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Albemarle Neighbor: Albemarle Chorale’s Jan Riley’s ‘heartbeat is musical’

By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

The Daily Advance

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Music has always been important to Jan Riley.

“Our heartbeat is musical,” said Riley, a member of the Albemarle Chorale. “We all seek beauty and want to satisfy our souls.”

Riley joined the Chorale with her husband, Fred, six years ago after he retired.

“We chose to do this together,” said Riley.

Mondays the couple travels to Edenton United Methodist Church to practice with the Albemarle Chorale, a community service education program sponsored by the College of the Albemarle, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters.

The Albemarle Chorale will present “The Mass: From Cathedral to Concert Hall” April 27 at Edenton United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. and May 4 at First United Methodist Church in Elizabeth City at 4 p.m.

“We do it because we love music,” said Riley.

Born in Milwaukee, Wis., Riley grew up in Maryland. She met her husband at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was attending law school and she was in graduate school.

Riley moved to Elizabeth City with her husband in the late 1960s. She said the first community activity she joined in the area was a similar choral singing group sponsored by COA.

In 1983 as the public affairs director of radio station WCNC, Riley hosted the radio show, “Community Closeup” until 2001, interviewing more than 1,000 guests.

She said she enjoyed all of her interviews, and she recollected a memorable interview with Gloria Steinem.

Riley continued to spotlight community leaders and organizations as the host of television broadcasts, “380 Days” in association with the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools and Elizabeth City State University’s “Community Connections.”

Active in many community groups, she is a current board member of the SPCA of Northeastern North Carolina. She is a member of the Elizabeth City Morning Rotary Club. Riley also served as a board member and former president of the Albemarle Area United Way.

She is a former board member of the Albemarle Family YMCA, American Heart Association, Pasquotank Chapter and the College of the Albemarle Board of Trustees.

Riley was a 2009 Witherspoon-Harris Award recipient. She says she gains “personal satisfaction” from her work with the community.

Riley said she enjoys spending time with her husband, three children and two granddaughters who all share a passion for music.

When she is not gardening, exercising at the YMCA or participating in a community organization, Riley said she likes to travel with her husband to various destinations around the world.

“This is a wonderful life,” said Riley. “I am looking to stay active as long as possible.”

Anna Goodwin McCarthy is a correspondent for The Daily Advance.