by Dean Ebesu, SFBC Board Member
The first thing you experience meeting Melanie DeMore is the warmth, joy, and optimism that she gives easily and freely. Her energy invigorates. Her style of speaking with you a blast of fresh air. And that was over video … I can only imagine that an in-person meeting would be all that and more.
Melanie does it all. She is a composer, a singer, a “stick pounder”, a conductor, a mentor, and a teacher to everyone from ages 9 to 90. To lift directly from her bio (http://www.melaniedemore.com/bio/ ): “her mission is to make sure you unlock the key to experiencing yourself in all your Glory and return home with the very same excitement and passion for living that she herself has.”
In truth, it would be impossible to describe all her accomplishments or affiliations here, so I focus on one of her musical passions: stick pounding. Stick pounding comes from the Gullah Islands on the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. You can see the history and spirituality of stick pounding for yourself by watching these short YouTube videos:
Melanie also works with professional and community choirs to help singers connect with their audience through performance. Before SFBC’s 2018 performances of Bach’s St. John Passion, a controversial work due to some of its anti-Semitic texts, SFBC Artistic Director Magen Solomon asked Melanie to work with the choir to reclaim the text as a means to embrace the brilliance of the work itself. Melanie brought sticks for everyone in the choir, and by the end of the workshop, singers were pounding, rocking, and letting music flow through them as their only language, readying our choir for what would be a brilliant performance. And Melanie was there, greeting every singer one by one as we descended the stage after the concert.
Melanie takes her knowledge on the road by leading workshops all around the country and the world. SFBC has been fortunate to work with her three times: twice in-person at our annual Many Voices, One Art Festival (she also was scheduled for last March’s cancelled festival), and again for a virtual MVOA session this past Fall. We are thrilled to welcome Melanie back for three MVOA workshops this Spring!
A truly versatile musician, Melanie also composes and has created original recordings, many of which can be found on YouTube or her website. Here is a sample of one of her compositions/performances:
A bundle of energy that even a pandemic cannot slowdown, she still performs (including at church and memorial services), has participated in about 80 online workshops, teaches university classes, and works with international organizations in South Africa and Canada. She is involved with Black Lives Matter and GALA, the gay and lesbian choral society.
When times have not been good to someone, she will step in and do what she can. In an example of the power of music, she gets a text message from someone she has never met. He attended one of these sessions and wanted to convey to her how much it meant to him. She said, “anytime you need a song, you call me and I’ll sing for you.” He did not seem well and would call every few days and she would sing for him. After a couple of weeks, the calls stopped. To this day, she does not know anything about him. It is the story of how music binds to the soul (and binds souls together) and while it may not be curative, it certainly can be therapeutic and can bring two strangers together if even for a brief period of time.
Melanie is someone worth knowing; watch her videos, listen to her music, and attend her workshops!