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United Sound is an organization whose mission is to provide musical performance experiences for students with special needs through peer mentorship.

Who We Are

Julie Duty, Founder and Executive director

The most common question Julie is asked about United sound is, "WHY?" This is her answer.

Julie completed her undergraduate degree at Arizona State University in 1998, earning a Bachelor of Music in Music Education. She taught middle school band and served as a mentor teacher for nine years in Arizona. During that time her groups were recognized for musical excellence and had active involvement with Special Olympics Arizona, performing for their annual opening ceremony event.

Since leaving the classroom, Julie has remained dedicated to music education and community service. She is an active volunteer with Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa, Arizona, working as a grant writer and executive assistant. She volunteers within her church community as the leader of a regional orchestra and leads a 150 member children’s chorus. Julie also spends many hours each week volunteering in her local school district. She co-founded a parent advocacy group, Gilbert Music Matters, which works to bring parents and school district leaders together to improve music education.

Julie currently serves as the founder and executive director of United Sound, Inc. working with teachers, parents, and school administrators to bring meaningful participation and inclusivity to the instrumental music classroom. Julie is still an active musician, performing in the Tempe Symphonic Wind Ensemble for the past eighteen consecutive years. She works regularly for the Arizona Band and Orchestra Director’s Association as a judge and adjudicator for state-wide events. And is a mother to three adorable musicians of her own.


Dr. Alice M. Hammel, a diverse and widely known music educator, currently teaches for James Madison and Virginia Commonwealth Universities. In addition, she has a large flute studio and is the music intervention specialist for ASSET (Autism Support, Education, and Training). Dr. Hammel spends her summers teaching musicianship and pedagogy to graduate students and K-12 music educators at several universities. 

In addition to teaching at the university level, she has many years of experience teaching general, instrumental and choral music in K-12 classrooms. Dr. Hammel continues to regularly teach students who are at-risk and in need, and is often asked to guest teach at universities in the US. She is in great demand as a keynote speaker, researcher and clinician in the field of music education, and has published widely in music, special, and general education journals. Two co-authored text and online resources, Teaching Music to Students with Special Needs: A Label-free Approach, and Teaching Music to Students with Autism, are available through Oxford University PressA third Oxford resource, Winding it Back: Teaching to Individual Differences in Music Classroom and Ensemble Settings will be released in 2016. Dr. Hammel has also contributed chapters to several other Oxford University Press and National Association for Music Education (NAfME) resources.

Dr. Hammel is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts and is a member of the Kennedy Center National Forum: Examining the Intersection of Arts Education and Special Education. She serves on the planning committee for the national conference co-sponsored by the Kennedy Center and Very Special Arts. She is also chair of the National Association for Music Education Task Force on Students with Special Needs. Dr. Hammel enjoys serving as a consultant and clinician for several organizations including Conn-Selmer and United Sound. She serves in many concurrent state and national professional leadership positions and is a multiple award recipient honoring her commitment to music education and music teacher education. 

Her primary goal is to become a better teacher with each passing day.

bill bitter, educational consultant

Bill Bitter is currently in his thirtieth of teaching in Gilbert, AZ. During that time he has taught orchestra and band at all levels, elementary through high school. He is presently Director of Orchestras and Chairman of the Performing Arts department at Highland High School.

Mr. Bitter has been active in the Arizona Band and Orchestra Director’s Association, serving as Vice President of High School Orchestra Activities, State Concert Festival Chairman, and Regional Orchestra Chairman. He most recently served as organizing chairman of the 2005 National High School Honors Orchestra, sponsored by ASTA with NSOA. He was a faculty member of the Northern Arizona University Summer Music Camp for several years, and has served as an adjudicator and clinician for festivals throughout the southwest United States and Hawaii. In 2001, Mr. Bitter was awarded the O. M. Hartsell “Excellence in Teaching Music” Award by the Arizona Music Educators Association. In January 2009 he was named the Outstanding Public School Teacher in Arizona by the Arizona Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. In 2015, He was awarded ASTA's highest honor, the Elizabeth A.H. Green School Educator Award, given annually to a string teacher with a current and distinguished career in a school orchestral setting. Mr. Bitter has been listed several times in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and is a member of the Music Educator’s National Conference and the American String Teacher’s Association.