Tom Sweitzer

Co-Founder & Creative Director

Tom is a Certified Music Therapist and Co-Founder 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 Graduate Certificate in Music Therapy in 2010 and opened A Place To Be. In May of 2017, he graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Master’s 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 has been an adjunct professor at Shenandoah University’s Music Therapy Graduate program, and been 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. His shows have been performed at the Kennedy Center and The Smithsonian, and in 2010 he and his students were invited to the White House to meet the President and first lady. 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 has headlined his own off-broadway show, Meatballs and Music. He, along with several of his clients, are subjects of the documentary Music Got Me Here, about the power of Music Therapy.

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Kim Tapper

Co-Founder & Community Director

Kim has been working with youth and adults for over 25 years as a teacher, director, choreographer, life coach and in the expressive arts therapies.  She is a Professional Certified Life Coach, Certified Trauma Professional, and holds an M.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Dance Movement Therapy. 

As the Co-Founder of APTB, she has created a community for individuals and their families to feel seen, heard, valued and wrapped in love and kindness as they come into the fullest expression of themselves. As a life coach and expressive arts practitioner, Kim helps individuals expand their possibilities and engage completely in their lives. She specializes in working on the psychosocial/emotional side of coping with having, or having a loved one with, medical challenges and disabilities. She has also worked extensively with teens and adults building self-esteem and confidence, healing from trauma and grief, or coping with anxiety, depression, or self-harm. Kim created “Life Beyond Diagnosis” workshops for people focusing on defining their identity and life beyond illness, and has also served as a group facilitator for teens in multiple settings ranging from self-esteem workshops to leadership and empathy building groups. She has been a speaker and workshop leader for Life With Cancer, Inova Cardiac Stress Clinic, George Mason University, VSA Intersections Festival, the Disabilities Accessibility Summit, among others, and at the Balgopal School in Baroda, India teaching about the therapeutic arts for people with disabilities.  Her recent book of musings, Finding Light (2021), explores hope, resilience, and the possibilities that lie in each of us and the world around us.

Prior to A Place To Be, Kim co-founded and served as Artistic Director of the Creative Youth Theater Foundation and served as life coach, disability consultant and choreographer at the Hill School/Hill Playhouse in Middleburg, VA and in freelance work around the DC/NOVA region. In her dance career, Kim served as the co-Artistic Director of Crossroads Dance Project. Her acclaimed choreography focused on bridging communities together with stories of our shared humanity. She has choreographed and/or directed over 25 musical theater productions, including her original show, “Reflection”, about body image and women’s’ self-worth, and 30 original modern dance works.  Her book of poetry, “Behind The Label,” inspired by the clients at A Place To Be, became the basis for their touring production seen by over 40,000 students.

Kim is deeply committed to creating safe spaces filled with authentic compassion, resilience, and wonder that help people live their best lives knowing they are “enough.”

Dr. Judy Hanley

Executive Director

Judith Hanley, Ph.D. joined our team as Executive Director in Feb 2022. Prior to that, Dr. Hanley was the Director of the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center (CAC), which is a program of LAWS before transitioning to the Executive Director position which changed to the CEO position. She was employed there from 2007 to 2022. She was awarded the 2010 Crime Victims Service Award presented by Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Victim Witness Program for outstanding service to Crime Victims as evidenced by the successful development and operation of the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center. In 2018, she was awarded the SCAN award which honors five remarkable heroes working to protect children, support families, and prevent child abuse and neglect across Northern Virginia.

Dr. Hanley earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland at College Park in human development specializing in child development, with an emphasis on child brain development research in 1999. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Allegheny College with a minor in philosophy. She is a highly respected and accomplished visionary leader with both research and practical experience in child welfare, family support and strengthening, child development and other related fields. Dr. Hanley has 22 years of experience with developing, managing, operating, sustaining, and overseeing all aspects of innovative programs and administration of nonprofits. Dr. Hanley grew the revenue for LAWS from 1.7 million in FY18 to 3.6 million in FY21. nder Dr. Hanley’s leadership, voters chose LAWS as Best of Loudoun 2019 and 2021 Non-Profit/Civic Support Organization of the year by Loudoun Times Mirror; Nonprofit of the Year by Loudoun Now, and numerous other awards. Dr. Hanley is skilled at overseeing all aspects of financial management. She is a proven leader with excellent management skills driving performance, program improvement and quality initiatives.

Judy is deeply passionate about providing everyone: clients, client’s parents, staff, volunteers and board members with support to increase hope.

Ray Leone

Director of Medical Music Therapy

Ray is a board-certified music therapist and is the Director of our Medical Music Therapy division, overseeing and managing the music therapy program at the Inova Healthcare System. Ray helped pilot the program in the summer of 2015, which has now grown into one of the largest medical music therapy programs in the country with A Place To Be music therapists providing music therapy at multiple locations throughout the Inova system.

In January 2019, Ray’s research study, Impact Of An Active Music Therapy Intervention On Intensive Care Patients was published in the American Journal of Critical Care. Ray is a graduate of Shenandoah University (Masters in Music Therapy and recipient of The Shenandoah Conservatory Excellence in Research Award) and Montclair State University. Prior to coming to A Place To Be, Ray spent time at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai/Beth Israel Hospitals in New York City. At Mount Sinai, Ray specialized in working in oncology and critical care, developing music therapy techniques to help reduce pain and anxiety.

Clinically, Ray works within a Humanistic and Person-Centered approach, believing that the client or patient, with guidance, can and will lead their own direction towards therapeutic change and well-being. Clinical improvisation, song sensation/lyric analysis and clinical songwriting are Ray’s main area of clinical method, believing that “songs accompany us through life and provide meanings which we all can identify. Song lyrics can project our own feelings, especially for those who have difficulty with emotional expression.” Ray also brings with him over 25 years-experience as a teacher and professional musician, including over 10 years as the lead singer/guitarist and principal songwriter for the critically acclaimed, New Jersey based family-friendly rock band StarFish. Ray truly believes in the power of music and, when working clinically, helping others to find the beauty, art an aesthetic within oneself. 

Rich Hixon

Director of Client and Family Services

Rich’s passion for music and theatrical arts has been ever present in his career. He has worked as a store manager for a DC-Metro based music retail chain, as a sales manager for JazzTimes magazine, and Smithsonian Institution’s resident associate program.

For nearly two decades, Rich worked for an international theatrical producer as General Manager and Company Manager for live stage productions traveling across North America, Argentina, Israel and South Korea.

In 2017, Rich graduated summa cum laude from Salisbury University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Following graduation, Rich was employed as a Case Manager for Project Home, a senior mental health residential program and as an investigator with Maryland’s Department of Human Resources Adult Protective Services.  

Through volunteer work, Rich has delivered meals to home-bound individuals with HIV/AIDS, 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.   

In his spare time, Rich enjoys attending live music and theatre performances, traveling, exploring National Parks, trail running and competing in ultra-marathons.  

Amy VanMeter

Scheduling & Events Coordinator

Amy is originally from Atlanta.  After falling in love with the Shenandoah Valley, she relocated to Winchester with her family in 2009.  Amy has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, with a focus on Public Relations, from the University of West Georgia.  Amy’s love for music began at an early age when her childhood dream was to be a pop singer.  She outgrew that dream but maintained a connection to music throughout school by participating in activities such as band and chorus.

After starting her career in Marketing, Amy discovered a love for event planning.  She spent the next 20 years as an entrepreneur and event planner, assisting clients in creating beautiful weddings and events.  Being connected to her community has always been important to Amy.  She has previously served on the boards of First Night Winchester, Women of Winchester, and the Shenandoah Wedding Professionals.  She enjoys volunteering with the United Way.

Nikki Grigsby

Administration & Facilities Manager

Nikki graduated from Virginia Western Community College Magna Cum Laude in 2021, with an Associate degree in English, and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Education and Spanish. She has a diverse career background ranging from providing childcare to Human Resources and Grocery Store Management. She is an avid lover of music and the arts, and in her spare time writes music, poetry, and short stories. Nikki is a lover of traveling and languages. Having previously traveled to Finland, Sweden, and Estonia, she enjoys exploring the Scandinavian countryside learning the languages and meeting new people. 

Kevin Leong

Medical Music Therapist/ Director of Music Education

Kevin has been with A Place to Be for 5 years and is currently working dual roles, both as a medical music therapist at Inova Hospital Systems, and as the Director of Music Therapy Education at A Place To Be. At Inova, Kevin works in the oncology and behavioral health setting. At APTB, Kevin runs the internship program while continuing to provide education and resources to support staff in their growth and learning on developments concerning music therapy. He had formerly served in the role of a clinical director and a direct service music therapist. He has significant experience conducting individual and group music therapy, and staff supervision across various settings. In his free time, you will find him hanging out with his pet bird lychee. 

Bran Hassan

Senior Music Therapist/Clinical Manager

Bran Hassan, MT-BC, NMT, Clinical Manager & Senior Music Therapist, Bran is a Board Certified-Music Therapist, Neurologic Music Therapist, and graduate of Berklee College of Music. In Boston, Bran 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/piano tutor, and sang All Night Long for Lionel Richie at his College Convocation.

Aside from music therapy, Brandon is an accomplished musician. He has toured internationally, been on television, worked in social media marketing, served as a front man, multi-instrumentalist, and leader for 7 bands, and spends his free time going on adventures with friends and writing songs.

Khyla Anderson

Music Therapist/ Medical Music Therapist

Khyla Anderson is currently one of our medical music therapist. Khyla completed her internship with us in 2018 and returned to join the team summer of 2021. Khyla completed her Master of Music Therapy from Shenandoah University and is looking forward to continuing her work in neuro rehabilitation through NMT techniques. Khyla loves to knit, crochet, sew, play volleyball and bake just to name a few! She prides herself on being a Jack of all trades and loves trying new ways to craft and create. Khyla is thrilled to be back with A Place to Be and is looking forward to supporting and helping the company grow.

Hannah Eckman

Music Therapist

Hannah is a Board-Certified Music Therapist who graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Therapy from Temple University and completed her internship at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Hannah also completed the Neurologic Music Therapist training in 2022. Hannah runs both individual and group sessions at a Place to Be, as well as the MOST group, and offers clinical supervision for interns. She has experience working with teens and adults with mental health goals, individuals with neurological issues, and neurodivergent clients. Hannah particularly enjoys seeing clients build community within A Place to Be’s various groups and summer camps. Hannah is originally from York, PA, and enjoys songwriting, spending time outside, and playing with her cat in her free time.

Brandi Hanson

Music Therapist

Brandi graduated from Drury University with a Bachelors in Music Therapy and a minor in Psychology, she completed her internship at A Place To Be in December 2021. Currently, she is our music therapy apprentice and internship coordinator. Brandi has experience running both individual and group experiences, including groups such as Singalong and Sensation. She enjoys creating a space for discovery, belonging and acceptance at APTB. In her free time, you will find Brandi doing puzzles, creating art pieces and passing her contagious laughter on to others! 

Jenna Ploski

Music Therapist

Jenna Ploski is originally from Townville, Pennsylvania. She attended the State University of New York at Fredonia where she studied both music therapy and theatre arts, with an additional psychology minor. She recently completed her internship through A Place To Be. During her internship, she was a part of the Wednesday Same Sky Group, Leesburg Elementary, and the INOVA Kellar Program. She looks forward to joining more groups in the coming weeks meeting new clients and families along the way. Furthermore, she is excited to continue working through the organization as an apprentice and is grateful for how welcomed she has been so far. In her free time, Jenna enjoys baking, gardening, playing with her dogs, caring for her fish, and listening to music.

Manny Vasquez

Productions Associate & Media Coordinator

Manny is a graduate of Shenandoah University with B.A. in Mass Communications. He is involved in many facets behind the scenes at A Place To Be, from AV for live events, to inclusive film production. Manny has been running the technical aspects of A Place To Be since 2019. Manny is a student of history and enjoys writing and film production in his free time.

Brandon Somers

Productions Supervisor, Music Therapist

Brandon graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University before joining A Place to Be in January 2020. As a music therapist, he enjoys promoting a sense of community in his group sessions and creating therapeutic relationships with his private clients. As production supervisor, Brandon seeks to bring his experience in theater and film to the therapy room, facilitating multi-media-making opportunities for those that want to collaborate in an inclusive, safe, and educational environment. 

Stephen Smith

Music Therapist

Stephen Smith is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and Music Producer at A Place To Be. He graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory in 2020 with a Bachelor’s in Music Therapy and a minor in Classical/Jazz Percussion. Working in various capacities since 2018, Stephen has been a mentor, intern and volunteer at A Place To Be. During this time, he spearheaded the founding of the Same Sky Studios record label. He often worked with clients and staff to create and produce original therapeutic music. The Same Sky Studios record lable is the first therapeutically based record label in the nation. In his work, Stephen strives to provide space for clients to explore and grow in their identity in a variety of ways. Stephen is originally from Long Island, NY and enjoys Marvel Comics, creating original music and spending time with his cat Coltrane. 

Shirin Al-Ansi

Music Therapist

Shirin is a Board Certified-Music Therapist and joined A Place To Be staff in 2023. She completed her Shenandoah University Graduate Professional Studies Program for Music Therapy Certification in 2020. Shirin completed her internship program at APTB and after graduation, worked at the Enrichment Facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities in High Point Village, Lubbock, Texas. She also has experience working in mental health and medical settings, where she planned and facilitated group and individual music therapy sessions. 

Aside from music therapy, Shirin holds BA in Performing Arts from the Russian State University of Art and Theater in Moscow and a BA in Sociology from Kazan State University. Before her relocation to the USA, Shirin had experience working as a lead singer individually and with the band Yummy Music and actress in several projects. Shirin has a multicultural upbringing that helps her serve the community with strong interpersonal skills and a culturally competent, client-focused approach.

Dan Miller


Associate Community Director

Dan has been a highly engaged leader in our community for over 20 years. You may know him from his work as a drama teacher at The Hill School or as a theater director at Arts for All (formerly VSA). You may also know him from his work as the Adapted Physical Education Teacher or Social Learning Specialist at The Auburn School. Dan can also be credited with contributions to the People-to-People Student Ambassador Program and the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (formerly VSA Intersections).

Dan holds an M.Ed. in Education from George Mason University and a BFA in Theater for Youth from Shenandoah University.

Embracing care as an action is at the center of Dan’s overall approach. He values interactions, storytelling, and critical reflection, but above all, Dan values the time spent with his wife, son, and cat.

Benjamen Shoenberger

Theater, Event and Communications Manager

Ben as been involved in A Place To Be since its founding, being involved in many projects between 2010 and 2016. As Theater, Event and Communications Manager, Ben is busy at work planning out our second location in Leesburg, as well as spearheading the technical aspects of our pop-up theatre space, where multiple shows such as The Grumpy Bunny and and Snow Monster will be held this year. Ben is a graduate of Shenandoah University, where he also teaches lighting.

Katy Pell


Katy graduated from Saint Mary of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy. She became interested in A Place To Be after watching the documentary, “Music Got Me Here”, and is so grateful to have become an intern at such a great company! In her free time, Katy enjoys hiking, cooking, baking, exploring new places, playing music at open mics, and showing people pictures of her dog.

Mariagracia Rivas Berger


Mariagracia Rivas Berger, MMT, LPMT, MT-BC, also known as MG, was born and raised in Lima, Peru and migrated to the United States at age 11. She received her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance and her graduate degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University. 

For the past six years, Mariagracia has worked in the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders (CCBD) at Children’s National in Washington, DC, where she served as a clinician, Internship Director, and supervisor. In her 6 years there, she expanded the CCBD program to add a second music therapist, collaborated to the additional hospital music therapy program expansion, and led the hospital’s first music therapy study, focusing on the pain and emotional wellbeing of adolescents and young adults with Sickle Cell Disease. The study is currently pending review.

In 2022, Mariagracia co-founded AMUSIPE, the Peruvian Music Therapy Association to promote, educate, an advocate for the field of music therapy in Perú and contribute through music therapy to the varying populations in the country.

Mariagracia will be working at Inova L. J. Murphy Children’s Hospital and is so excited to be joining the APTB Family! In her free time, you will find her singing and dancing to the Encanto Soundtrack with her baby and husband. 

Jillian Truchan


Jillian is originally from Marietta, GA and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music Therapy in Spring of 2023. She completed her internship at APTB, and is excited to continue to work with this amazing team and beautiful community. Jillian’s primary instrument is the flute, and she is passionate about musical theatre and Shakespeare—and making these experiences accessible for all.