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Musical Empowerment to host free music festival this Saturday

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UNC Musical Empowerment is hosting their first ever mini music festival on Saturday, April 22, 2023, at the CURRENT ArtSpace on Franklin Street.

This time last year, UNC senior Liam Hanson came to Professor David Garcia, Musical Empowerment’s faculty advisor, with the idea of organizing a music festival. 

As the co-chairperson of the teacher relations committee for the organization, Hanson wanted to spread awareness about Musical Empowerment and garner support from the community.

Musical Empowerment is a national student organization with a chapter at UNC. It provides music lessons and instruments at no cost to children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community who would not be able to afford them otherwise. 

The organization is partnering with Carolina Performing Arts to host the event this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the CURRENT ArtSpace on Franklin Street. The event is free, as the organizers said they wanted to keep it accessible to the public. 

Garcia said the most important aspect of the organization is the commitment and dedication that UNC students and instructors have for the mission of Musical Empowerment.

“It's something that we here in the Department of Music, faculty, staff as well as students really value — that is the music education obviously — but also providing support for families regardless of their income, abilities or inabilities to share music and musical instruction with their children,” he said. 

Tess McGrinder, a senior and co-president of Musical Empowerment, said the organization has three central components: free one-on-one music lessons, an instrument lending program and teacher-mentor enrichment programs. 

McGrinder said she is always enthusiastic when people on the leadership team take up new projects or pursue things they are creative and passionate about.

Lately, the organization has been hosting fundraising events in anticipation of the mini-festival, along with guest speakers and teacher support groups. 

“I think Liam's done a really good job championing this from its earliest stages," McGrinder said. "We have our recital every year, but we've never had this kind of event before — a festival."

As the event's lead organizer, Hanson thought of making a music festival because he wanted musical mentors in Musical Empowerment to feel more integrated into the organization. 

Hanson said the different wings of the Musical Empowerment community include a body of teachers, students, their families and the general Chapel Hill-Carrboro community.

“But one thing that a lot of teachers talk about is ‘I want to feel more like a part of this organization,’" Hanson said. "So, the idea was to make a free event where people could come out and enjoy music, interact with one another, and we could get that more holistic community interaction." 

Hanson was also inspired to make a music festival in order to gain exposure for the mission of Musical Empowerment.

Student and University-affiliated groups will perform at the event, including a cappella group Tar Heel Voices, Carolina Bluegrass Band and UNC Hip Hop Ensemble, along with a Musical Empowerment student showcase. 

“One of the things we really wanted to do with this event was to get a diverse range of different kinds of acts and different kinds of genres and performers,” Hanson said. “I think the idea there is that's the kind of stuff that we want to expose our students to.” 

Throughout the event, members will promote Musical Empowerment through periodic emcee announcements and a greeting table where people can donate money to the program. 

McGrinder said while the organization has gained traction over the years, name recognition is still something the members are always fighting for. 

“We're hoping people come by, enjoy the music for some time, hang out together and then learn a little bit about Musical Empowerment,” she said. 

Hanson said he is going to enjoy watching the shows even though he is running the event. 

“There's other stuff going on that day, but to be putting on a music festival for this cause that's so important — I just think is really exciting, just kind of at face value to be enjoying free music with other community members and getting the word out about the organization," Hanson said.

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