Pastor Jonathan Sawyer
Pastor Jonathan Sawyer is originally from North Carolina. He began leading worship at a young age and has been a church musician for over twenty years. Before joining the First Assembly staff in November 2013, Pastor Sawyer had previously served churches in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and Mobile, Alabama.
Pastor Jonathan graduated from Lee University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. While in college, he traveled in the United States and abroad with The Voices of Lee, an a capella ensemble most recently featured on ABC’s “The Sing-Off” and as part of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.
Pastor Sawyer is a skilled musician and an even more passionate worshiper. He oversees all areas of music ministry at First Assembly, including weekly worship services at the Central Campus, special events, and The Southwest Florida Creative Arts Academy. One of his greatest joys is to see people of all ages engage in worship together.
Pastor Jonathan is married to Christy who is the Dean of the Creative Arts Academy and his Administrative Assistant, and is thrilled to be a part of the First Assembly of God family. He and Christy believe whole-heartedly that “The best is yet to come!”
Courtney Blackwell is our most recently hired full-time staff member at First Assembly of God, working in music and women’s ministry! At 23 years old, she is fresh out of Lee University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Music, Voice.
Although still very young, Courtney has been singing and working to become a better musician since she was young. Born in Cordele, GA, Courtney was in chorus through elementary, middle, and high school- eventually being section leader and choreographer of her high school’s women’s and mixed choirs.
While at Lee, Courtney was a part of the Lee Singers- a traveling ensemble- her whole time. She worked as a leader in the choir as Alto Section Leader, as well as Student Director. In attempts to gain more musical experience and hone her craft, Courtney did two internships in college- one at Community Bible Church in Highlands, NC and the other at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers under Jonathan Sawyer.
Courtney’s biggest dream is to be an evangelist and travel and speak, all while continuing to sing! She is thrilled to be able to teach with us, and hopes to help children, adults, and even older adults learn to better express themselves through music, and most importantly giving their best gifts to the Lord!
Nicholas Hanaburgh is originally from Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida for drums and received his Bachelors in music. Nicholas studied under Ian Goodman while at Southeastern and specialized in jazz drumming. He was the drummer for the Christian touring group “Mike Burns Band.” Nicholas was also involved in jazz band as the drummer and percussion ensemble for Southeastern University. Nicholas has been teaching private lessons for years, and has loved enriching the lives of his students with the love of music and God. Nicholas has performed for Disney as well as for President Bush and Joyce Meyer. He has played for countless churches all over Florida and New York, but today he calls First Assembly of God his home church. Now, you can find Nicholas as the drummer at First Assembly using his gift of music for the Lord.
Joyce Marie Leyes is a Florida native who was born into a loving Christian family. At age five she began her musical journey, and later became the full-time church pianist at the age of twelve for a large church in Fort Myers. Knowing and answering God’s call upon her, she dedicated her life and professional career to Church Music and has never looked back.
Having given countless piano and vocal lessons to hundreds of students for over forty years, Joyce also taught Middle School Chorus in public schools, as well as owning her own private music studio. Joyce has been in recording studios from age 14 to the present working with many artists, as well as accompanying Grammy and Dove Award winners and well-known worldwide television/recording artists in concerts. She has been director of church choirs and vocal ensembles for many years and also recently was the Musical Director for the Creative Arts Academy’s production of the Broadway musical “Annie, Jr.”.
Joyce and her husband, Harold J. Leyes (also a musician), greatly enjoy traveling, photography, technology and attending college football games. They find that their greatest joy, throughout 28 years of marriage, has been serving the Lord through the avenue of playing together each week in their local church music ministry.
Bethany Smith is originally from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area and is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace University Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio with French horn as her major instrument. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree there as well as a Master of Music Education degree from Florida State University. In the past, Bethany has taught band in Colorado as well as Florida. She currently teaches elementary general music and band as well as middle school band and drama classes at Fort Myers Christian School. She also teaches private piano and band instrument lessons at the Southwest Florida Creative Arts Academy and enjoys playing as a member of the French horn section in the Gulf Coast Symphony.
Heidi Thompson received her undergraduate degree in 2013 from Southeastern University in piano performance under the instruction of Dr. Poung-ah Tak. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, some of Heidi’s first musical accomplishments were placing 3rd in the Dayton Philharmonic Junior High Competition for piano and violin. She later placed 2nd in a solo music competition for the state of Ohio as a high school freshman. When she was 16 years old she began studying piano as a student of Dr. Rackman at Sinclair Community College while taking college music courses. When she was 19 she performed Carnaval by Schumann for her graduation recital from Sinclair’s music department. Some of her other musical accomplishments include performing in a public masterclass for Paul Jacobs (the chairman of Julliard’s pipe organ department) and playing first violin in the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and in the orchestra at the university of Dayton while she was still in high school.
Steven Van Loozenoord
Steven, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has recently relocated to Fort Myers, Florida to serve as the Assistant Minister of Music at First Assembly. Right before this, Steven received his Bachelors of Music in Jazz Piano Performance from the Jacobs School of Music on the campus of Indiana University where he studied as a Jacobs Scholar, the most prestigious merit-based honor given by the conservatory.
Steven began formal lessons at the age of five and began playing at church at the age of ten. Steven’s love for all types of music has pushed him to pursue many different playing styles. This includes, but is not limited to: classical, jazz, latin, funk, and gospel music. In 2010, Steven took 1st place in the National Fine Arts Festival in the category of piano solo. Steven is also an accomplished arranger, composer, and music theorist.
As a teacher, Steven is very passionate about bringing the best out of his students, emphasizing both reading and ear training, as well as an artistic and emotional approach to interpretation.
Allison Van Loozenoord
Allison is originally from West Michigan. Her love for music was evident from an early age and as a child she recorded several children’s CD’s and sang on the radio broadcast “Keys for Kids” with Uncle Charlie. At age twelve, Allison began playing in the West Michigan Flute Association’s junior flute orchestra. She consistently placed Superior in Solo and Ensemble competitions at the state level and also in the national Fine Arts competition. She placed first in the state Fine Arts competition in 2011 with the help of her composer and accompanist, and now husband, Steven.
Allison graduated from Lee University with a minor in vocal performance under the instruction of Dr. Cheryl Brendel, a notable coloratura soprano. During this time, she traveled the United States and abroad singing first soprano for The Voices of Lee, an a cappella ensemble recognized most frequently from their runner-up finish in NBC’s “The Sing Off”. She performed for the 2013 Presidential Inauguration and in 2014 on America’s Got Talent. Since graduating in 2015, Allison married Steven Van Loozenoord and the two happily relocated to sunny Southwest Florida.
James Williams is 38 years old, and has been teaching the Guitar and Bass guitar in Southwest Florida for 13 years. He has taught hundreds of people around Lee County to play. Notable achievements include a Full-Sail Scholarship, a student becoming a trained Guitar Luthier, as well as albums being recorded by students including Luke Yurich, an up and coming artist. Students have performed in bands and as solo artists, in their Churches and in schools. Most students stick with the lessons, with many taking lessons for 3 years and longer. James also teaches the Ukelele, and is working on becoming a Piano and Drums instructor. James also performs regularly in his Church band. All ages are welcome.