Melissa began singing in a church choir at the age of four and has been "hooked" ever since. After years of performing in various choirs and taking lessons herself, she went on to earn her Bachelor's degree in vocal performance at Illinois Wesleyan University and her Master's at Illinois State University. Meanwhile, Melissa was also studying piano from childhood through college. Now in her 21st year of playing, Melissa loves to teach beginner and intermediate pianists in addition to young singers. She is a newcomer to the DC area, and has previously lived, sung, and taught in Illinois, Indiana, and Vienna, Austria.
Melissa has performed on both the undergraduate and graduate level (and beyond). Her experience includes operas, operettas, recitals, musicals, and choirs. She has performed in venues ranging from the Indianapolis Opera to the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Over the years she has performed in the United States, Canada, England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. She also studied piano for many years, and has experience as an accompanist and vocal coach.
Melissa started teaching during her senior year of college when she took her first vocal pedagogy course. Teaching has been an important part of her schedule ever since. She has taught privately, through various community schools, through several national companies, and she served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Illinois State University for two years. Thus, she has experience teaching all ages and skill levels. Her students have ranged from beginners to university music majors, from age 4 to age 72.
Other than her pedagogy training and the typical university diction and literature curriculum, she also took 14 years of French, and lived in a German-speaking country for the better part of a year studying the language. Her knowledge of diction and language issues is extensive. This, combined with her comprehensive training in music theory, history, and repertoire, gives her a vast reserve of knowledge and resources for her teaching.
*** Lesson Details ***
In lessons, I strive to keep the atmosphere collaborative rather than dictatorial. I encourage you, the student, to ask questions, and I believe it's imperative for you to understand why what you're learning is important. I do my best to make you feel comfortable trying new things and making mistakes. Ultimately, learning vocal technique requires putting your trust in the teacher without abandoning your own individual thoughts. Knowing this, I try to engender the necessary trust in my knowledge while collaborating with you to incorporate your own words, metaphors, thoughts, and feelings into your approach. I hope to encourage you to trust me, but not depend on me. I'll equip you with a process—with a solid technique and an understanding of why it will help you, with a good idea of how to practice, with the tools to achieve proper diction and translation without always having to parrot my pronunciation, and of course with the ability to read music and learn new songs without my note-for-note supervision. I don’t hesitate to give my students as much help as they need, but as you grow more advanced and experienced, I become increasingly focused on helping you understand how much you can accomplish in your at-home practice sessions without me. This speeds your progress and ensures that you will not feel helpless when you go home to practice.
Singing is great fun, but at times it can seem like hard, frustrating work. Music lessons can either be a huge coup for a person’s sense of self, or they can tear it down and make that person feel inadequate. Knowing this, I strive to keep lessons fun, above all. I believe in my students' talent, and I do my best to be encouraging and supportive, and to instill a sense of pride and achievement.
*** Studio Equipment ***
Two pianos, music stand, metronome, music flashcards, staff paper, worksheets and educational aids related to the music theory program I've designed for voice students, various small rhythm instruments, two keyboards, a guitar, and a music library of 389 volumes (and growing...)
*** Specialties ***
Although my voice is particularly suited for classical music and classic music theater, I have also successfully taught students interested in more modern music theater, folk/acoustic rock, jazz, and gospel. I believe that students thrive when they’re allowed to sing the kind of music they prefer, as well as encouraged to broaden their scope.