Making a Difference through Music

By: Hannah Guile and Sarah Bethea

During most nights of the week, you can find Ciaran Sontag playing at different venues around Jacksonville. His love of performing and his extroverted personality make for an enjoyable experience as he sings versions of popular songs ranging from Ed Sheeran to Bob Marley.

A Philadelphia native, Sontag uses music as a way to connect with the community, but more importantly, as a way to connect with his students. He is the music teacher at the North Florida School for Special Education. He got his start with the school after performing at a birthday party for one of the students. Sontag knew he had come across a special place and wanted to get involved in any way that he could.

“That was when I really realized, wow these are some incredible people. I want to work with these people, I want to be involved with this school, with whatever is going on. I think that this is my calling right here,” said Sontag.

Sontag tries to motivate his students to find their calling, no matter what it may be.
Dawn Boles, a former student, says Sontag was her inspiration to keep on singing.

“I told him at the end of our graduation, that his music class helped me build up my music strength for me to pursue my singing dream for my grandfather who passed a few years ago. He always said to me as a little girl, ‘DWB one of these days, you’re going to be a famous singer and I will be right there watching you.’”

Before graduating from Jacksonville University and teaching with the school, Sontag would help the NFSSE with organizing their yearly talent show. It was during a moving performance by two students that got the entire crowd to sing along, Sontag knew he’d found his home.

“That kind of sums up my mission, I’m here for a really important purpose. To help these
students share their stories, their passions, and their incredible gifts with the world.”

To see where Ciaran will be performing next, visit his website at