Tom Sweitzer, M.A., MT-BC, Executive Director, Co-Founder
Tom is a Certified Music Therapist and Director of A Place To Be. He graduated in 1994 from Shenandoah University with a BFA degree in Music Theater. Shortly thereafter he became head of the Theater Department for 17 years at The Hill School in Middleburg, VA. As Artistic Director of The Hill Playhouse, he produced many years of professional productions. He directed and was a Writer/Composer for Very Special Arts of Loudoun County. He received his Master's Certificate in Music Therapy in 2010 and opened A Place To Be in 2011. In May of 2017, he graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Masters Degree in Music Therapy. Tom is also on the Virginia Task Force for the American Music Therapy Association helping make Music Therapy a more relevant, secure and understood therapy within the construct of federal policies and the public. He also is an adjunct professor at Shenandoah University's Music Therapy Graduate program. Within the last two years he has acted as a consultant and ambassador for the Balgopal School in Baroda, India teaching and supporting faculty in their work with students who are disabled.
Tom has written several original musicals, most recently “Puzzle Piece” which is about a family living with Autism. After his musical, “Giggles”, premiered at The Smithsonian, Tom was invited, along with two of his students, to visit the White House to meet the President and his wife in 2010. Tom has been a Guest Speaker and Teacher at Shenandoah University, George Mason University, and The Disability Summit in McLean, Va, and at The Virginia Association of Independent Schools. Tom also stays active as a professional actor and most recently performed as “Donkey” in Shrek the Musical and Leo Bloom in “The Producers” at Shenandoah Summer Music Theater. He, along with several of his clients, are subjects of a Documentary about the power of Music Therapy. The film is being directed by Award winning Documentary Film Maker, Susan Koch.
He enjoys writing original songs with his students and often shares the talents of those he mentors with the community, reinforcing the idea that creation is to be shared. Tom has had over 20 years of working with people from all walks of life and is excited to see A Place To Be become a reality. He hopes it creates a safe and creative haven for those people who are looking for “A Place To Be.”
Kim Tapper, PCC, CPCC, Executive Director, Co-Founder
Kim has been working with youth and adults for over 20 years as a teacher, director, choreographer, life coach, expressive arts therapist and mentor. She is credentialed as a Professional Certified Life Coach (ICF), CPCC (CTI) and holds an M.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Dance Movement Therapy.
Kim coaches individuals to expand their possibilities, reach their personal goals and engage completely in their lives. She specializes in working on the psychosocial/emotional side of coping with medical challenges and disabilities (cancer, Lyme disease, cerebral palsy, etc.) and with teenagers and adults ages 13+ building self esteem and confidence, healing from trauma and grief, or struggling with anxiety, depression, or self-harm. Kim has also served as a group facilitator for teenage girls in multiple settings ranging from self esteem workshops to young women’s leadership groups. She created “Life Beyond Diagnosis” workshops for oncology patients focusing on acceptance and survivorship issues and is a member of INOVA’s STAR certified oncology team. Kim has been a guest speaker and teacher for Life With Cancer, George Mason University, VSA Intersections Festival, at the Disabilities Accessibility Summit and she served as an ambassador for the Balgopal School in Baroda, India teaching and supporting faculty in their work to use therapeutic arts with students with disabilities.
Prior to A Place To Be, Kim co-founded and served as Artistic Director of the Creative Youth Theater Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to teens in the arts creating productions addressing bullying and teenage struggles, and using musical theater to help youth find their voice. For 10 years, Kim served as Life Coach, special needs consultant and choreographer at the Hill School and Hill Playhouse in Middleburg, VA. In her professional dance career, Kim served as the co-Artistic Director of Crossroads Dance Project, a non-profit modern dance company dedicated to bridging communities together through dance. Her acclaimed choreography focused on raising awareness and visibility for underserved populations and across cultural boundaries, and received multiple nominations from the Metro DC Dance awards. She has choreographed and directed over 25 musical theater productions including her original theatrical production, "Reflection", about body image and womens' self worth. Her book of poetry, “Behind The Label,” inspired by the clients at A Place To Be, became the basis for their production now seen by 30,000 students and counting.
Kim is deeply committed to the mission of helping people live a full, confident life beyond their label or diagnosis. She believes in the power of the arts and coaching, creating safe spaces and authentic compassion to help people live their best lives knowing they are worthy.
Angelle Cook, MA, RDT, Program Director
Angelle has been working with individuals from various populations (special needs, at-risk youth, mental health issues, college students) since 2002. She holds a Master’s Degree in Theatre Education from Emerson College. While at Emerson, she focused on how theater can be used therapeutically and for social change with various populations. Additionally, in graduate school, she studied Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed method. Angelle employed this method in her thesis project: "Using Theatre of the Oppressed with Youth Offenders: Working to Improve Collaboration, Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills,"within an all-male revocation facility.
In 2016; she completed another advanced degree in Drama Therapy with the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) and became a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT). Drama therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals. This approach can provide the context for participants to tell their stories, set goals and solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. As an RDT, Angelle uses the power of theater to support participants as they process, tell, and overcome their stories, along with helping them work through other obstacles in their lives.
Angelle is the Program Director at A Place To Be and works directly with the groups and programs, including the social groups; The Same Sky Project; Lunch Bunch; Summer Camps; and the Immersion Program. As Program Director, Angelle has her hands in all that APTB does from meeting new clients, to planning and running core programs, to directing and touring with The Same Sky Project.
In 2005, while finishing her undergraduate degree in Theatre, she founded and helped run a non-profit which raised funds for lower-income families to participate in after-school arts activities. From 2010-2012, Angelle spent two seasons with VSA Arts as Director. In the past she has worked at The Academy of Performing Arts in Arizona running their theater program, with The Hill School and with The Creative Youth Theatre Foundation in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Since 2013 she has taught collegiate courses at Lord Fairfax College. In her free time she writes and is working on her fourth novel, a historical fiction story set from 1938-1944.
John Tong, Senior Director of Finance and Administration
John’s responsibilities include the development and maintenance of financial plans, reports, budgets, forecasts, accounting systems and ensuring fiscal transparency for A Place To Be. Additionally, he assists the Executive Directors in strategic decision-making and manages human resources, technology and administration for the organization.
John has 15 years of management experience across both the not-for-profit and nonprofit communities. Prior to his work with A Place To Be, he spent years in advocacy on behalf of homeless veterans and as the Chief Operating Officer for a national, insurance brokerage trade association. John also worked in the Office of Planning and Evaluation for the Department of Social Services in Charlotte, NC.
John is also an award-winning public speaker and is a professional storyteller and teacher. A former North Carolina Oratorical Champion, John has performed at the Lincoln Theater, the 9:30 Club, the Birchmere and numerous other venues in the National Capitol Area. He believes passionately in the power for healing and catharsis that expressive arts can hold for individuals and communities.
John received his Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and a B.A. of Political Science from Reed College in Portland, OR.
Ceara Chiapparelli, MT-BC
Ceara holds a graduate certificate in music therapy from Shenandoah University, a Master's in vocal performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College and a Bachelor's in vocal performance from West Chester University. She is in the final stages of thesis writing on grants and endowments in the arts for her Master's in music therapy also from Shenandoah where she completed additional Doctoral studies in voice disorders. Ceara also holds a Virginia State Teacher's License, Music K-12.
Ceara completed her internship at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. There she worked in pediatrics, and acute and out-patient oncology. Since that time, Ceara has worked with several organizations specializing in hospice, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and private practice. Her work at A Place To Be is focused on acute care in the hospital setting, long term care and school aged students in groups and individual sessions.
Prior to becoming a music therapist Ceara worked as adjunct voice faculty at Raritan Valley Community College, and in the K-12 public school system as the Vocal/Choral Director. Ceara recently relocated to Virginia with her husband and son, and is thrilled to have found A Place To Be. She firmly believes in the power of music to help people transcend difficulties and realize their full potential.
Ashley Gant, MMT, MT-BC
Ashley Jewell has been at A Place To Be since 2012. She graduated from Shenandoah University with her Bachelor's of Music Therapy degree and received her Music Therapy Board Certification in November 2012. She graduated with her Master's of Music Therapy from Shenandoah in May of 2016. Through school, clinical practice, and personal research, Ashley is working on two different research projects; one that focuses on group music therapy with adults with developmental disabilities, and one that explores the professional identity development of music therapists.
Over the years, Ashley has had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients, each with their own challenges, strengths, and personalities. She enjoys working with school aged individuals on the autism spectrum, adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities, children as young as 2 with Down syndrome, mature adults recovering from a stroke, and everything in between. In addition to offering individual sessions, Ashley is very involved with many other programs at A Place To Be. From Lunch Bunch to Immersion, 10 and Under Music Therapy Group to Middle School Girls Group, preschool to adult music therapy, and Pop Rocks camps; Ashley uses these opportunities to help individuals of all ages socialize, communicate, connect, serve, and live.
Ashley’s primary instrument is piano, but she also plays guitar along with a number of other woodwind, brass, and string instruments. Ashley brings a positive and upbeat attitude to her music therapy services and believes in finding the individuals’ personal music within themselves to attain their therapeutic goals.
Ray Leone, MT-BC
Ray is a graduate of Shenandoah University and Montclair State University and comes to A Place To Be directly from spending most of the past year at The Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai/Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. At Beth Israel, Ray specialized in working in radiation oncology/cancer care, pain management and in the respiratory/COPD units, providing music therapy in acute and out-patient care. Ray has also had the opportunity to work with various other populations including children with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities, acute psychiatric care and with older adults with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Ray also brings with him over 20 years experience as a teacher and professional musician, having spent the past 10 years as the lead singer/guitarist and principle songwriter for the critically acclaimed family-friendly rock band StarFish. He's also brought his family-friendly program "Beatles & Bubblegum" to several schools, libraries and performing arts centers in the New York tri-state area and now to the D.C. Metro area.
Clinically, Ray works within a Humanistic and Psychodynamic approach believing that the client, with guidance, can and will lead their own direction towards therapeutic change and well being. Song-writing, song-sensation and story-telling are Ray's main areas of clinical method, believing that songs accompany us through life and provide meanings which we all can identify with as well as bringing awareness to our own thoughts and feelings. Songs lyrics can project our own feelings, especially for those who have difficulty with emotional expression. Ray truly believes in the power of music and when working clinically, finding the beauty and aesthetic within the art and within oneself.
Allison Echard, MT-BC
Allison is a board-certified music therapist, born and raised in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She received her Bachelor's degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University and has recently returned to SU to pursue a Master's degree in Music Therapy. Allison completed her internship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio where she worked with patients and families on all medical units, inpatient and residential psychiatric units, and patients receiving in-home hospice and palliative care. She has since worked in the DC/Metro area, providing music therapy services to individuals and groups in public schools, private clinics, community centers, nursing home facilities, and adult group homes.
Allison has also worked and trained music therapy students abroad in Jamaica through the Jamaica Field Service project. She is currently the Director of Chimers, a performance-based group of adults with a variety of abilities and challenges led by music therapy students and sponsored by NW Works Inc. Aside from music therapy, Allison enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with family, and singing in the DC a capella group, The Capital Hearings.
Kevin Leong, MA, MT-BC, NMT
Kevin graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Master of Arts in Music Therapy. During this period, he had obtained specialized training in Neurologic Music Therapy. Prior to joining A Place to Be, he had worked and trained at several institutions; these include Massachusetts General Hospital, Rosie’s Place, McLean Hospital, Hale House and several other assisted living facilities within the greater Boston region. At Massachusetts General Hospital, Kevin had worked in pediatric oncology, pediatric intensive care unit, adult oncology, inpatient psychiatric care and adult inpatient care. Additionally, Kevin helped facilitate a joint collaboration between Berklee and Rosie’s Place to bring songwriting to homeless women in an effort to help guests better assimilate into American society. He also had the opportunity to work with various other populations including children with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities, and older adults with dementia and other forms of neurological impairments.
Hailing from Malaysia, Kevin speaks four languages and is aware of the cultural differences across multiple societies. As a therapist, Kevin is familiar with music-centered, person-centered, cognitive behavioral and neurologic approaches. His primary instrument is the piano, but he also plays the guitar, bass, drums and sings.
Lisa Mattia, Operations Director
Lisa comes to A Place To Be with more than 25 years of experience in professional musical theater, beginning as a touring pianist and growing into operational roles as company manager, general manager, and ultimately Director of Operations. As Director of Operations she handled budgeting, financial forecasting and executive planning for over 15 years as employee #1 for an innovative theater production company.
As a professional piano player Lisa launched her career as a touring musician with national and international tours of Singin' In The Rain, 42nd Street, Gypsy, Meet Me In St Louis, Grease, and many others where she took on additional responsibilities as associate musical director, tutor for school-age actors, and company manager.
Lisa continues to share her love of the arts by volunteering as a piano accompanist for regional theaters, choral groups and school organizations. She is a founding board member of the Lucketts Bluegrass Foundation and has served on the board of the VSA Arts of Loudoun County.
Lisa holds advanced degrees in business administration and fine arts nonprofit management from Southern Methodist University, and bachelor's degrees in music education and business from Shepherd University.
Rich Hixon, Client and Volunteer Services Coordinator
Rich’s passion for music and other performing arts has been ever present throughout his career. He has worked as a store manager for a DC-Metro based music retail chain, as a retail sales manager for JazzTimes magazine, and for membership services of the Smithsonian Institutes’ Resident Associate Program.
From 2000 until 2016, Rich worked for a theatrical producer as a touring Company Manager and Associate General Manager for theater productions in North America, Argentina, Israel and South Korea.
He recently completed an internship as a Social Work Case Manager at the Washington County Department of Social Services in Hagerstown, MD. In May of 2017, Rich graduated, summa cum laude, from Salisbury University with a bachelor degree in Social Work.
Through volunteer work, Rich has delivered meals to home-bound clients with HIV/AIDS diagnosis, provided companionship and light housekeeping chores to hospice patients, and provided mentorship to at-risk youth through a diversion program of the Department of Juvenile Services.
Ben Waring, Digital Media & Marketing Coordinator
Ben is a graduate of James Madison University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with an Industrial/Organizational concentration. In college, he was the Director of Sponsor Relations for SafeRides Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, safe rides home to students on the weekends. He fundraised for several education events focusing on raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving. He gained more leadership experience serving as a Site Manager for Intramural Sports and Special Events for the University Recreation Department.
Ben volunteered for his first A Place To Be summer camp 7 years ago, during the production of “Diary”. He has returned and worked every summer camp since, and is now a full-time staff member as of September 2016. Ben handles digital media coordination for A Place To Be, in addition to handling IT needs.
Christine Krieger, ACT, PH, RYT 500, KYT 500, GG, Transforming Life Facilitator
Integrative health, through ancient and modern healing paths, is the approach that Christine follows while working with clients at A Place To Be. Each person deserves personal attention through opportunities and new possibilities. She mines for the gifts and talents that are waiting to be discovered. Christine creates a safe environment for the revelation of the expansive value, worth and miracles that exist within each of us. A Place To Be invites everyone to explore the vast universe contained within them. Through movement, mindful awareness, breathing and acceptance of habitual patterns, we can motivate a shift towards balanced choices. Love, compassion, consistency, stability and empathy, along with the expressive arts, are her main tools. Christine’s forty five years of experience, research, deep listening, study in spiritual modalities, nutrition, meditation, ahimsa-nonharming, medicinal plants, Yoga Nidra, Ayurveda, breath work, Arts Administration, gemology, dance, singing and world travel have been an intricately woven tapestry to produce a sound foundation of knowledge and wisdom in health and wellness. Now her cup is overflowing into the lives of many who participate in her workshops, classes, private sessions,speaking engagements and retreats. Her boundless passion is for Ayurveda, integrative holistic health, alignment, well-being, balance, and for bringing joy back into life. Christine sows the seeds of renewal, restoration, inspiration, transformation and relaxation for those she works with in the beautiful garden of A Place To Be.
Meagan Mckinnon, Support Staff
Meagan is a Support Staff member for A Place To Be. She does everything from managing inventory to mentoring in social groups. She graduated high school from Obridge Academy in 2016 and had her graduation ceremony at APTB. Meagan is now studying Interior Design at NVCC.
Meagan started volunteering at APTB in Fall of 2014. She was a caregiver to a client of APTB who introduced her to the Same Sky Project show, "Behind The Label". After sitting through a few rehearsals of the show, Meagan knew she wanted to be a part of APTB. She began volunteering for the Same Sky Project show that Fall. Meagan continued to volunteer for many other things including social skills through theatre group, two different girls' social groups, Christmas recitals, Summer camp, etc. At the beginning of Fall 2015 Meagan joined the APTB team as a staff member. Since then, Meagan has worked with more social groups including Sister Strong and Immersion. She has also been a part of 4 Same Sky Project shows as a cast member, mentor, and backstage helper. Meagan has most recently taken on an administrative role, helping in the office with our business manager, Lisa Mattia. Meagan strives to empower and encourage others, and believes that A Place To Be is achieving that with their mission.
Music Therapy Interns
Purvaa Sampath graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2017, with a dual degree in Music Therapy and Performance. During her time in Boston, Purvaa had the opportunity to work at Perkins School for the Blind, Sherill House, Rosie’s Place, Beth Israel Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. She interned with A Place To Be in the spring and summer of 2017 and worked in multiple settings including individual sessions, hospice care, mental health facilities and INOVA’s outpatient stroke rehab group - Different Strokes for Different Folks.
She was also one of the members of Drummassage - a performance based form of therapy, using a set of Native American drums and the drums’ capabilities for low frequencies and quiet, repetitive rhythms. Purvaa was also a member of the Berklee Indian Ensemble for 3 years and performed with internationally recognized artists like A.R.Rahman, Vijay Prakash and Shankar Mahadevan.
Having grown up in India, Purvaa is trained in Indian classical music and was inspired to become a music therapist when she saw how music impacted the lives of the people around her. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of holistic healing is a part of her lifestyle too. As a new music therapist, she identifies with a person-centered approach that integrates the importance of holistic healing of the mind body and soul. She believes that music, science and spirituality are the pillars of evolution in music therapy and looks forward to working towards incorporating that in her identity as a music therapist.
Brandon graduated from Berklee College of Music in May of 2017 with a major in Music Therapy. During his three years at Berklee Brandon learned from and worked alongside professional music therapists. At Little Sprouts Early Education & Child Care Brandon focused on developmental, behavioral, and social skills. He led large group sessions for elders with comorbid Alzheimer’s diagnoses at Rogerson House. He co-led community-based music therapy sessions at Peterborough Senior Center for seniors and adolescents. He utilized person-centered therapy at The Manville School with adolescents on the autism spectrum and with general anxiety disorder. In his final practicum, Brandon deepened his knowledge and practice of Neurologic Music Therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Brandon has volunteered at Boston Children’s Hospital with MyMusicRx, pioneered a capital campaign in partnership with Franciscan Children’s Hospital, Berklee Music Therapy, and The Boston Globe to raise money for a new hospital wing, worked as a sighted-guide/tutor for a client with multiple debilitating diagnoses for the last year, and this past summer Brandon volunteered as a guide for music therapy students at Peterborough Senior Center.
Aside from music therapy, Brandon is an accomplished musician. He has toured internationally, been on television, worked in social media marketing, served as a frontman, multi-instrumentalist, and leader for 7 bands, and spends his free time going on adventures with friends and writing songs. Brandon attributes his leadership abilities to Scouts and his mother whose encouragement helped him achieve his Eagle Scout Rank by high school. In Irving, Texas Brandon was raised amongst a diverse international community. As a result, Brandon has a tough time not liking people. He is patient, understanding, and accepting – warm and loving. Brandon is excited to join A Place To Be over the next few months and cultivate his knowledge of and approaches to music therapy.
Michelle is a current music therapy intern from Transfer, Pennsylvania. She attended Slippery Rock University just north of Pittsburgh, PA where she completed a degree in Music Therapy with a concentration in voice and a minor in gerontology. While at SRU, Michelle was involved in various choirs and clubs; most notedly mentoring for the Transition Achievement Program (TAP) for individuals with intellectual disabilities. She also was a cantor for a local parish and has assisted as a camp counselor at music camps in the Slippery Rock and Erie, PA communities. Michelle holds a lifeguard certification and enjoys swimming aside from music therapy.
As a developing intern and clinician, Michelle has attended regional and national music therapy conferences. She's had numerous rewarding practicum placements that include hospice and a children's hospital. Michelle gears sessions with a person centered approach; treating the WHOLE person and their specific needs in that moment. She is blessed to call A Place to Be her home away from home for internship and looks forward to the journey ahead!
Khyla is a Music Therapy major from Immaculata University. Along with her major, she also completed a psychology minor. She was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success during the winter of 2016. Ways that her leadership has been shown over the years we're through being on the eboard for various clubs on Immaculata's campus, volunteering with local organizations and being a peer mentor to other Immaculata students.
Khyla is a music therapy intern with A Place to Be. When informed about the possibility of working with Tom Sweitzer in the show, she was immediately open to helping out in anyway she could. A Will to Survive will be Khyla's 6th theatrical show.