How we work

Music | Dance | Performing Arts | Visual Arts

The Riverside Arts Academy….who we are and what we do!

We are committed to changing lives in our City through a joint collaboration with the city, businesses, and individuals like you!
Our mission is to provide access and connection to the arts with a focus on music, as a way of changing the trajectory of the lives of underserved youth ages 4-17. We will accomplish this by:

  • Advocating for music education in our community as an equalizer in our schools and community for our youth by providing free or low cost instruction and instruments
  • Focusing and creating a diverse music community of the highest quality that is rich with cultural, social, opportunities in music and performance opportunities
  • Coaching and being a resource for existing and future music teachers, school districts, colleges and universities with real life teaching experiences in their musical disciplines with the goal of staying and working in our region
  • Advocating the importance of music, as it relates to literacy in our schools, and collecting data to support this mission
  • Developing informed and inquiring minds through exposure to community leaders and peer to to peer mentoring
  • Through its community and education programs, offering the highest quality music/arts instruction and performance opportunities for students of all ages to improve their academic outcomes and potential to achieve in their lives

We are committed to providing instruction and a springboard to arts education in a broad-based curriculum that focuses on improving the quality of life through music, dance, performing, and visual arts. We give FREE instruments and up to 5 hours a week of Free music instruction to the underserved children of our community, as a way to keep kids engaged, out of trouble while providing mentoring as positive role models.

In 2012, during the Riverside Renaissance Project, Councilman Andy Melendrez began a dialogue with the Riverside Unified School District to reestablish an elementary school on the east side of the city. Due to the economic climate, the vision gave birth to The Eastside School of the Arts, at the Bobby Bonds Complex, under the leadership of Ralph Nunez, who was serving as the City of Riverside Parks Recreation Director. Along with incredibly dedicated staff, the school opened its doors on a shoestring budget equipped with donated instruments and volunteer instructors. The City of Arts and Innovation had its first School of the Arts founded through a grassroots effort and with a mission to change lives.

By July of 2013, class sizes reached 500 students. Encountering issues of sustainable funding, the community and local businesses including Windermere Tower Properties, The Latino Network, Altura Credit Union, The Group, and the Riverside Police Foundation made a commitment to raise funds to keep the doors of the school open.
Over the next two years, a board made up of community members met alongside the city to create a strategic plan. The plan included raising the level of instruction with the assistance and collaboration of local educational institutions including the University of California Riverside, California Baptist University, Riverside City College, La Sierra University, the Alvord Unified School District, the Riverside Unified School District, and California Riverside Ballet.

By June of 2015, additional sites were created at Arlanza, Casa Blanca and Eastside staffed with high-caliber instructors teaching a myriad of courses including ballet, folklorico, music, and art. Riverside Arts Academy became an affiliate of the Harmony Project, a nationally recognized program based in Los Angeles.
Through another community effort, specifically by funds were raised for the Riverside Arts Academy and a group of 4 guardian angels, it was able to hire its first music director, renowned pianist, Alpin Hong. Alongside an empowered board of directors, the Academy began new initiatives including a TK through 3rd-grade music and literacy program in collaboration with Alvord Unified School District. Riverside Unified School District under the Direction of Annemarie Guzy, VAPA Coordinator commenced after-school instruction at 4 elementary school sites. Simultaneously, a second site, RAA @ CBU was started under Dr. Stephen Posegate and the first string program was begun at Foothill Elementary School in Alvord Unified School District and with an enrollment of 29 students.

In the 2015-2017 season, The Riverside Youth Orchestra performed at numerous events including the Mariachi Festival and the Festival of Lights, as well as for the California League of Cities. The art produced by students of the Academy had been displayed at local businesses and organizations. In 2015, the Riverside Arts Academy received community and two prestigious State Awards for programming and community initiative.

In the summer of 2018, Noemy Wheeler became interim Music Director, and the First Summer Music program started with over 110 students. The Riverside Arts Academy became an affiliate of the El Sistema, an internationally recognized program. In the same year, the Riverside Arts Academy, in collaboration with the Riverside Unified School District, was awarded its first grant in the amount of $45,000 from the PRESTO Foundation, an organization promoting emerging music programs.
In the fall of 2018, in an effort to educate community and teachers and teacher candidates about the positive aspects of music integration in curriculum, Riverside Arts Academy organized and collaborated with Educational partners, UCR, La Sierra University, California Baptist University, Cal State San Bernardino, Alvord, and Riverside Unified School Districts and held the first “Making Music in Education” Conference to much academic acclaim.

In November 2018, the Riverside Arts Academy hired a new music director and conductor of the Riverside Youth Orchestra, Dr. Gene Moon. Dr. Moon joined the faculty of California Baptist University in 2018 and serves as Director of Orchestral Studies. In 2018, there were over 2,500 participants, and an additional 1,910 students enrolled in the music Boost program at Alvord Unified. In 2019, both sites at RAAMP@CBU and RAAMP@Cesar Chavez reached maximum enrollment numbers. We also wrapped up our Second Annual Making Music in Education Conference in October, which was a huge success!

In 2019, the RAA Board approved a new name change for our music program and we now operate as the Riverside Arts Academy Music Project (RAAMP). Through the Riverside Arts Academy, RAAMP offers high-quality, low-cost music programs at our sites in the Riverside and Alvord Unified School Districts, CBU, and the Cesar Chavez Community Center.

Our organization has exercised a lot of flexibility and resilience in 2020. With the surge of COVID-19 and the subsequent closures of our schools and community facilities, RAA had to quickly transition our music instruction to an online format. Our quick thinking and “all in this together” mentality proved to be successful. Enrollment for our online program averaged 160 students per week and we successfully retained all of our Teaching Artists for the remainder of the school year.
We continue to embrace an attitude of service to our youth and hope to change the course of our City using music and the arts as the vehicle to keep kids engaged and raise academic achievement, which in the long run will create a higher quality of life for all in our City.

“As a long time teacher, I appreciate the positive impact music and art have on learning and brain development. In fact, my son works in the music business, an interest that started when he was very young and fostered by teachers and family. Unfortunately, not all schools can provide broad arts and music programming, which makes organizations like the Riverside Arts Academy invaluable to our communities and deserving of our support.”

Jose Medina — California State Assembly Member, 61st District

Our Instructors


  • Ruth Noemy Wheeler
  • Ellie Bunker
  • Jay Casillas
  • Jerusha Lumley
  • Katelynn Azevedo
  • Ethan Pipion
  • Melissa Blanco


  • Mario Gutierez
  • Ryan Gross
  • Alec Richard
  • Greg Trujillo
  • Antonio Castañeda (Mariachi)
  • Mitchell Collard (Percussion)


  • Dr. Nové Deypalan
  • Traivon Williams
  • Melody Leon

Program Staff

  • Dr. Nové Deypalan, Program Director
  • Luke Hilland, Program Manager
  • Leti Bernard, Program Assistant
  • Molly Becker, Program Coordinator