Lillian Hawkins, a senior at UNC, smiles every time she thinks about her music students’ end-of-semester performances and the family members, mentors and other students who come together to listen.
The recitals are organized by Musical Empowerment, a local service non-profit that teaches music to kids in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities who may not otherwise be able to afford lessons.
On UNC’s campus, students like Hawkins lend a hand in teaching.
Founded in Chapel Hill in 2002 as "Carolina Music Outreach," the organization provides free weekly one-on-one music lessons to K-12 Chapel Hill-area musicians, providing resources like instruments and lesson space.
Though the organization has reached a national scale since then, UNC students stay involved at the University's branch of the organization.
Musical Empowerment consists of approximately 150 mentor-student pairs who meet once a week for a 40-minute lesson. The organization provides both the instrument and the lesson space for the student.
Some student mentors are music majors, like Ryan Phillips, a UNC senior who is a clarinet teacher and the chair of the Teacher Relations Committee.
Phillips has been involved in the organization since his first year at UNC. He said that his passion for music motivates him, but the most important aspect of the program is mentorship.
“It's really nice to know that a lot of the children that we teach are connecting with people that they might be able to see as role models, as well as learning about the things that we're really excited about,” Phillips said.