by the time he was 19. He is proud to be the lighting designer for Rise Above.
During his tenure as a producer, Tyler Mount has been the recipient of three Tony Awards, a Grammy Award, an Olivier Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Drama League Awards, a Drama Desk Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. His years of experience span Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theater. His Tony Award for Once on This Island (Best Revival of a Musical) made Tyler one of the youngest Tony Award-winning producers in history. In October of 2020, Tyler received his third and fourth Tony Award nominations making him the youngest individual producer to be nominated for Best Play, Best Musical, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Revival of a Musical.
As an industry-leading digital strategy expert and owner of Tyler Mount Ventures, a digital agency specializing in social media strategy for the world’s most influential thought leaders and celebrities, Tyler has managed digital campaigns for Biden for America, NBC, Playbill, IBM, Hilton Hotels, Sofitel, T-Mobile, the Tony Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Olivier Awards, and countless others.
Tyler’s digital strategy expertise can be seen throughout the nearly two hundred videos he created for Playbill’s The Tyler Mount Vlog, a web series that has been seen by over 25 million viewers in 168 different countries. Guests included Lin Manuel-Miranda, Gloria Estefan, Billy Porter, Perez Hilton, Jerry Mitchell, and Ali Stroker. Tyler has been profiled in dozens of esteemed publications including The New York Times, Forbes Magazine, and Out Magazine.
Tyler’s Broadway/West End credits include: Hadestown, Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, The Inheritance, Once on This Island, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan, An American in Paris, ¡Viva Broadway! Hear Our Voices: Gloria Estefan LIVE!, and The Acting Company’s 2014 benefit concert of The Cradle Will Rock, starring Patti Lupone. He is currently producing the United Kingdom tour of Dream Girls, which is scheduled to make its triumphant return to Broadway in 2023.
Tyler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance and Arts Administration from St. Edward’s University, attended CAP21 in New York City, now the Molloy College/CAP21 Theatre Arts Program, and holds a postgraduate certificate from MIT in Digital Marketing and Social Media Analytics
Brian’s love of Theatre began in High School becoming the technical director for the plays stretching the limited technology available at the time. That love continues in bi-annual trips to Broadway to see the latest shows that are out as well as traveling locally to see shows.
Brian has a long history of working with non-profit organizations. He spent 10 years as IT Director for one non-profit followed by 8 years as Director of International Operations for another. He serves on the board of directors of another non-profit working with teens. Brian currently spends his time as Realtor in Texas.
“It is an honor to serve Rise Above and the Rise Above Community and I hope we can continue to grow and allow students to have an amazing experience introducing them to theater and helping them find their hidden talents. The staff of Rise Above is unmatched and I am excited to see what they do each and every time!”
Gregg Barker is an entrepreneur who has been an executive and founder in two successfully startup businesses, one as CIO the other as Co-founder and CTO both of which are still operating on their own today. After selling the company in 2016 Gregg joined Microsoft. Gregg’s current role as a Principle Solution Architect requires him to manage relationships and negotiate at the C level with fortune 500 customers around the globe.
As a business owner of a product that embraces creativity and artistry Donnie is always able to bring an interesting perspective to the table. In his first career he worked in the country of Niger on the edge of the Sahara desert with nomadic herders helping bring education to traditionally isolated communities. He worked to make it possible that these children could access education and have options that previously were not available to them. In an environment that came with many life challenges Donnie helped them overcome challenges by teaching them to think creatively and dare to dream in a land where dreams rarely exist.
Currently Donnie owns a Lego business and is inspiring both children and adults all over the world by using the medium of a building brick. He teaches individuals how to use a simple platform to bring their circle of influence into the world they build and take them on an unforgettable journey by showcasing their talent and hard work.
Rise Above is thrilled to announce the cast, crew and creative team for “The Sound of Music” We are so...
A huge congratulations to those selected for a callback for The Sound of Music. If your name is listed below,...
Season 6 is jam-packed with shows you will not want to miss.
The Godspell cast and crew is announced.
“A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance.”
“Actors are able to play any character precisely because they themselves are completely deprived of it.”
“The audience goes to the theater to see the good performance of good plays, and not the play itself: you can read the play.”