Bringing back music education
Student entrepreneur founds Music Discovery Program in Greensboro
As cuts to music education continue across the country, Holly Riley, a 2015 UNCG music education graduate and fiddle player, is bringing music back to local kids.
Last year, Riley founded the after-school Music Discovery Program at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greensboro. “I originally started it as a volunteer-based program. I rounded up some music students from UNCG, and we borrowed some instruments from the Greensboro Symphony,” Riley explains. “After that first semester, it was so successful that they decided they wanted to expand.” What began as a small group of volunteers quickly evolved into eight paid undergraduate teachers with several high quality instruments at their disposal.
“I wanted to reach out into the community and work with kids and be able to teach a lot of different styles of music.” Riley’s program exposes students to folk, African tunes, South American nursery rhymes, western classical music, and more. “The other big thing was that I wanted an outlet for something that could be student-run and give undergraduates leadership roles in teaching.”
Riley has been responsible for nearly every aspect of the Music Discovery program. She plans, hires, and trains instructors while also teaching advanced classes herself. As she moves past her undergraduate studies, however, Riley is working to make the program self-sustainable. She also hopes to find a dedicated physical space to house the program in the coming years.
The UNCG graduate’s accomplishments have received a great deal of attention. In 2014, she won the CSNAP UNCG Community Impact Student Award, an honor celebrating leadership and innovative approaches to community engagement. This year, Riley was recognized as one of three finalists for the first annual Jerry McGuire Student Entrepreneur Award, which honors superb entrepreneurial achievement by undergraduate and graduate students at UNCG. She is also one of the few undergraduate music education students to be published, thanks to her research on distance learning and technology that allows musicians to perform together via the Internet with minimal latency issues.
Riley will begin pursuing her master’s degree in ethnomusicology, the study of music and culture, at Florida State this fall. Ultimately, she envisions herself playing and teaching music.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time this semester producing a solo album which is the first one that I’m putting out… I also see myself sort of branching out from that and working with universities and grassroots community organizations.” She believes the benefits of music education programs are invaluable. “It keeps me feeling fulfilled. It’s a good outlet for emotions, and it’s a good way to interact with the people that you love and care about. I love it.”
Article author Kevin Flanagan is a Media and Communication Intern with the UNCG Office of Research and Economic Development. He explores and writes articles about the on and off campus impacts of UNCG research. Kevin graduated UNCG in 2015 with a degree in communication studies and will be pursuing his MBA from Northeastern University in the fall. His interest in business, marketing, communication, and media led him to his current position.