It’s going to be hard for Danny Cortolillo to teach his guitar students without any musical instruments. This is what Cortolillo is facing after a house fire gutted his new home in Clermont Thursday, May 7. He and his girlfriend, Nicole Hajewsky, also a musician, are safe, but they have lost everything, escaping only with the clothes they were wearing.
Cortolillo is in his first year as director of guitar studies at Bridgewater Middle School. He and Hajewsky lost at least 30 instruments in the fire, including vintage guitars, a vintage keyboard, 15 guitars, three bass guitars, drums, an accordion, banjo, five amplifiers and stereo equipment.
An investigation continues at the charred home, which the couple purchased in August. Cortolillo said he has no idea how the fire started but it appears to have originated in the backyard. He and Hajewsky awoke to an intense fire and barely made it out, he said. He slipped and fell while running out of the house, and there were injuries to his knees and wrist.
Neither were burned or suffered from smoke inhalation.
Coworker and friend Christiane Lynch said she has been in touch with Orange County Public Schools to see if any instruments can be made available for the music teacher. She also has set up a GoFundMe account in hopes the community will rally together to help the couple.
Cortolillo said both are in need of clothing, so part of the financial donations will go toward the purchase of new wardrobes.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the GoFundMe donations,” Cortolillo said. He currently is staying in a rental home in Clermont.
“My next plan is to follow up with insurance, get an MRI done on my knees and inventory my personal property,” he said.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.