Our Staff

Allison Boyd, Our Founder and President
Allison J. Boyd MT-BCAllison Boyd founded Metro Music Makers as a private Atlanta-based music studio offering in-home music lessons. She has been teaching since 1992 (sometimes as many as 78 students per week herself), with students ranging from 3 years of age to senior citizens, and those with special needs. In addition to overseeing a variety of instructors in the Metro Music Makers family, she is a board-certified Music Therapist licensed in the State of Georgia. Allison’s music therapy experience includes working in special needs classes, in private behavioral therapy and research with children diagnosed with autism, in music therapy and research with neonates, as a music therapist at a drug and alcohol rehab for teens, and as a music therapist in mental health settings working with adults diagnosed with a range of disorders including schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and dissociative disorders.

Originally from Easley, South Carolina, Allison attended the Greenville Fine Arts Center, and earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from Florida State University (cum laude). She also served a six-month internship at San Antonio State Hospital (a mental health institution). Allison pursued a career as a singer/songwriter after college, recording three EPs and one full-length album. While touring, she was hired by Mars Music, Inc. to implement the Babies Make Music program in the metro Atlanta area.

In addition, Allison was a finalist in the Greenville Symphony Orchestra Russian Music Festival Piano Competition in 1990 and a semifinalist in the Young Keyboard Artists Association International Piano Competition in 1990. She toured with the band Life As Mary from 2000-2003, including an exciting showcase with A&R exposure at the 2002 Atlanta Music Conference.

Allison’s flexibility working in diverse positions and environments gave her the training needed to begin Metro Music Makers in 2002. As parents learned about her music therapy background, she began to get requests for adaptive lessons for students who might not otherwise find success in traditional lessons.

Allison is currently a member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the Music Teachers National Association, the Georgia Music Teachers Association, the North Fulton Music Teachers Association, and the Music Therapy Association of Georgia. Additionally, Allison serves as a judge for events sponsored by the National Guild of Piano Teachers and the Georgia Federation of Music Clubs.

Allison’s students have achieved many honors over the years. She has seen over 225 of her students make top marks in the National Piano Guild Auditions and National Federation of Music Clubs Festival since 2003.

Allison believes that the process of learning how to play a musical instrument and learning how to create music relates to everything else that we accomplish in life. “We are teaching the future leaders and innovators of tomorrow,” she says. “As a teacher, when I really think about that and about the influence that lessons may have in my students’ lives, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to work one-on-one with young people over the course of many years.”

In fact, now that Allison has been teaching for a number of years, her favorite times are catching up with prior students over lunch or coffee. “It’s exciting to see what my former students do with their lives as they grow into adulthood,” she says.

Allison also was a one-time snake handler (a long story involving removing a baby snake from her house that turned out to be a copperhead!) and a one-time opera singer, (I Pagliacci) in 1991). She and her husband David have an adorable young son, Elliott, who began music classes at the age of six months. Elliott loves strumming the family’s guitars and playing the piano keys.

Alicia DeLoach Thompson (Voice, Piano)
Alicia DeLoach ThompsonAlicia DeLoach Thompson received a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Valdosta State University. Alicia was an active member and soloist in VSU’s Jazz Ensemble (Spotlighters) and Chamber Choir. At GSU she performed Carmina Burana with the choir at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. While attending undergraduate and graduate school, Alicia performed many roles such as: Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Beth in Adamo’s Little Women, and the Witch in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Alicia was also awarded numerous scholarships and awards, including the Lucy Martin Stewart Scholarship and the Mozart Society Scholarship.

Alicia has three years of experience as a voice and piano instructor. She teaches across all genres, including classical, opera, musical theater, country, pop and gospel. Her mission as a teacher is to build confidence in her students while helping them establish good technique and a beautiful, unique sound. She encourages her students to never compare themselves to others and to just be the best they can be. “I want my students to develop a love for music that will last their entire life,” Alicia says. “I come to my students’ performances. I get so much joy in seeing their progress!”

True story: Alicia has a cute little dog named Bella who loves to hit the high notes with Alicia when she’s practicing!

Angelina Barrett (Violin, Voice)
Angelina BarrettAngelina Barrett has been playing violin for over a decade, and she has also been singing since she was a little girl. She played in symphony orchestras all through grade school and took private lessons with violin and voice. More recently, she has been performing as a vocalist and violinist all over the U.S., and she recorded an album in July 2017 called “Glimpse.” She had the opportunity to play on Oprah’s TV show “Greenleaf,” and to sing at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Before coming to Metro Music Makers, Angelina taught violin and voice at a talent agency for three years, in addition to teaching music lessons in the home. She has also been an assistant at the renowned violinist Ken Ford’s workshops, and she teaches orchestra students improvisation and playing by ear at local middle schools.

When it comes to violin, Angelina teaches classical, jazz, hip hop, pop and rock. She also teaches her students ear training techniques, rhythm techniques, finger patterns, vibrato and shifting. With voice training, she teaches breathing techniques, posture, scales, growing range, mix voice, head voice, chest voice, falsetto, low and high notes, and vibrato. She also includes stage presence training.

Angelina’s degree in social work gives her a unique perspective as a teacher, and it is her teaching mission for the students to recognize their full potential and see that if they put their minds to it, they can do anything. “I want to not only be a teacher but a mentor in helping them to get to their goals while having fun and learning technique and versatile ways to make playing their instrument and singing fun,” Angelina says. “The best advice I would give my students is to remember the reason why you want to learn your instrument. When you have that connection, love and purpose attached to it, that’s what motivates you to get up every day to practice. And don’t ever give up.”

In addition to her other creative endeavors, Angelina loves making origami paper swans. She also loves to hula hoop and dance.

Aria J. Taboada (Violin, Piano, Voice)
Aria TaboadaAria J. Taboada began her journey with music at the age of 9, studying violin and piano. She began teaching lessons at 15 years old to pay for her own music lessons and now has well over 15 years of experience teaching violin and piano. She has performed with prestigious orchestras over the years, including a year with the Atlanta Youth Symphony, where she gained extensive knowledge on performing and music theory. Aria studied violin performance at Georgia State University and sat principal second violin in the Georgia State University Orchestra. Aria’s violin music has been featured on various albums, including Latin artist Seich Musica, and country artist Alison Nichols.

Though she enjoys performing, Aria’s real passion lies in teaching. She can teach students in the style of their preference, including classical, pop and rock. When teaching violin, she mixes the Suzuki and traditional methods to allow students to be able to sight-read and play by ear.

“I want to help my students meet their goals, whatever they are,” Aria says. “I have had students that wanted to be music majors, and I have had others who just wanted to have fun playing their favorite songs. Whatever the case may be, I want to instill a love of music in them.”

Besides music, AriaI loves the outdoors. On any day, you might find her bicycling, kayaking, hiking or running outside. She also loves playing with her dog Fable, who is a ball of energy!

Badie Khaleghian (Piano, Violin)
Badie KhaleghianBadie Khaleghian received his Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the Bahai Institute of Higher Education in Tehran, Iran. He is currently studying Music Composition at the University of Georgia.

Badie started teaching music when he was only 15 years old. In fact, he had 12 students at that age. Currently teaching piano and violin at Metro Music Makers, Badie also plays the setar, performing regularly on different local stages in Athens and Atlanta.

As a composer, performer and instructor, Badie has received numerous awards. He has been a part of several choirs at UGA, including his current role as a tenor 2 with the premier ensemble called the Hodgson Singers, and he has conducted several children’s choirs and youth orchestras.

“Enjoying music is my first goal for my students,” Badie says. “Making beautiful music and enjoying it is our first priority, and we learn all techniques to make that sound. I believe in all of my students. I teach them how to be patient to see the result of hard work.”

Badie loves all kind of music, but lately he’s been listening to traditional Argentinian music. He also loves outdoor activities, especially kayaking and hiking.

Chelsea Nicole Smith (Voice, Acting, Piano, Songwriting)
Chelsea Nicole SmithChelsea Nicole Smith studied at Evangel University, where she received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education and performed roles such as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, and Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi. She went on to receive her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University, where she took on such roles as Monica in The Medium, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Amy in Little Women. Chelsea participated in a three-week exchange with Renmin University in Bejing, China. She has also performed the roles of Amor in L’incoronazione di Poppea in La Musica Lyrica Opera in Novafeltria, Italy, and Greta Fiorentino in Street Scene, among many others. In addition, she has performed the national anthem at the Georgia Dome.

Chelsea has been a Metro Music Makers instructor since June 2013, where she wears many hats: vocal pedagogue specializing in opera and musical theater techniques, acting coach and piano instructor. Chelsea also organizes teacher events, workshops and collaborative peer coaching for the Metro Music Makers staff.

Chelsea has received numerous awards, and she is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda and the Missouri Music Educators Association. All of Chelsea’s students who participated in the 2015 National Federation of Music Clubs Festival excelled, and one of her students was a 2015 Shuler Award nominee for Best Supporting Actress. Chelsea wants to “inspire musical fun and creativity though strong mentorship and field teaching that is grounded in solid, healthy technique and pedagogy.”

A self-professed “Hallmark card snob,” Chelsea believes Panera has the best coffee. She loves to hike and is a southern English expert who dabbles in Spanish, Italian and German, but she aspires to learn Pig Latin.

Dave Colquitt (Guitar, Piano)
Dave ColquittDave Colquitt has an Associates Degree in Business Administration, and he received his diploma of Audio Engineering from SAE Institute Atlanta. He has toured with Brandon Stubbs Music and also traveled with Revive Worship, Crystal Padilla Music, and Cross Church. In addition to teaching at guitar and piano at Metro Music Makers, Dave is a contract musician at local churches, playing lead electric guitar and musical directing.

Dave teaches both acoustic and electric guitar, primarily in blues, rock and jazz styles. He also teaches piano, especially modern worship styles, and he can teach both rock and jazz styles on the drum.

Dave incorporates creativity and fun into learning. Whether his student is just beginning or at an advanced level, he believes that music – from technique to theory – deserves to be taught in a light, easy and fun environment. He also wants his students to embrace their uniqueness in their music. “Don’t conform and compare yourself to someone else,” Dave says. “Be who you are, because that is what will set you apart from everyone and make you feel good about yourself in the long run.”

In his free time, Dave enjoys playing video games, working on technology, and working on his pedalboard to achieve the best sound possible.

J.T. Lee (Guitar, Piano, Bass, Saxophone, Songwriting)
JT LeeJ.T. Lee received his Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of North Georgia, and his Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. He is an Atlanta-area session artist who has performed on the Winterfest tour with Joe and Christian Leaphart.

J.T. has six years of full-time private instruction experience, and has worked with kids of all ages through daycare and after-school programs. He is the Music Director and Youth Worship Leader at Cross Church Atlanta.

A rare teacher that offers in-depth, attainable improvisational studies, J.T. can arrange music to fit any instrument. J.T. teaches guitar, piano, bass and woodwinds at Metro Music Makers, in styles as varied as jazz, country, worship, rock and classical. It’s his personal mission to show kids that music is not just something else to study, but rather is a fun art for expressing oneself.

J.T. loves coffee and, in his words, “may have a slight addiction to it.” He has an almost-two-year-old who won the award for cutest kid ever (and may explain the coffee addiction?).

Kristen Van Dyke (Music Therapy, Voice, Piano, Guitar)
Kristen Van DykeKristen Van Dyke has a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Delaware, and a Master of Arts in Music Therapy from Immaculata University. She is a music therapist and vocal instructor who has taught private lessons as well as choirs. Before coming to Georgia and Metro Music Makers, Kristen worked as a music therapist in two children’s hospitals and a private practice specializing in children with learning disabilities in New Jersey. She is a member of the American Music Therapy Association and the Phi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society.

Kristen teaches voice and piano and also works as a music therapist at Metro Music Makers. “I love having a piece of my heart in both the music education world and the music therapy world,” she says. “I know how influential music has been in my own life, and I love helping my students discover their own journey with music and the role that it can play in their own lives.”

Kristen is known for her corny jokes and funny voices, which she uses in her quest to make music accessible to everyone while keeping them laughing in the process. She is also a huge Harry Potter fan who loves musical theater.

Laura Anne Cotney (Voice, Piano, Songwriting)
Laura Anne CotneyLaura Anne Cotney graduated cum laude with her Bachelor of Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and received her Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She is also a candidate for Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Georgia, where she is also a Theater Graduate Assistant.

Laura was a participant in the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria; Music Fest Perugia; and the University of Miami Frost School of Music in Salzburg. Her opera roles include Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow with UGA Opera Theatre, Mimì in La bohème with Capitol City Opera, and Sister Constance in Dialogues of the Carmelites, among many others. A frequent soloist in the Atlanta area, Laura has appeared with the Atlanta Opera, Just Voices and Dunwoody United Methodist Church. She was the recipient of the Irvin Bushman Memorial Prize in Singing at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a semifinalist in the Meistersinger Competition at the American Institute of Musical Studies.

Laura has taught voice and piano privately since 2010 throughout her graduate studies. She teaches numerous vocal styles, including opera, art song, sacred, folk, and musical theater. She also teaches beginning and intermediate piano, songwriting and theory. Laura’s students have earned Superior and Excellent ratings at the 2015 Federation Festival.

When Laura is not working, she loves to relax and listen to ‘70s rock. She’s also fluent in German! She encourages her students to find their own passion for music, using theory and history to increase their understanding and appreciation. “Find what it is about music that makes you feel happy, whole and alive,” she says. “Try to always be mindful of that, because every piece of music is just ink on a page until you add yourself to it.”

Mark Grundhoefer (Guitar, Bass, Piano, Banjo, Mandolin and Ukulele)
Mark GrundhoeferMark Grundhoefer has been a staple of the Los Angeles music scene for the last decade, playing in numerous bands, devoting countless hours of session work, and developing a full-time teaching studio. Now residing in Atlanta, he continues to perform, record and teach. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Guitar from Florida State University and a vocational degree from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California.

Mark teaches guitar, bass, piano, banjo, mandolin and ukulele to students at Metro Music Makers in various styles including rock, pop, jazz, blues, country, metal and classical.

Mark’s goal with every student is to show how learning the fundamentals, the proper techniques and the theories that make up the musical world, can be fun and exciting, all while instilling a love of music in any form. “My students are not just strangers I see once a week,” Mark says. “I go out of my way to form a bond as a mentor that can last for years. Sometimes I’ll get a email from a student that moved away to college just to catch up. It’s a good feeling.”

Mark also writes, records and produces his own original music, which can be found on all digital distribution sites and iTunesⓇ.

Melanie Latty (Ukulele, Piano, Guitar, Voice)
Melanie LattyMelanie teaches piano, guitar, ukulele and voice at Metro Music Makers. A graduate of Georgia College and State University with a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy, Melanie has extensive experience working with diverse populations, including those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, autism, learning disorders, visual impairments, developmental disabilities and more. During her time at GCSU, Melanie received several awards and scholarships, including Outstanding Sophomore in Music Therapy and the Department of Music Therapy Technology Award. She was also a member of the Music Therapy Society, Salsa Club, Swing Club, Lifeline Voices and the Bridge Scholars Program.

Melanie teaches her students using various styles. She also brings additional instruments to the lessons (especially for those students interested in playing in a group setting) to teach students how to listen to others and play well with their peers.

I like to make lessons fun by implementing a little bit of whatever genre the student is interested in,” says Melanie. “It’s my mission to help students understand what we’re doing and how it relates to their overall goals as musicians.”

When she’s not teaching, Melanie enjoys hiking, camping, painting and playing tennis.

Michael Needleman (Guitar, Piano, Saxophone, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion)
Michael NeedlemanMichael Needleman has a bachelor’s degree in Music Education and years of music performance and teaching experience, including performing with the GCSU Wind Symphony, Jazz Combo, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, and the Wellston Winds. He was music director of the Eta Alpha chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, and has worked as a teacher, tutor and clinician of numerous students and marching bands.

At Metro Music Makers, Michael teaches guitar, piano and saxophone, as well as beginning woodwind, brass and percussion. He teaches in various styles, including classical, jazz, pop and rock.

Michael is always willing to go the extra mile for his students, as he wants to help every child grow and develop through music. “Keep trying! Never stop trying to reach for more because there are no limits to what you are capable of,” he encourages his students.

As the self-proclaimed “biggest Batman fan in Georgia,” Michael’s favorite hobby is going to the movies.

Morgan Minyard (Bassoon, Ukulele, Guitar, Piano and Voice)
Morgan MinyardMorgan Minyard earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from the University of Georgia, graduating magna cum laude. There she performed with the UGA Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra for four years (bassoon), was a member of UGA’s graduate woodwind quintet (Southern Winds), went on tour with UGA’s wind ensemble to Europe (Switzerland and France), and performed in Panama with UGA’s wind ensemble.

She has been a private lesson instructor for the bassoon since 2013, and was co-instructor/teacher for Georgia Children’s Chorus in 2015. Morgan also led individual music therapy sessions for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the YMCA in 2016. In addition, she completed an internship for her Music Therapy degree at Trident Medical Center in Charleston, SC.

Morgan teaches bassoon, ukulele, guitar, piano and voice at Metro Music Makers. She is also a music therapist who specializes in a variety of populations, including children, adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I want to provide a caring environment for my students and clients in order to help them develop their musical skills in an efficient and fun way, as well as aid them in their growth and development in a therapeutic setting,” Morgan shares. Her advice for her students? “Honestly, just have fun! Music is a process, so don’t get discouraged – just enjoy creating music!”

In addition to having the cutest orange tabby cat in the world, Thor, Morgan loves listening to folk and pop music and being outdoors – hiking, sailing… you name it!

Nita McKoy (Piano, Voice)
Nita McKoyNita McKoy received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management from Georgia Tech. A lifelong musician, she started performing in public for graduations, assemblies, chorus productions and musical theater when she was just in high school, where she was also voted Most Talented. Nita also has performed as a singer in weddings and was the lead singer and dancer for four show bands from 1998 to 2005. She has also had numerous other public performances as a vocalist: from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah to singing doo-wop in a trio on a public television show. Nita is currently the lead singer and keyboardist in a classic rock band.

Nita taught piano and voice in Atlanta from 2000 to 2005 on a full-time basis, before moving to the Caribbean where she continued to teach. Since returning to Atlanta in 2013, she has been teaching full-time at Metro Music Makers. Nita is not only an experienced teacher of piano and voice, but she is also the Office Manager for Metro Music Makers.

Nita teaches all styles of music to her students, and her desire is to “teach them a strong foundation for reading music, while at the same time instilling in them a great love of music.” Many of Nita’s students consistently participate in the Federation Festival and receive Superior ratings. She encourages her students to “Try, try try! Never give up!”

Nita lived on two different Caribbean islands for seven years – and during one of those years, she worked as a musician at a Caribbean club.

Sara R. Longwell (Piano, Guitar, Voice)
Sara LongwellSara R. Longwell, M.M.Ed, MT-BC, has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Music from Agnes Scott College. She received her Master’s Degree of Music Education with Music Therapy Specialization from the University of Georgia. Sara is a licensed, board-certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) in the stage of Georgia. She has experience working primarily with children and adolescents with special needs.

Sara has been practicing professionally since 2012. She currently provides therapy for children and adolescents with a variety of diagnoses including autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, cerebral palsy, neurofibromatosis and anxiety/depression.

In addition to Sara’s master’s degree training, she has been teaching typical lessons as well as adaptive lessons for students on piano, guitar and voice since 2012. Students with learning disabilities or challenges, special needs or emotional and behavioral diagnoses who would struggle in a traditional lesson setting can thrive in adaptive lessons with Sara. She teaches piano, guitar and voice in all styles at Metro Music Makers, as well as working as our Music Therapy Specialist and Community Relations Manager.

All of Sara’s students received a Superior rating in the 2014 Federation Festival. Her students were also the first from Metro Music Makers to participate in the theory event at the 2015 Federation Festival. Many of Sara’s adaptive students perform in recitals alongside typical students.

Sara’s mission as a teacher is to unlock the inner world of every student through music. “I see music as a unique way for every student to find his or her voice, learn to set and achieve goals, express and process emotion, strive for excellence, learn responsibility and learn who they are,” she says. “I work hard to ensure that every student or therapy client feels understood, is challenged and motivated, and is having fun while learning or working to meet therapy goals!”

When Sara is not in therapy sessions or teaching, she spends most of her spare time dancing flamenco. ¡Olé!

Sarah Cauthen (Voice, Piano, Guitar, Ukulele)
Sarah CauthenSarah Cauthen has both a Bachelor of Music in Education and a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Kennesaw State University. Sarah completed her student teaching at Pope High School, where she also was Music Director for Bye Bye Birdie and The Sound of Music. She has performed numerous roles, including the witch in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and as Susanna’s understudy in The Marriage of Figaro. She was recently highlighted as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah at Roswell Presbyterian Church, and was a soloist in Capitol City Opera’s “On the Lightside: Gershwin Review.” Sarah also recently performed chorus roles with The Atlanta Opera and Capitol City Opera in productions of Madame Butterfly, The Merry Widow, and The Abduction from the Seraglio.

At Metro Music Makers, Sarah is a voice instructor specializing in classical style (but also offering Broadway, pop and jazz), a beginner and intermediate piano instructor, and a beginning guitar and ukulele instructor.

Eleven of Sarah’s students received a Superior rating in the 2015 National Federation of Music Clubs Festival, and several of her students have been Shuler Award nominees. Sarah strives to nurture a love for music in her students by making the learning process fun and natural. “Even the most challenging material can become easy when presented in a fun and interesting way!” she says.

Sarah wants her students to be passionate about music: “Music isn’t just another subject in school – it’s the language of your emotions. If you can’t have fun with it, you’re doing it wrong!”

Sarah has two ferrets named Wilbur and Gracie, and she taught herself how to knit and crochet in high school. She loves watching and listening to opera as well as singing it, but she love all genres of music, from classical to country to jazz.