Thomas Daniel Sweitzer, Jr. ’94, ’11 chose Shenandoah because he knew the conservatory had a great music therapy program and his drama teacher had encouraged him to attend the university. “It’s an authentic place where you can find yourself and your future,” said Sweitzer. “In the 1990s it was so small it was like living with a family.”
Sweitzer’s fondest memories are his friends, the faculty, the productions and Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre.
Sweitzer is the co-founder and creative director of A Place To Be in Middleburg, Virginia. A Place To Be helps people face, navigate and overcome life’s challenges through the clinically-based practices of music therapy in individual sessions, community programming and medical music therapy. In his role, Sweitzer is a music therapist and creator of productions and tours, which teach acceptance, differences and love. A Place To Be received the American Music Therapy Association’s Best Music Therapy Provider of the Year award in 2017.
Throughout his career, Sweitzer has also been a music teacher, the artistic director for The Hill Playhouse, an actor and a composer, receiving various awards and honors for his work. He directed the documentary film, “Just Like Will” that was released in 2019, which won several awards both nationally and internationally. In 2014, Sweitzer received the Loudoun County Humanitarian of the Year Award and was invited to be a guest at the White House for his work with the disabled community. He is the subject of a new documentary, “Music Got Me Here,” alongside one of his heroes, Forrest Allen, a young man with a traumatic brain injury who found his voice and courage again through music therapy.
Most recently, Sweitzer toured his one-man show, “Meatballs and Music,” a 90-minute play based on his childhood and created “The Land of Music,” an animated series educating and bringing hope to young children during this time of uncertainty after his battle with COVID-19. The series can be found on the YouTube channel, A Place To Be Family.
While at Shenandoah, Sweitzer learned who he was and what he could do. When he came back in 2011 for his music therapy certificate as an older student, he felt the university gave him a safe place to experiment and express himself as an artist.
“SU helped build who I am today and I have been blessed with many opportunities and recognition,” said Sweitzer. “I am THANKFUL.”
Sweitzer’s advice to students is: “to grab onto mentors. Listen and allow yourself to be vulnerable with boundaries, meaning don’t know too much. We all learn from others.”