Musician helps Riverside students grow their skills in music, life

When Luke Hilland started learning the violin in third grade, he became the only musician in his family. After a short while he switched to the trumpet, but it would not be until high school that he found the instrument that would become his passion.

“When I got to high school, I picked up the French horn, which proved to be a significant challenge to learn,” said the Riverside resident. “I grew up listening to oldies, classic rock and much more, so I always had a great affinity for all music and it definitely helped develop my sense of rhythm and pitch.”

Hilland went on to study music performance at the University of Redlands, where he earned a Bachelors of Music degree, and Northwestern University, where he earned a Master of Music. He described the French horn as a brass instrument with a unique character.

“The French horn plays a vital role in the symphony orchestra and you can often pick out its characteristic dark sound from the rest of the ensemble,” he said. “All the best composers wrote great music for the French horn and it’s frequently featured in movie scores like ‘Star Wars.’”

Riverside resident Luke Hilland is a working musician throughout the Inland Empire, including with the Redlands Symphony, and also the general manager of the Riverside Arts Academy. (Photo provided by the artist)

As a freelance musician, Hilland has spent a lot of time traveling to gigs in the greater Los Angeles area. He has also played with such local groups as the Moreno Valley Wind Symphony, Riverside Children’s Theater and Redlands Community Orchestra. A particular point of pride was winning a spot in the Redlands Symphony.

“It’s been a bit of a homecoming and my colleagues in the orchestra are all so positive,” he said. “The orchestra is conducted by our incredible music director, Ransom Wilson. He plans such engaging and unique programs every season. There is definitely something for everyone, regardless of your musical taste.”

On Oct. 9, the Redlands Symphony held its season-opening performance, after having been on hiatus for nearly 20 months.

Three years ago Hilland became the general manager of the Riverside Arts Academy, which offers free music instruction and instruments for Riverside youth ages 7 through 17.

“Our mission includes ensuring students feel supported and valued and partnering with community leaders to provide social opportunities for our students in performance, mentorship, and literacy,” he said. “Students have room to grow in our program, regardless of their previous musical experience. They also get to perform all over Riverside during the year. RAA serves as a toolbox for kids in Riverside to grow and hopefully thrive as community members.”

Hilland was eager to discuss the recent hiring of the Riverside Arts Academy’s newest music director Dr. Nové Deypalan.

“Nové holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in orchestral conducting from the University of South Carolina,” said Hilland. “He has conducted around the world and has performed at the Vatican for the Pope on three separate occasions. His vision for us is tremendous and working with him has been an absolute joy.”

Music is something that Hilland described as being a great vessel for growth and development in all aspects of a child’s life.

“There is some amazing research being done at Northwestern University on how music can change the brain and improve a child’s reading and math skills. Magnify this effect over many years and it can have a profound impact on the trajectory of a person’s life. That is why we take equal access to music education so seriously.”

On Thursday, Nov. 4, the Riverside Arts Academy will hold their “art of giving” gala. Titled “Spanish Nights,” all proceeds will go directly toward supporting the group’s programming.


Patrick Brien is executive director of the Riverside Arts Council.

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