Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN)
Charlotte Harbor Soundings (Volume 6, Issue 2)

Frank Tuma has been a CHEVWQMN volunteer since 1998. Truly dedicated, he does “double duty” monitoring two sites in Pine Island Sound. One is located inside Red Fish Pass and the other is near the western tip of Sanibel, outside Wulfert Channel. Spending the night before sampling day on his boat at the first site enables him to efficiently sample both sites at sunrise.  Frank has two children and five grandchildren. He frequently takes along his grandchildren and other guests to assist him and experience a glorious sunrise over the water.

Frank is a classic, self-proclaimed overachiever. Pine Islanders and Internet fans know him as “Island Frank,” the musician who specializes in Caribbean and South American music.  Frank has composed over 200 unique songs on 19 CDs and performs at parties and special functions. This naturally gifted musician began his career at the age of three while yodeling on the front porch!  Music helped pay his way through college, but was not a lifestyle that he wanted to pursue full time.  Instead, he focused his career on another passion — physics. He worked for the Department of Defense and with NASA on the Apollo program writing mathematical models and procedures and training astronauts. He himself served as a “guinea pig” in flight simulators. Since retirement, he retains a love of space exploration and keeps up on new research and discoveries in the field.

In addition to music, Frank has yet another love, the martial arts, which he mastered as a counter to his stressful career. With a black belt in five different areas, he currently teaches Tai Chi classes each week to help others stay active and to keep himself ” controlled, relaxed and at peace.” Complementary to the martial arts, Frank has also studied Eastern philosophies including Taoism. His deep love of nature, especially the water, is a source of strength and inspiration. A world traveler, he once represented Ecuador in a sailing trip to the Galapagos. Latin America remains his favorite destination where he has found kindred spirits who share his love of nature and music.

Special thanks to Frank for his contributions to our program.  His enthusiasm and zest for life keep him busy, but he still finds time to volunteer. As Frank has said, “You’ve got 24 hours in each day, so you have to use them.”

If you would like more information on CHEVWMQN monitoring program or would like to volunteer for a couple of hours once a month collecting water samples in our area, please call Melynda Schneider-Brown at 941-575-5861. Training and equipment are free.

Melynda Schneider-Brown, Environmental Specialist

Bahamas brings out beach bum in musician
Ex-physicist inspired by island beat on keyboard


Eyes closed and his head moving to the rhythm, Frank Tuma’s fingers dance across the keyboard. From the ping-ping of the steel drums’ lively salsa beat, Tuma loses himself in the island world of his imagination.

“It just flows out of me,” he said. “At night I’m looking up at the stars and the energy just flows. I come back up here and I’m blossoming.”

Tuma’s island music comes from his inner beach bum, a persona that was mostly put on hold during Tuma’s 38 years as a physicist with Boeing.

“When I retired I said, ‘I have time to put into this.'” he said.

Tuma, who grew up in Ohio, always had a musical ear and started yodeling almost as soon as he could talk.

He got his love of music from his mother, but his father also dabbled, albeit with less acumen. “My dad was awful,” Tuma said. “He played the banjo and he was terrible, but you couldn’t tell him that.”

Tuma took piano lessons from age 4, but found the music uninspiring. “I didn’t like the lack of color in the music,’ he said. “Then, my teachers started giving me Latin music. Finally, my teacher told my mom, “Let him develop his own styles and techniques. He’s really rebelling.” That’s when I started changing.

Through the years, Tuma listened to Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, and started falling for heavy, syncopated beats. While working at Cape Canaveral, he took a trip to the Bahamas that started his journey to a new kind of music.

“The songs made an emotional impression on me,” he said. “What came out was my response to the music. That’s better than parroting the music.”

Pine Island resident Frank Tuma plays his keyboard in his home recently. Tuma produces his own CDs and performs on the island.

Tuma makes it clear to audiences that he is not Jimmy Buffett, nor does he want to be. His music conjures up those same images of being on a beach, with a cold drink in hand and a fiery orange sunset on the horizon, but Tuma is about originality.

His songs are instrumentals, allowing listeners to put their own experiences into the music, Tuma said.

“Words interrupt your thoughts,” he said. “Everybody’s an actor on their own stage. With this music they’re playing out their own lives in their mind. I don’t want to interrupt them.”

Tuma, 70, composes at his keyboard as many as 12 hours a day, often working late into the night. He has compiled 15 CDs since releasing his first in 2002. He’s almost finished with another one. He sells them on his website and has customers all over the world. His local fans are just as sold on Tuma’s tunes.

Pine Island resident Clair Amos purchased two of Tuma’s CDs and regularly invites him to play at Pine Island Garden Club events.

“He’s in it for the enjoyment”, she said.

“I love his songs because they’re island songs,” Amos said. “They’re nice and easygoing.” Amos said one of the most appealing aspects of Tuma’s music is his enthusiasm for what he creates.”

Tuma, who tempers his passion for music with tai chi, shares his life and his keyboard with partner, Sharon Traylor, a green-cheeked Amazon parrot named Sinbad and dog Sadie.

Because Tuma composes his songs using headphones instead of speakers, Traylor usually doesn’t hear his creations until he has a finished product.

“It paints a picture,” Traylor said of the music. “It’s so different. I can honestly say I haven’t heard any other music that I would mistake for his.”

Traylor, 64, uploads Tuma’s music onto CDs once he has completed a tune, helps maintain the website and chooses the cover art, typically a photo she has taken or a piece of her artwork.

“It’s whatever goes with the music,” she said.

Traylor likely has more photos to shoot because Tuma isn’t about to run out of ideas.

“I just want to keep composing until it stops coming,” he said. “I keep getting better and better.”

To check out Frank Tuma’s Island music, go online to