It started with an old can of paint and a vision inside of a historic building that was wrecked by floodwaters last year.
Known as Oil Springs High School until 1968, the building now serves as the Oil Springs Cultural Arts & Recreation Center (OSCAR) and is a cultural heritage center offering local artisans a place to create, teach, and participate in many artistic classes.
For local singer, instructor and mother Dara Hart Riley, big things are happening there. It is now the permanent home of the Acoustic Rainbow Studio of Music through which she has been teaching music and movement classes during the past year for children ranging from infancy to four years of age.
Sitting in the now-pristine classroom with foam tile flooring and a mural of mountains lining the back wall, Riley explained what she intends to accomplish there.
“Music and movement is parent-child centered. You do every activity with your child and it’s a really good bonding experience,” she said. “There’s a lot of singing, a lot of vocal play, there’s story time, we do a lot of circle dances, we do a lot of finger plays and we do some beginner ASL. We do some relaxation time and a goodbye song. We try to keep a schedule so they know what to expect.
“It’s really good for language development, for musicality. We learn music terms in private instruction later on. It’s really good for self regulation and social development,” said Riley.
According to Riley, Acoustic Rainbow is benefiting adult participants as well.
“Motherhood can be very isolating. When I first started doing research on music and movement, I saw that it was not just for the kids, but also for the parents and the grandparents and the Moms. You get out of the house and you feel good about it because you’re with your kids and you’re socializing them and you’re socializing you. And music is good for the soul.”
While the class itself isn’t new, finding a permanent home within OSCAR has been pivotal for fulfilling her vision. Riley originally held the class in various places throughout Paintsville, Prestonsburg and Pikeville. It began to grow and they needed a place to settle.
When asked what made the OSCAR center so appealing as a home for her music studio, Riley said “It’s worth keeping this building alive, because if you walk around these halls you see all this art, and if you look at all the details and think about how long that stuff has been up there… I just feel like we should pass this down to our kids. This is a neat place to be and we just need to keep pumping life into it.”
When asked about what inspired her to turn her passion for music into a career, Riley said, “I found out I had thyroid cancer and they were going to take my thyroid out. I thought ‘this is going to ruin my voice. That’s it, my voice is gone.’ It was the most depressing thing,” she continued, “They were taking me to the operating table and then the doctor comes in and says ‘wait a minute, we might have some other options here.’”
After another inconclusive genetic test, it was determined that Riley’s cancer was “encapsulated and not growing,” she said. “So we’re doing watch and wait now. So I thought ‘alright, that’s my second chance. I have to do something.’”
Her vocal coach then suggested she use her talents for teaching children’s music and movement.
“I had zero money and the training was expensive, but I pulled it together, and I did it. We emptied our bank account and a year later, here I am,” she said with a smile.
For more information on Acoustic Rainbow Studio of Music and the music and movement class, call, (606) 434-6051, email, email@example.com, or visit their Facebook page.