Meet Our TeamBoard-Certified Music Therapists
Mary Altom, MT-BC
Owner, Music Therapist
Sound Starts Music was established by Mary Altom, a board certified music therapist, in 2011 to provide music therapy and adapted music lessons for children with special needs. Giving students opportunities to learn through music is Mary’s passion, and she is a firm believer that music is a language that transcends DIS-ability and creates A-bility.
In addition to Sound Starts Music, her private practice in Frisco, TX, Mary serves as Client Services Manager for Music Therapy Services of Texas and provides evaluations and contractual music therapy services to school districts across the DFW metroplex.
Mary earned her certification as a Neurologic Music Therapist (NMT) through intense training at Colorado State University. Mary completed her music therapy internship with MusicWorx of California under the supervision of Dr. Barbara Reuer and graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in Music – Music Therapy in 2007.
Mary is an active member of the American Music Therapy Association and the Southwestern Region American Music Therapy Association. She enjoys attending national and regional conferences each year and has presented at regional conference. Mary is married to Ben and they have two children – Jaxon (6) and Lily (2). She enjoys reading and pinterest crafting in her spare time.
Samantha Lowry, MT-BC
Samantha Lowry is a recent graduate from West Texas A & M University with her Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. Throughout her educational career, she has worked with a wide variety of clientele and discovered that serving school-aged children is her preferred and strongest area of practice. Samantha completed her internship spring of 2015 at Hurst-Euless-Bedford I.S.D. near Fort Worth. Her experience at Hurst-Euless-Bedford I.S.D reinforced her calling to work with the school-aged population. She enjoys using familiar songs and writing new materials to target specific goals as well as engaging her clients in improvisational music making. Her love of music and desire to help others is what brought her to Sound Starts Music! Samantha loves sharing her passion for music with the families at Sound Starts Music!
Melissa Heffner, MT-BC
Melissa Heffner has been a board certified music therapist since August 2013. In her work in Ohio, West Virginia, and the DFW area, she has served children and adults with autism and developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as older adults with dementia. She holds a Master of Music in Music Therapy degree from Ohio University and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance degree from Eastern Washington University. She is fascinated by the connection between music and language, and her master’s thesis study involved collaboration with a speech-language pathology graduate student. Melissa is excited to be part of a wonderful team of music therapists and bring her passion of using music to support the needs of clients to Sound Starts Music Therapy. She is from Washington State and loves being near water, watching movies, rooting for her favorite Washington sports teams, and hanging out with her husband and greyhound dog.
Jorja Benjamin, MT-BC
Jorja Benjamin has been a board-certified Music Therapist since July 2016. She graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with her Music Therapy degree with an emphasis in voice. Jorja worked with medically fragile kids during her internship at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City. She has served children with special needs, adults with special needs, and children on the Autism Spectrum. Jorja was a Registered Behavior Technician ABA Therapist for a year. She is so excited to be part of a wonderful Music Therapy team and serve the families of North Texas! Jorja is from Amarillo, TX and loves bowling, darts, and learning new music.
Tyler Smith, MT-BC
Tyler Smith is a recent graduate of Sam Houston State University majoring in Music Therapy. Tyler is a percussionist and was a drummer for the SHSU jazz lab band. Plano, Texas is his home, so he is excited to be back serving in this community. He is recently married so in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife, Madison, watching movies, playing ping-pong, and watching the sunset. Tyler is excited to lead The Band Experience at Sound Starts.
Music Therapy Intern
Crystal Lile is a music therapy undergraduate student at Texas Woman’s University and a student member of the American Music Therapy Association. As an intern at Sound Starts Music Therapy, she is completing her degree requirements. Crystal earned her Associate’s degree in Science/General Studies in 2015, while simultaneously graduating with her high school diploma. She has studied piano as her primary instrument for 17 years and has actively participated in worship leadership at her home church since 2010. Through practicum experiences, Crystal has worked with children in preschool, students with developmental/intellectual disabilities, adults in an inpatient psychiatric facility, and students in middle school. She has interacted with children in additional settings, including her role as a private nanny over the past four years. In Crystal’s spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends, reading, and drinking coffee. Crystal believes in the power of music and its positive and enriching effects on children. She feels honored to be a part of the Sound Starts Music Therapy Community!
Music Therapy Intern
Aliya Gardea is an undergraduate music therapy student at West Texas A&M University. At Sound Starts Music Therapy, she is completing her last step for her undergraduate degree requirements. At West Texas A&M University, Aliya served as the Music Therapy Organization’s treasurer for three terms. Aliya also served as the treasurer for the Southwestern American Music Therapy Association of Students for one term. In her spare time, Aliya likes to spend time with her family, paint, and play video games. Aliya is excited to be a part of the Sound Starts Music Therapy Community!
Specially Designed Songs & Strategies
Our team is trained to developed specific songs and music interventions to meet a wide variety of goals specific to each of our client’s needs.
Client Centered Services
We believe in client centered services. We take the time to get to know you and meet you exactly where you are.
Evidence Based Practice
Our music therapist’s techniques and strategies are a direct reflection of the most current evidenced based practice in music therapy.
You can expect frequent communication from our music therapists. Session reminders and session summary notes are shared weekly.
Clients Served Each Week
Music Therapists on our Team
Get In Touch.
We offer a complimentary consultation so get on our schedule today!