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At the Hylton Performing Arts Center reaching thousands of youth with messages of empathy and inclusion

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A Place To Be Offers Hope, Belonging Through Music

As Kim Tapper walks the halls of A Place to Be, laughter fills the air. There is music around every corner, smiling faces and most of all, hope. It’s like walking into a warm hug.

“People are kind. They greet you with joy to see you and, overall, you just feel like you are home,” says Kim. That is the underlying mission of the music therapy organization Kim co-founded in 2011 with Tom Sweitzer: to create an inclusive community that promotes independence, belonging and hope.

A Place to Be was brought to life through a shared passion for arts therapy and a love for the performing arts. Most often at the organization’s Middleburg center on N. Jay St., you will hear different kinds of music and singing coming from the therapy rooms, as well as people connecting through laughter, music, sharing their stories and talking out their emotions.

“When we opened our doors, we took our performance and therapy backgrounds and combined them so that everyone who needed it would have, ‘a place to be,’” says Kim. In the process of hosting thousands of local families over the past decade, it has grown to be a place where many children have found their voice and a sense of belonging.

For Kim, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a spark of growth in her clients. “It might be something they accomplished or it might just be that they made a friend,” she says. “But for them, it was a moment where they felt really proud of themselves and fulfilled.” 

A Place to Be primarily works with children and young adults who are facing medical problems or mental health struggles. “A lot of our folks are facing major challenges constantly so when they have that moment, it just gives them a spark of hope,” Kim relates. “And it does for us as well.”

In addition to individual and group sessions, performance is a key part of the services provided by A Place to Be. Kim notes that, while clients aren’t required to perform on stage, as for their annual winter recital slated for December 19, being on stage is an outlet for growth in which she strongly believes.

“Performance is just such a huge motivator,” she says. “It allows for the therapeutic goals and objectives that the client is working toward to come to a culmination point and also brings the client performer to have engagement with community, which we also believe is really powerful.”

A Place to Be also provides medical musical therapy to all INOVA hospitals. Through this service, the organization sends medical music therapists into different hospital departments all the way from the NICU to end of life care.

Kim quotes Hans Christian Andersen who said, "When words fail, music speaks." That, she says, is the spirit behind medical music therapy.

“So often patients cannot speak because they are on a ventilator or medications, in pain, or struggling to process what is happening and do not have the words yet,” Kim says. “Music therapy can help provide a place where they can release without words.”

“Sometimes a patient can verbally tell you how they are feeling and what the music has done for them,” Kim adds. “But sometimes it's the release of their tears and fears as they wrestle with why they are in the hospital to begin with. Or [it can be] the calming of a face relaxing into sleep after pain or agitation that indicates the music has created space for the brain and body to relax.”

A Place to Be has offices in Middleburg, Leesburg and partner spaces throughout Fairfax and Loudon counties.

For more information or how to get involved, visit or call 540-687-6740.

  • One of APTB's young clients performing with her music therapist Ashley Gant
  • Music therapy session with APTB's Clinical Director, Kevin Leong
  • Campers performing in APTB's original musical, "Holy Cow"
  • At the Hylton Performing Arts Center reaching thousands of youth with messages of empathy and inclusion
  • Music therapy sessions continued over zoom during the pandemic
  • Making friendships through music and fun