Amelia Riley Thornton
Amelia Riley Thornton is a violin and viola instructor, freelance performer, and recording artist. Based out of Missoula MT, she enjoys a vibrant career as a multi-genre musician, specializing in classical, Americana folk, jazz, and rock violin and viola. An active member of the western Montana arts community, Amelia provides private instruction through her sole proprietorship, Artwork Strings Studio, has served as an adjudicator for the Missoula County Public Schools’ District Music Festival, has directed her own annual summer Artwork String Festival, and leads workshops and presentations on classical and fiddle styles for children and adults. She is a member of the Glacier Symphony and performs annually with Festival Amadeus. She is also a member and administrator of Missoula ensemble, The Receptionists Music. Recently she was awarded the loan of a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle by the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America and is learning about its tradition and performance.
Thornton completed her Masters of Music in Violin Performance at Ohio University, studying under Dr. Solomiya Ivakhiv and Dr. Stephen Miahky. Her studies were fully funded with a Graduate Fellowship, which included placement in the Klinder String Quartet, a select ensemble that performed regularly at the Robert Glidden Recital Hall and provided outreach performances in Athens, Ohio. Through her Fellowship, Thornton taught an undergraduate course on Upper Strings Methods, which sparked in her a passion for teaching advanced and adult students. She also served as a violin instructor for the Athens Community Music School and assisted Dr. Beth Braun with an undergraduate/advanced high school orchestra.
She earned her Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in Business from the University of Puget Sound where she studied violin with Dr. Maria Sampen and Timothy Christie. Thornton’s music business work began in her high school years, when she first began directing and performing in quartets for weddings and other private events. In 2007, at only 19 years of age, Thornton was chosen as the Production Manager for the premiere of the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, founded by Artistic Director Timothy Christie. She served WWCMF for its summer and winter festivals for 10 seasons. During her undergraduate years, Thornton nurtured her love of non-classical genres and in 2009, studied traditional Irish fiddling with Brendan Mulkere at the Hammersmith Irish Cultural Center in London. The following summer she was awarded an Independent Research Grant by the University of Puget Sound to create a documentary film on the state of fiddle music in the Pacific Northwest. Ever committed to the impact of music on her communities, in the fall of 2009, Thornton served on the board of the Tacoma Philharmonic as an undergraduate student member.
In the classical music realm, Thornton has performed in the string sections of Missoula Symphony, Helena Symphony, Bozeman Symphony Ohio Valley Symphony, River Cities Symphony, Ohio University Symphony, Sound Stage Rhythm Orchestra (Portland OR), University of Puget Sound Symphony and String Orchestra, Montana All State Orchestra, and the United States Youth Ensembles 2004 European concert tour. Over the years she has performed in master-classes and private lessons with Danielle Belen, Elbert Tsai, Orli Shaham, The Lenore Trio, composer Erik Griswold, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Sharon Wei. Other instructors she has studied with include Lael Gray, Jackie Melvin, Brendan Mulkere, Owen Dunsford, and Donna Hebert. From 2018-2020 she was the recipient of the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America Adult Student Hardingfele Loan and studied traditional Norwegian fiddling with Rachel Nesvig and took a lesson with HFAA President, Loretta Kelley.
Working with artistic teens has been a priority for much of Thornton’s life and as a result she spent the summer of 2014 working as a Camp Counselor for the San Francisco Ballet School, and in 2014 and 2015 for Center Stage Strings Music Camp, now based at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor MI. At Center Stage Strings, she was featured on a faculty recital performing with Sphinx Competition winner and Colburn/U. of Michigan faculty, Dr. Danielle Belen, Lauren Chipman of The Rentals, and Elbert Tsai. In 2009, Thornton led her own 3-day fiddle workshop for high school students in Kalispell, Montana.
From 2015 to 2016 Thornton worked as the Workshop Manager for Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in Bigfork MT, serving two seasons with the organization managing Front-of-House for a venue of 1000+ audience members, orchestrated the 2016 workshop classes and managed events that showcased the Festival Fellowship and Scholarship students. Through the Crown Workshop and Festival, Thornton and her violin shared the stage with Grammy artist Dweezil Zappa, Kirk Covington, Adam Nitti, Tim Miller, and Kurt Morgan and she worked directly with Grammy award-winning artists Jim Messina, Lee Ritenour, and other guitar greats.
Thornton has a diverse collection of bands that she has been a member of and recorded with. From 2014 to 2016 she was half of the duo, Dean & Riley, and released an album called “Clouds Roll By” in September 2015 (find on iTunes and Spotify), which was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign. She and Illinois native singer-songwriter Kyle Dean performed regularly in western Montana in music venues and festivals and did a national mini-tour from Montana to Illinois in October of 2015. The duo split to pursue solo record projects and to allow Thornton to focus her efforts on the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival.
In 2016, Thornton recorded violin and viola on the premiere jazz record of The Captain Wilson Conspiracy (find on iTunes), a Missoula band that frequently featured her as a guest artist in live performances. An accomplished Old-Time and Bluegrass fiddler, Thornton joined The Sandy Tar String Band (Athens, Ohio) in 2013 and produced a live record and helped organize their 2014 west coast tour. The Sandy Tar String Band was featured on radio station WPAQ (March 29, 2014) and performed at numerous historic theatres including The Historic Earle Theatre in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, and Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, Ohio. The band also composed and performed the soundtrack on a student film by Cory Pratt, entitled, “When Skies are Gray”. Thornton was an original member of the Tacoma-based “newgrass” band, Barleywine Revue, and has performed with Jack Shiver (Montana), The Bad Larrys (Montana), The Bottlecap Boys (Oregon), and done recording sessions with indie-rock bands Azul Yael, and La Rivera. In the contemporary classical genre, spring of 2014 yielded Thornton’s performance of the world premiere of electro-acoustic “Deep Earth” by composer Matthew Burtner, commissioned by the NoBrow Collective in Athens, OH.
In December 2016, Thornton performed on the historic stage of the Columbia City Theatre in Seattle, Washington with Grammy artist Lara Lavi, and recorded electric violin with Gypsy Temple on the upcoming album of young rock artist and Crown Festival’s 2016 EMP Fellowship Student, Cameron Lavi-Jones. She traveled to Norway in winter of 2016 to record a demo with the prog-rock prodigy Haakon Kjeldsberg, whom she met in 2015 when Kjeldsberg attended the Crown Festival as Dweezil Zappa’s Fellowship Student.
In her personal life, Thornton is a talented silk painter and likes to spend her free hours on hikes in the mountains of Montana, traveling to foreign countries, taking long cross-country road trips and stopping along the way to jam with musician friends. She was born in Los Angeles, California but was raised in Kalispell, Montana and has lived in Tacoma WA, Portland OR, Athens OH, San Francisco CA, London England, and Missoula MT.