Who We Are
The FAME Center was officially formed for the arts and music education purposes. For over 26 years Sheila Fortson, the FAME Center’s founder and executive director, has worked with children and adults throughout the United States teaching piano, violin, voice, and acting lessons.
As a result of her extensive studies of various forms of art, her experience performing around the world, and her opportunities teaching and sharing her passion for music and fine arts with others, she was encouraged by several professional men and women to continue her efforts in music and fine arts education in areas where many students lack opportunity and resources to expand their learning in music and art.
It was this prompting that caused Sheila to establish the FAME Center in the south side of downtown Chicago with the vision of creating a safe space for children and adults who might not otherwise have the opportunity or resources to learn about music and art.
FAME Center is guided by a Board of Directors, each of which brings experience and leadership to the oversight of the organization. We work with experienced fine arts teachers and rely heavily on volunteers to provide music and art lessons and fulfill the organization’s tax exempt purposes.
Music is a language--and like any language, there are many basic skills which must be mastered prior to advancing to more complex applications.
Meet our Teachers
With a bachelors degree in piano performance and a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Art, over 20 years of experience teaching plus a 15 year background in choral conducting, Sheila brings a wide range of experience to her studio. She has been playing and performing music since childhood. Her extensive background in choirs, orchestras and piano performance gives her a broad look at the world around her and a fresh perspective on teaching music. With a passion for music education, she began FAME Center as a way to broaden her ability to educate the young and young at heart. Sheila is a member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association). Sheila is the founder and executive director of FAME Center and she is excited to share her love of music education with the South Loop and surrounding Chicago residents.
Teacher/ Program Coordinator
Graduated from Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) with a Bachelors of Science in Music Therapy. She has been a Board-Certified Music Therapist since 2013, and has experience working in in- and out-patient mental health facilities, school settings, and with individuals and groups of persons with developmental disabilities. Here at FAME Center you can find her teaching piano, voice, and ukulele. Bethany is also our Program Development Coordinator!
In her time away from teaching, Bethany enjoys riding bike, being outdoors, and spending time cooking and working on fermentation projects with her husband, Clay.
Graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in voice. She began pursuing music at age 12, when she started taking private voice lessons, and has since gained performance experience throughout the Chicagoland area and beyond. She has professional training in a variety of music genres, styles and vocal techniques, including classical, musical theatre, sacred, contemporary and choral music. She has been teaching private voice and piano lessons since 2015, and desires to mentor and equip students of all age groups and skill levels with practical tools to become better musicians. Here at FAME you can find Lili teaching lessons in voice and piano, as well as being our Office Administrator!
In her spare time, Lili enjoys cooking, running, traveling, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her friends and family.
Teacher / Administrative Assistant
She holds an Associates Degree in piano performance from Harold Washington College, as well as a Masters Degree in Music Composition from Roosevelt University. In addition to her music degrees, She graduated Cum Laude from University of Colorado with a B.S. in Business Administration. She has 5 years of teaching experience with students of all ages. She is available for lessons in piano, music theory, and composition. In her teaching, she values encouraging experimentation, continuous learning, and artistic freedom.
Outside of teaching, Mariana enjoys spending time making music with friends, and is a member of the Handbell and Choir ensembles at The Chicago Temple! She also enjoys talking long walks with her husband and their dog.
Gradating from Moody Bible Institute. He has been playing music for several years. He is a master of several instruments and plays Piano, Violin, Classical Guitar and Cello.
In Josh's free time, he likes to deconstruct burgers and sandwiches.
Graduated from Moody Bible Institute. He was proudly born, raised and still resides on Chicago's west side. He plays all styles of guitar, but is not limited to guitar. He also plays bass, drums and low brass.
Moises in his past life was in 2 Hip Hop bands.
Digital Arts Teacher
Graduated from a small university in Virginia with a BA in Digital Media and Peacebuilding. She has been playing with cameras and computers since she was 11 years old, and has several years of experience working as a camera technician. She spent a portion of her childhood outside of the USA, and photos were one of the best ways to share those experiences with others. It is the ability to use technology to create and give expression to what you see and feel that gets Hannah excited about teaching. You can find Hannah teaching at our community partnership school, tutoring in Math and Science, and teaching private lessons or group classes in Coding, Photography, Graphic Design, Film Making, and Claymation.
Outside of teaching, Hannah enjoys watching movies, working on puzzles, and playing games with friends.
Fine Arts Teacher
Graduated with a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, has been working as a mental health counselor specializing in working with children and adolescents in play, experiential, cognitive behavioral therapy and equine-assisted psychotherapy. Growing up the daughter of an art teacher in Ohio, she spent much of her childhood doing a variety of art projects under her mother's tutelage and loves to draw, write and dapple in painting. Through teaching art and drawing classes, she seeks to assist developing artists in expressing themselves through art and building healthy community within a safe and dynamic environment. She teaches drawing, painting, story-making and intro to art classes, and tutoring writing, English, art, and history.
When she's not teaching or working as a therapist, Caitlin enjoys biking, horseback riding, and spending time with friends.
Graduated from Western Michigan University in April of 2012 in viola performance, studying under Kalamazoo Symphony Principal Violist Igor Fedotov. She got her Masters degree at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, studying under internationally known soloist and chamber musician Roger Chase in 2014. She is Suzuki trained and believes in the power of music to aid in a child's emotional, physical, behavioral and spiritual development. She strongly encourages students to learn how to play by ear to develop intuition, expression and improvisation skills. She loves teaching students fiddle music or other genres that are of interest to the child in addition to the traditional repertoire. She teaches violin, viola, mandolin, baritone ukulele, and songwriting!
In her time, Rachael enjoys songwriting, as well as performing in a fun, silly kid’s folk band with her husband, Justin, as The Lavender Cloud. She also enjoys singing around the house, knitting and swimming!
Graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a Bachelors in Music, and completed her Masters in Vocal Performance from North Park University. The majority of her training is in Western classical music, but she enjoys working with pop and musical theater styles as well. AJ has several years of teaching experience with students aged 3 to 40. Previously she volunteered for and then directed a choir for children ages 5 to 7, and also worked with an adult choir. Additionally, AJ is currently an adjunct professor in Moody's music department. You can find AJ teaching at our community partnership schools, instructing private voice and piano lessons, as well as group singing and music classes.
When she's not teaching, AJ enjoys reading, making music with friends, writing, and biking when the weather is warm.
Currently studying for her Master of Music in Violin Performance and Pedagogy under Almita Vamos at Roosevelt University, as well as working to complete her Suzuki certification. Prior to her Masters program, she completed a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance, studying under MingHuan Xu. She has been teaching internationally since 2014, and has experience conducting violin sectionals for string ensembles, as well as teaching both private lessons and group classes for students aged 4 to adults. She is also certified in piano instruction through ABRSM. She values a holistic education for all of her students, seeks to help her students find the best way to express themselves through music, and believes that music and the arts should be accessible to everyone. She teaches private lessons and group classes in violin, piano, music theory, Mandarin language, and more!
In her time outside of teaching, studying, and performing, Justine enjoys doing pilates, eating, and flexing her creative muscles doing floral design and jewelry making.
He is a young man of faith from Philadelphia, PA, who has been involved in music since he was a young child, and has about 15 years of professional experience in the music industry, which has led him around the world singing and composing. He currently attends Moody Bible Institute, double majoring in Music Ministry Worship and Arts, and Technology. He cares deeply about using his skills in music ministry to be a spiritual encouragement, and currently resides as the Worship Leader at Salem Baptist Church of Chicago. When he’s not teaching and playing music, he enjoys keeping up with his athletic hobbies, playing basketball and other sports. Musically he has experience in a wide range of genres including R&B, Pop, Jazz, Gospel, Classical, Opera, and more. He is passionate about supporting his students in becoming well-rounded, multifaceted musicians. Here at FAME Center you can find Devvyn teaching private lessons and group classes in voice, drums, songwriting, and professional & practical classes to help students cultivate the gifts and skills in their development as musicians.
She is a graduate of Wheaton College, where she majored in Community Art, and Peace & Conflict Studies. During her time studying art, Lillian worked as a mentor bringing arts to youth in the juvenile justice system, and also taught classes at Jacaranda Academic Center in Nairobi, Kenya. She enjoys working with a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, and sculpture. Through her studies and experiences she has come to believe in the significant role art can play in communities to create space for healing, lament, justice, peace, and celebration.
Lillian has experienced the impact of caring and quality educators, and strives to bring that same level of compassion to her own students. When she’s not teaching or making art, she enjoys playing basketball, listening to music, reading, and enjoying nature. Here at FAME Center you can find Lillian working with our community partnership schools and organizations, as well as offering group classes and private art lessons.
She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Instrumental Performance. She started teaching in 2014, and has a wide range of experience teaching different genres of music including Classical, Jazz, Latin, and Rock/Pop/Contemporary both in private lessons and ensemble settings. She is active in performing and gigging with a variety of ensembles, but especially loves playing Latin music. When she's not teaching, practicing, or gigging you can find her spending time outside hiking, camping, running, and going on long backpacking trips to spend time alone in nature. As a musician, Karolina has played a lot of different genres in her musical "coming of age" and has found value in every single one of them. She believes that every genre and style of music, and every culture and community around that genre has something different to teach us. As a teacher she is happy to work on whatever the student is interested in, and will also push them to explore other sounds. She believes that in order to grow as a creative person you have to learn to follow your gut and follow the things that interest you while still being open to other influences. Here at FAME you can find Karolina teaching Saxophone, Piano, Flute, and Clarinet, as well as a variety of ensemble and music exploration group classes!
Dr. Margaret Diddams - BOARD CHAIR
Margaret is Provost of Wheaton College (IL), a liberal arts college grounded in its Evangelical Christian faith tradition and located 30 miles west of Chicago. Reporting to the President, she is a member of the Senior Administrative Cabinet and holds faculty status as Professor of Psychology. She oversees the undergraduate and graduate programs of Wheaton College. She is also responsible for the Registrar and Student Advising, Global and Experiential Learning, Institutional Research, the Library and Archives, theologically grounded vocational exploration programming, the Billy Graham Center, the Outdoor Center for Leadership at Honey Rock and the Black Hills Science Station. Diddams is a 1983 graduate of Wheaton College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University. Diddams started her academic career as an instructor and program coordinator in the Social-Organizational Psychology Department at Columbia University. She joined the faculty at Seattle Pacific University in 1993 and held the rank of Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology before becoming the Director of the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development and then Assistant Provost. In addition to her academic work, Diddams has worked as a Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation and founded DuPlissis & Diddams Associates, a consulting practice specializing in survey research, organizational development and executive coaching.
Dr. Felecia Thompson
Dr. Felecia Thompson is a native of the south side of Chicago, a mother of two grown daughters, and has been married for 39 years to Steve. Felecia received her bachelor of arts in sociology/psychology from DePaul University, a master of science in human services administration from Spertus College, and received her DM in leadership from Bakke Graduate University in Seattle. Felecia has also gone through senior management training with ServiceMaster Corporation and the John Templeton Institute’s program for non-profit board leadership and fundraising. Felecia’s teaching gifts have given her instructional roles at Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Christian College and numerous conferences. Her administrative and leadership gifts have been utilized in executive roles with the DeVos Family Foundation’s Urban Leadership Initiative, the Family Care Network, and the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Chicago. For most of the past 20 years, Felecia has directed community partnership programs for Trinity Christian College and then for World Vision, where she served as Executive Director of its Chicagoland operation for nearly three years. Felecia exhibits extraordinary intelligence, experience, and personal grace. She currently serves as the Executive Director for Community Development (The Roosevelt Road Initiative) at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
Dr. Stephen Michael Newby
Stephen Michael Newby serves as Professor of Music Composition, Director for the Center for Worship, and Senior Advisor to the President for Missional Excellence at Seattle Pacific University. He holds more than two decades of University level teaching to his credit. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and received his Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music Education from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. He received a Master of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He returned to Michigan to complete his Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He received his Master of Arts in Theology from Seattle Pacific University. For more than 25 years, he served in various church music ministries in Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington, California and Georgia. For more than nine years, he served as national anthem conductor for the Seattle Sounders FC. His gospel music works are published by Maranatha Music and Newby’s Witness Music. His various Northwest Music Theatre Credits: Free Boy (2017) composer, 5th Ave Theater and Crowns (2018) pianist, Tap Root Theatre. His scholarly works are published by Rowman & Littlefield, his concert music compositions by Fred Bock Publishing and the Seattle Symphony commissioned and premiered his chamber work entitled “Spiritual Fantasy for Clarinet and String Quarter,” March 2018.
Dr. Monica Cook
Monica Cook is a long time resident of the South Loop neighborhood in Chicago, a mother to two young daughters, and has been married to Kurt since 2007. Monica received her B.S in Chemical Engineering in 1996, from the University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana. In 2004, she received her MPM in Environmental Project Management from Northwestern University and just this year graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago, with her PhD in Chemical Engineering. From 1997-2003, Monica worked in technical support for National Starch and Chemical assisting industrial adhesives customers. Additionally, she served as a process engineer implementing custom Six Sigma inspired quality programs for strategic customers. At Dupont-Teijin Films, Monica served as outside sales for the Midwest region negotiating contracts and overseeing logistics for thin film customers. Monica is proud to support the mission and vision of FAME Center. She also a huge Chicago Cubs fan!
Rodger B. Jackson is a Morehouse College alumn and co-founder and managing partner of Independent Network Television (INTV). INTV works with artist and filmmakers by providing them with a place to create; and an outlet to distribute their work. INTV is the first production company in Chicago that provides distribution through the online streaming channel www.inde.tv. As an actor who has appeared on Chicago PD and Chicago Med, as well as local community theater, Rodger has been recognized by his peers for innovative thinking and ability to get results under challenging situations. His previous work at Victory’s Path, a college and career training non-profit, and Navistar, an American Holding Company, have provided him with the opportunity to directly report to the White House The Office of the First Lady under the Obama Administration. As a member of the military compliance and verification process board Rodger was responsible for making sure government standards regarding defense contracts between Navistar and the United States government were met. Rodger believes in working the process until you succeed and he lives by the quote, “Wanting to quit is not failure, quitting is”.
Patrick is passionate about education, innovation, and the arts. Patrick is originally from Holland, MI where he first learned to cultivate these passions through participation in school choir and theater and through his job at the city greenhouse. His passion for music led him to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education in 2004. Upon graduation, he continued his studies at Michigan State University where he received a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting in 2006. During his time at MSU, he served as the Director of Music for Christ United Methodist Church in Lansing, MI and was a section leader in the Greater Lansing Arts Chorale. In the summer of 2006, he married Kutu, whom he met at Trinity, and they settled permanently in the Chicago area. Patrick began his career in education in 2006 a music teacher and choir director for Rich Township High School District 227, moving from there to Leyden High School District 212 in 2008. While teaching, he also served as the Choir Director and Traditional Worship Leader for Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL from 2007-2011. In 2011, his passion for education led him to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he received a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership in 2013. In 2015, Patrick shifted from teaching to administration and became the Fine Arts Coordinator for Joliet Public Schools District 86 in Joliet, IL. While there, his work included growing the teaching staff from 21 to 36, restarting the elementary music program after a 50+ year absence, expanding the visual arts program, restructuring the districtwide fine arts master schedule, and writing a fully aligned K-8 curriculum - these efforts provided access to the arts for all students in District 86. Also in 2015, Patrick became the Choral Coach for the West Suburban Symphony Chorale in Hinsdale, IL, a position he held until 2018. In the summer of 2019, Patrick became the Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205. There he serves as the District’s first district-level administrator over the arts and as the Fine and Performing Arts Department Chair for York High School. His responsibilities include curriculum development, budget and inventory management, program development and alignment, teacher evaluation, professional development, and master scheduling for the district. Patrick is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in School Executive Leadership at the University of Illinois which he hopes to complete during the 2020-2021 school year. Patrick and Kutu love to travel and try new restaurants, they share a passion for coaching and consulting, and they enjoy hanging out with friends or with their dogs.
Lenise S. Lee, owner, and principal of Presentation Is Everything, LLC, is a native of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Against adversity, Lenise went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northern Illinois University, and a Master of International Management from ENAE Business School in Murcia, Spain. In addition to her education, Lenise has served as Business Manager at the University of Chicago, and Director of Operations for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). Currently, Lenise serves as the Director of Operations for Kindling Group, a nonprofit organization that crafts powerful documentaries on social issues and campaigns in order to ignite change. Because Lenise is passionate about social justice, specifically issues affecting low-income families and urban communities, she has spent approximately 5 years advocating for and mentoring to youth in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and with the Pretty Brown Girl Foundation.
Jeffrey has provided consultation, technical assistance and staff training for Medical Spa’s, local businesses, Not for Profit organizations, and health centers. His passion is incorporating hospitality with medical expertise. Holding degrees in Psychology, Communications and Organizational Behavior it is Jeff’s goal to create business sustainability… one relationship at a time. In his personal time, Jeff really loves working with international relief efforts. His most recent trip was with Rotary International to Guatemala. His team worked with the Mayan women of Sumpango to develop their micro-enterprise business systems. He finds it very humbling that he gets to experience life change first hand.