Edmonton non-profit connects kids with free music lessons

Music lessons can be expensive but an Edmonton woman wants to make sure all kids can learn to play.

Hannah Liu, a first-year science student at the University of Alberta, founded Music Unbounded with her brother, Gabriel Liu, in 2021. The not-for-profit has a network of music teachers in the city who donate their time to provide free lessons for kids.

“I’ve known the great benefits that music has had in my life,” Liu said. “I just wanted to be able to provide that opportunity to others as well.”

Liu, who has been playing piano since she was three, was inspired to start the charity when she was still a student at Lillian Osborn High School. She was teaching piano and had one student who loved lessons but whose family was struggling to pay.

“Her mom would sometimes ask, ‘Would it be OK if I send the payment after my paycheque came?'” Liu said.

Liu said she knows how expensive lessons are. She’s even seen the financial strain in her own family as her parents paid for lessons for her and her two brothers.

Since Music Unbounded started, it has recruited 25 volunteer teachers. More than 35 students have gone through the program, which provides five months of lessons running once per week.

Many of the volunteer teachers have connections to the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, where Liu’s brother plays cello. 

A boy wearing a blue hoodie sits at a piano. His hand is on the keys and he is looking at sheet music in front of him.
Victor Ramirez, 12, practices piano at a music lesson provided through Music Unbounded. The program matches students with free lessons in Edmonton. (Liam Harrap/CBC Edmonton)

Victor Ramirez, 12, is one of Liu’s current students. He said he probably wouldn’t be playing piano if it weren’t for Music Unbounded.

“The teachers are able to make it fun and interesting too,” Victor said.

Victor said he wants to keep learning to play piano, and maybe be an instructor himself one day.

“I feel proud of myself, being able to play a piece, because it makes everyone else happy,” he said.

Liu said Music Unbounded is always looking for more volunteer teachers who can provide instruction on a variety of instruments.

Liu has received accolades for the Music Unbounded program. But for her, teaching is the real reward.

“I’ve won scholarships and other awards with Music Unbounded being a large part of that, but nothing really compares to the reactions of students when they are so proud to show what they were practicing this week, or they tell you about a recital,” Liu said.

“You can just tell how much they love piano, and nothing compares to that.”

CBC Edmonton is sharing stories of kindness and giving in our community, as part of the Make the Season Kind campaign.