Students in the organization Musical Empowerment seek to mentor underserved children in music. But in practice, the mentors learn just as much as the mentees.
The group boasts about 160 student teachers who mentor children in instruments like guitar, piano, violin, brass, saxophone and even voice — and have continued to do so despite the technological and internet disparities heightened by the pandemic.
Abigale Hawkins, a junior business administration major and co-president of Musical Empowerment, said the organization focuses on both music and mentorship.
“The benefits conferred to young people by having a relationship with music are numerous,” Hawkins said. “It helps students understand the way they think, and they learn. It also helps them cultivate self-discipline.”
Mentors are paired with students based on instrument interest and personal compatibility to enhance the teaching dynamic better, co-president Mikey Mueller, a senior computer science and statistics and analytics major, said.
In many cases, these mentor-mentee relationships can span the entirety of an instructor's academic career at UNC. Mueller, for instance, has been teaching guitar to his student for the past four years.
Hawkins said lessons are not just a learning experience for students.
“I feel like I am growing as a person along with my students,” Hawkins said, reflecting upon her student's resilience in the face of COVID-19. "She is always really in the moment and can still be happy despite the fact that COVID is going on."
Under normal circumstances, Mueller said lessons would usually be held in the churches on Franklin Street. But the COVID-19 era has disallowed in-person instruction.