Q&A with Sanibel School Music Director Joe Angelo
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Berlin Heights, Ohio just a few miles from Lake Erie.
What brought you to Sanibel?
I visited family who lived on Fort Myers Beach. They always talked about
Sanibel and how nice the Island was to visit. They brought me over two
times during vacation and we ate at Cheeburger Cheeburger and Matzaluna. I
love eating at those restaurants! We drove past the school and noticed the
National Blue Ribbon School banner and I said to myself "I bet it would be
great to work there!" Unfortunately, the school I was teaching at in Ohio
had to make budget cuts and I lost my teaching job. I came to the Lee
County Schools job fair in 2005 and realized there was an opening to teach
music at the Sanibel School and that’s where it all began.
We know you are The Sanibel School Music Director. What made you decide to
become a music educator?
My dad is a truck driver and I always wanted to be like him, a truck driver,
and work in his business driving a semi-truck across county. He was rarely
home, but when he was he would always encourage my musical endeavors and
really didn’t want me to drive truck for a living. He felt there was better
job security in teaching and encouraged me to become an educator. My high
school music director was also a huge reason why I chose to teach music.
The funny thing is, I learned just as much about being a person as I did
learning music from him. During college, my focus shifted to performing and
I played gigs in bands whenever I could. But I truly love teaching students
and I hope under my instruction, they learn to love and appreciate music and
What do you find most rewarding about working with students at The Sanibel
I’ve taught at five different schools for 12 years in music programs ranging
from 33 students to 306 students. No matter what school it is, I enjoy
teaching children. Sanibel School students have a desire to do well in all
they do. It is a small school with a lot of opportunities. Every child has
a great potential to learn and thrive in a good educational environment; and
I hope that I am helping them to reach their goals.
What is your teaching philosophy? Do you consider yourself strict or
easygoing with your students?
How do you inspire students – some who might be shy – to appreciate music
and/or perform? I think it is a combination of hard work and musicianship
that helps me to inspire students. Not all of the students need to be a
star on stage to realize they can do something that is meaningful and
important. I try to find what each student needs individually. Some need
encouragement to take the next step, to reach the next level, or to step out
of their shell while others who shine just need polishing and fine tuning of
their musical skills. I have a unique position where I have the students in
my classroom from Kindergarten on through eighth-grade. I get to see them
grow intellectually and become great people. I’m very thankful for that!
What is something your students, colleagues and community would be surprised
to learn about you?
I think they would be surprised to know that I race on the weekends at local
We know you have the musical “Alice in Wonderland” coming out this week.
What do you think audiences will enjoy most about the performance?
I truly believe the audiences always enjoy the student performers the most.
Their efforts and talents always take center stage.
What is your favorite production? Why?
Wow! That’s a difficult question because they are all my favorite
productions. They are all my favorites because I know how hard the students
I’ve taught over the years worked very, very hard on the musicals to make
them a cohesive production.
Have you ever been in a major theatrical production?
I have never been in a theater production accept for being the pit orchestra
director or pianist.
Do you call Sanibel home or do you live elsewhere?
I live in Fort Myers, but I’m at the school enough to call it home. I’m not
sure where I spend more of my time!
What do you do when you are not working to create tomorrow’s next stars?
When I’m not working at the school, you can find me composing music in my
home or practicing. But I also really like cars. When I lived in Ohio, I
lived just minutes away from the local drag strip. I could hear the cars
race every Friday night. I like going to the races when I can and even
racing my own car.
What is your family life like?
I have a beautiful fiance’ named Angela who is my very best friend. We are
getting married this summer. Our family consists of our two dogs, Bella, a
fuzzy, fun-filled cock-a-poo and Sadie, a beautiful and sweet-hearted boxer.
What are your short/long-term goals?
My short-term goal for the school is to work on funding for a new lighting
system for our musical productions. We currently have minimal stage
lighting for our productions. My long-term goals consist of continuing to
build the music program at The Sanibel School. I also hope to someday earn
my Doctorate’s Degree in music education, jazz education or music
You seem like an easy going sort. What do you attribute your laid-back,
happy attitude to?
Sometimes, I’m not so laid-back especially the closer we get to production,
but I made a choice a long time ago that I wanted to make a difference in
people’s lives. I like knowing people and I truly believe I choose to have
a good or bad attitude. I’m not always perfect, but I try my best every
day, every hour, to choose happiness.