Meet our Staff

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Samantha Rise, Program Director

Samantha (she/her/hers) is honored to join the GRP team as Program Director.  Samantha first fell in love with this city as a student at Temple University, where she earned her BFA in Jazz Performance. Since graduating, Samantha’s passion for music and community building are the heart of her work: Over the last decade, she has worked as a teaching artist and enrichment instructor in Philly, New York, New Jersey and in the D.C area. Samantha is also a librarian by day, has enjoyed public service in the Public Library, first as a Youth Services Librarian in western Wyoming, and  as a maker-mentor in the Free Library’s Maker Jawn.  Samantha loves to build and feed spaces that are inquiry-driven, participant led and abundant in joy!

In addition to her experience as an teaching artist, Samantha brings her deep commitment to social justice to her position, and is thrilled to support GRP in its work to operationalize these values.  Samantha identifies and a musician and Vocalist, AND believes that Music is a birthright: she is dedicated to creating equitable access and to music as a tool for healing, transformative justice, and self-determination.  She loves sharing her original music and singing with local indie project, The People.  She is perennially available for sing alongs, dance parties, hugs, road trips and Big Question conversations.

Joining GRP as a staff person feels in equal measure a homecoming and new adventure, and she looks forward to growing together, living the questions and amplifying the incredible work happening at Girls Rock Philly.  She is lives in West Philly her husband/wonderhuman Ryan and Giant wonderdog, Beatrice.

P.S. Sun Sagittarius, Moon in Capricorn, Gemini Rising.

Get in touch:

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Melanie Hsu, Community Organizing Director

Since 2015, Mel (she/her/hers) has worn many hats within the organization: volunteer, instrument instructor, band coach, volunteer coordinator, workshop facilitator and eternal cheerleader! She is excited for her relationship with the GRP Community to continue evolving in courageous and transformative ways.

Mel has been a teaching artist for several art organizations throughout Philadelphia and is best known for naming her teaching studio “The ClassWomb,” due to the intentional steps she takes to build her learning spaces as sites of continual rebirth and evolution. “The ClassWomb” celebrates mistakes, questions, frustration, slowness and vulnerability as the birthplace of growth. Through the exploration of music, Mel and her students empower one another by embarking on the radical process of learning without shame and expressing without fear.

Raised primarily a classical cellist, Mel has a deep and eternal love for the low frequencies of the bass clef. As a multi-instrumentalist, Melanie composes and performs for film, theater, dance, poetry and epic neighborhood parades.

Get in touch:

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Candy Johnson, Operations Manager

Candy started volunteering with GRP in summer of 2013 and is now the Barracuda Club Coordinator. After graduating from Rutgers University, Candy taught English in France and worked in Student Services at the English Language Programs at Penn. In addition, Candy has been organizing shows with Permanent Wave Philly since 2012 and currently plays guitar and bass in local bands Bike Crash and Mermaid Parade.

Get in touch:


Mollie Williams, Summer Intern & Data Analyst

Molllie (she/her/hers) - Mollie is a newly-rooted southern transplant! Hailing from South Carolina, she co-founded Girls Rock Columbia in 2013 and was the organization's executive executive director for 4 years. She earned a Master of Social Work degree with an emphasis on organizational structures and community organizing from the University of South Carolina, and worked primarily with incarcerated peoples and children who are survivors of physical and sexual abuse and neglect. She is now working on a Master of Public Administration degree at UPenn with a focus on nonprofit consulting and fundraising and is thrilled to death that she is able to dovetail this work into a summer internship with an organization that sustains and empowers her and the city that she now calls home.