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Undergraduate Researchers

Meredith Donaho, Music and English

"Music For All:" After-School Private Education in Carroll County, MD

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Morin

Music is traditionally underfunded within the Carroll County, Maryland, school system and as a county-sponsored after-school activity. The recent economic downturn has only exacerbated this situation. In addition, many students, especially those living in the most rural and impoverished areas of Carroll County, lack the finances and access to private music instruction needed to reach their fullest potential and achieve life-long enrichment. This research project seeks to explore the creation and development of a volunteer program dedicated to providing individual music lessons to high school and middle school age youth in the Carroll County, Maryland region who cannot afford music lessons but who express a desire to learn an instrument. This research project will lay the groundwork for the development of this program and is divided into three related endeavors: (1) to carry out a needs assessment survey to convey the necessity for such a program, (2) to research similar programs dedicated to music instruction to gain insights and knowledge on how to operate an arts education program, and (3) to conduct research centered on the acquisition of non-profit status for this program, which will be vital for fund raising.

What have you gained from being a URA scholar? What is your most recent (or most interesting) research activity? 

Right now I am in the process of creating a volunteer program to provide disadvantaged youth with the opportunity to start involvement learning a musical instrument by providing them with one or two free half hour lessons. I have found many people within the community who are helping me out, including church members who are allowing me to use churches as sites for the volunteer program. Many parents who I have come into contact with and and spoken to about my project have helped me get the word out about the volunteer program; so far I have been met with a lot of positive feedback from parents and kids who want to learn music but who lack the financial means to do so which has encouraged me to work harder and go farther.

I have gained a lot of insight into the long process of creating a nonprofit, including the forms and paperwork that must be submitted and approved by the IRS. I have also made contacts in the community with others who have created nonprofits.

How much time do you put into it?
During the fall semester I didn't have a lot of time to spend working on the project, but I am making up for it now during the winter break. During the fall, I still continued researching existing nonprofits and contacting directors, spending about an hour a week or less doing so.

When and how did you find out about the URA program?
I found out about the program through my music professor Dr. Morin, who advised many other music students who have been past URA scholars. He encouraged me to apply for the URA, helped me with the proposal writing process and is my mentor for my research.

Was the application difficult to complete? How much did your mentor help you with the application?
The application was not difficult at all. Writing the proposal took some time, I started writing it about two months prior to submitting it. Dr. Morin, my mentor, helped me to revise and edit what I would write which helped me to explain my plan as concisely as I possibly could.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Find a professor who will be your mentor for your research early on, and explain your ideas to them, they can also help you expand your ideas. Also, start writing your proposal early because the process of editing, deleting some ideas, and getting your proposal to the point where it will be accepted can take some time. If you have a great idea for research don't be afraid to pursue it; you never know how far your idea can take you.

What are your career goals?

I would like to work in the nonprofit sector, particularly in the arts, either as a grant writer or director for an organization in addition to teaching guitar.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I am a senior majoring in English and Music, I had no prior experience working with or knowing anything about nonprofits. My research has enabled me to learn how nonprofits, particularly for the arts, work, operate, and benefit the community with hands-on experience and involvement in the community.