Sound Connections®

Music Therapy for Children with Disabilities

The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach


Since 2006, First Coast Cultural Center has been the leader in nonprofit agencies by starting the first music therapy program on the First Coast in a public school system. Sound Connections® began as a small pilot program at Cunningham Creek Elementary school in 2006, when Minda Gordon, MT-BC, volunteered at the school to provide music for children in the Exceptional Student Education classrooms. The principal, Betsy Wierda, and teachers witnessed the potential of music therapy to help children learn and grow and sought a partner to provide music therapy for their students. A formal partnership between Cunningham Creek Elementary and First Coast Cultural Center was formed. First Coast Cultural Center secured pilot funding from The Woodcock Foundation for the Appreciation of the Arts to start the program, initially for 10 hours per week. The program has grown to three therapists serving in six different St. Johns County Schools working with over 400 children in Exceptional Student Education classrooms.  The Woodcock Foundation has continued to be a major funding source throughout the years, and many new donors such as the Persbacker-Wyman Family Foundation, the DuBow Family Foundation, and The United Way of St. Johns County have joined our cause allowing the program to grow.

Our first major growth occurred in 2015 when Jessica Richardson, who had been serving at Cunningham Creek Elementary as Assistant Principal, was named Principal of Ocean Palms Elementary. Her firsthand experience with the music therapy program led her to seek funding to start a program at Ocean Palms. The Persbacker-Wyman Family Foundation stepped in to fund music therapy in the beaches elementary schools, including Ocean Palms, Ponte Vedra Palm Valley, and Valley Ridge Academy. Due to this growth, the program formally changed its name to Sound Connections®, to not only reflect the connections students make in music therapy, but also the connection that First Coast Cultural Center is making to the community through music therapy.

The 2019-2020 school year marked another milestone in growth and connection to the community for Sound Connections®. Due to the generosity of The United Way of St. Johns County and the St. Augustine Cultural Council State of the Arts Grant, we were able to provide music therapy services to Webster Elementary School in St. Augustine. The 2020-2021 school year saw yet another major growth due to the  Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida that provided grant funds to provide services to The Webster School and Osceola Elementary, both Title 1 schools.  

First Coast Cultural Center has been successful in providing music therapy through the Sound Connections® program for sixteen years due to the generosity of donors and grants. Sound Connections’® proven track record of success has led to a request to provide services to Crookshank Elementary and South Woods Elementary, both Title 1 schools, as well as Timberlin Creek Elementary.  Each year, the Center must raise a minimum of $150,000 to support our current schools, and we are now campaigning for an additional $100,000 in order to provide services to the new schools.

For more information contact Donna Guzzo, President and Executive Director or Candice Sirak, MT-BC, Manager, Sound Connections(r) Music Therapy at (904) 280-0614 ext.1206 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more about how you can help.


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The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach

What is Music Therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association, "Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish
individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program." In the Sound Connections program, our board-certified therapists assess each student's needs and formulate music therapy goals that directly relate to the students’ individualized educational goals. Students are seen in classroom groups, small groups, and in individual sessions during which the therapists use evidence-based interventions to address the academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical goals of the students. Our 400-plus students are typically seen one-two times per week. During the 2020-2021 school year, 96% of our students met all or all but one of their music therapy goals.

Apply to volunteer with Sound Connections® here!

The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach

First Coast Cultural Center music therapy programs are sponsored by:

Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida
Woodcock Foundation for the Appreciation of the Arts, Inc
The Lazzara Family Foundation
The DuBow Family Foundation
The Persbacker-Wyman Family Foundation
The Borkowski Family Foundation
The PV Rotary Foundation
The Red Coats Foundation
The United Way of St. Johns County
All American Air
Patriot Rail
The Deborah and Anthony Castor Foundation


3972 3rd Street South
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

Phone: (904) 280-0614


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(After Hour Appointments Available)


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 Cultural Center At Ponte Vedra Beach
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Phone: (904) 280-0614

Gallery Hours
Monday - Friday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
(After Hour Appointments Available)

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The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with tax ID #59-3238148

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