Our Story

Melanie Riordan smiling with headphones onBack in October of 2020, I hit a wall. It was 8 months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and I was living and working out of a small room in an apartment in Florida. Despite having more students than ever before, I felt unsatisfied with my impact as an educator. Over the course of a decade working as a musician, I had realized that my purpose in life was to change and inspire lives through music education. Sure, I was doing that on a small scale with my university and private students - but I knew something was missing. Luckily, I had all the time in the world to think about how to take the next step towards making a bigger impact.

I began reflecting on all of my personal experiences as an aspiring violinist; thousands of hours of practice, hundreds of lessons, the performances, the teachers, the festivals, the auditions – all of it. I realized that, despite doing everything I was supposed to do to “make it” in this industry, so much had been missing from my education. I spent years dealing with performance anxiety, injury, fear, imposter syndrome, and sexual harassment – always getting the same answer every where I turned: Just keep practicing. Aspiring music students need and deserve more! By designing a festival that offered high quality instruction and simultaneously focused on providing a comfortable, supportive, and safe space in which to learn, I sought to establish an equitable music education environment for women and girls. So, I created the SSAG!

After 6 months of nonstop emailing, planning, and organizing, I launched the Summer Strings Academy for Girls in the July of 2021 on Zoom. Every day for three weeks, world-renowned artists and aspiring string students from around the world gathered on Zoom. Students participated in private lessons, technique classes, studio classes, master classes, career-building seminars, emotional-wellbeing workshops, discussion panels, and live Q&A sessions with composers and performing artists. Despite being hundreds of miles apart, a strong bond was forged amongst the students. Now, after two successful virtual seasons, the SSAG has created a community of support and friendship, spanning oceans and continents, which continues to this day. Since our first season in 2021 the SSAG has served 38 students from 11 different countries including Brazil, China, Colombia, England, Honduras, Korea, Mexico, Scotland, Syria, the United States, and Venezuela. We’re lucky to have had incredible faculty and guest artists from the most prestigious musical institutions from around the world, and a tremendous amount of support from family and friends.

I am thrilled to announce our inaugural in-person season, which will occur in New York, this July. Stay tuned for more information about our 2023 dates, location, faculty, guest artists, and application information. Want to get involved? Email us to learn more about volunteering opportunities. Want to support the SSAG and the next generation of female musicians? Make a donation by clicking Here today!