Meet Our School-Based TeamBoard-Certified Music Therapists
Our History – Music Therapy Services of Texas
Our school-based division began in 1995 when James Craig Williams and Vera Williams founded Music Therapy Services of Texas. Craig, a board-certified music therapist, grew a successful business that provided outstanding music therapy services to school districts across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In 1999 Craig was diagnosed with colon cancer and fought a courageous two year battle with the disease. After his passing, Vera continued his legacy. She assumed the role of CEO and continued to run the business for the next 18 years. In 2017 Vera began her own fierce battle with throat cancer. After two years, her love for Craig conquered all and she passed away on her and Craig’s wedding anniversary, June 19th 2019.
Prior to Vera’s passing, Music Therapy Services of Texas was transferred to Mary Altom, the owner of Sound Starts. Mary has worked in the school setting through Music Therapy Services of Texas since 2007 as both music therapist and the company’s Client Services Manager. Because of Craig and Vera’s vision for music therapy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Mary has gained extensive music therapy experience in multiple school districts. She has completed over 1,000 music therapy evaluations and is an expert when it comes all things regarding music therapy as a related service.
Our 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.
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 current Vice-President of the Southwestern Region American Music Therapy Association. She enjoys attending and presenting at national and regional conferences each year. Mary is married to Ben and they have two children – Jaxon (7) and Lily (3). She enjoys reading and pinterest crafting in her spare time.
Catherine Elkins, MT-BC
Catherine Elkins is a Board-Certified Music Therapist, as well as a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Music Therapy. She was a music therapist for 16 years before changing her career. She then went and got her Associates in Occupational Therapy Assistance. She did that for 5 years before returning to Music Therapy. She has been doing Music Therapy for three years since returning to the field. She has worked in settings of State Schools, Nursing Homes, and Contracts in individual homes. She lives in Burleson with her husband, Steve, two children, three dogs, and a cat.
Samantha Lowry-Harmon, MT-BC
Samantha Lowry is a board-certified music therapist and 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 students who have special needs!
Pam Poole, MT-BC
Pam Poole is a board certified music therapist. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from West Texas A&M University. She has been a music therapist for 25 years. She did her internship at the VA Hospital in Waco, Texas. She is a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP) from U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. She has been an instructor for nonviolent crisis intervention through the Crisis Prevention Institute, Manager of Educational Climate Instructor as part of the inter-disciplinary team working in Houston’s inner-city schools to provide classroom management for students and teachers, as a behavior specialist. She has worked in public school settings, private school settings, inpatient psychiatric settings and in hospice settings. She enjoys singing karaoke with friends and family, dancing with her husband and playing with her cat. Music therapy is her passion because music is so amazing for the body, mind and soul.
Allison Burns, MT-BC
Allison Burns completed her bachelor’s in Music Therapy at Texas Woman’s University in 2013 and interned at State of the Heart Hospice in Indiana and Ohio serving 11 counties. She is currently finishing her Masters in Music Therapy and working towards finishing her training as a Guided Imagery and Music Practitioner. Allison also enjoys singing at her church, Gloria Dei Lutheran in Garland and leading the Joyful Singers, a group for adults with special abilities. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for her family and friends, watching movies and playing card games. Allison is excited to be working with children in McKinney and Grayson County schools!
Jessica Leza, MT-BC
Jessica Leza has been a board-certified music therapist in the public schools of north Texas since the 2013-2014 school year. She graduated with a Master of Arts in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University, and a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from the University of North Texas. Jessica completed a music therapy internship at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ and has received additional training in Neurologic Music Therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis. In addition to her work with young people with developmental disabilities, she has experience working with adult and pediatric stroke survivors. Jessica enjoys going canoeing, reading, and spending time with her family on their small duck farm.
Kaylyn Manuel, MT-BC
Kaylyn Manuel has been a board-certified Music Therapist since August 2016. She graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas with her degree in Music Therapy with an emphasis in voice. In the San Antonio and DFW areas, Kaylyn has served children, adolescents, and adults with Autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has also served the Wounded Warrior population, working with veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Kaylyn is a member of the American Music Therapy Association, and participates in continuing education through conferences and additional certifications. Kaylyn enjoys spending time with her friends and family, trying new foods, and being outdoors and adventuring in her free time! She is excited to be part of the Sound Starts Community, serving children and families in the North Texas areas!
Tyler Smith, MT-BC
Tyler Smith is a board-certified music therapist and graduate of Sam Houston State University. 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 serve students in the school setting! He also directs The Band Experience at Sound Starts’ Frisco center.
Specially Designed Songs & Strategies
Our team is trained to developed specific songs and music interventions to meet a wide variety of specific IEP objectives.
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 clear and frequent communication from our music therapists.
School Districts Served Each Week
Students Served Weekly
Music Therapists on our School-Based Team
Need music therapy in your school?
We can meet the needs of your school district’s music therapy program. We offer a complimentary consultation to answer your questions and to design a program perfect for your school.