We are thrilled to have Melissa with us this school year. Her extensive musical background and love for teaching has allowed her to become a beloved member of our school community in just a short few months.
Melissa was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. Melissa's upbringing in a family of accomplished musicians ignited her early love for both performance and artistic mentorship. Her musical journey then took her across the Atlantic Ocean, beginning with studies at the renowned Interlochen Arts Academy, near Traverse City, Michigan. This was followed by a full scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York City where Melissa honed her craft under the guidance of esteemed mentors.
Post-graduation, her dedication to music propelled her onto the global stage, performing in prestigious festivals and concert halls. From her role as Principal Cellist in the Juilliard Symphony at Carnegie Hall to sharing the stage with the likes of Michael Bublé, Melissa's professional career also extended into teaching cello, orchestra, and chamber music at prominent programs throughout the United States. From the Alaska Cello Intensive to the National Cello Institute and the Chicago Music Institute, her impact has resonated far and wide. Before coming to Headwaters, Melissa has been a part of the musical programs of other private and charter schools, while maintaining a vibrant cello studio and cello choir right here in Austin.
With over two decades of teaching experience, Melissa notes that she approaches education as a “profound art of building relationships.” She is able to recognize each child’s individual strengths, personalities, and qualities. Melissa sees “music is a conduit for life skills and personal growth, challenging her students to reach new heights while nurturing creative thinking, self-discovery, empathy, courage, collaboration and a harmonious understanding of themselves and others.” Whether she is playing her cello for the students to sing along to, or performing alongside our student musicians with voice and percussion instruments, Melissa’s engaging teaching style is a joy for all involved.
Melissa is currently preparing her Elementary students for an exciting Winter Sing-Along concert on Tuesday, December 19, 2023 from 1:45-3 p.m. We’re excited to welcome families to join the fun!
What Drew Melissa to Headwaters
I felt an irresistible connection to teaching at Headwaters, drawn by the caring, warm, open, and inclusive community. It's a place where down-to-earth, authentic individuals cultivate an environment brimming with love, humanity, and unwavering support for growth and creativity. I resonated with a place that has the PACT at its core, encouraging everyone to be Peacemakers, Advocates, Creators, and Thinkers. I absolutely love that everyone has such a terrific sense of humor too! Headwaters–-and our cozy Yurt–is a teaching sanctuary I'm proud to call home.
Fun Facts about Melissa
I love the wide variety of experiences life offers us! I have loved experiencing all kinds of things, from being chased by an elephant in an open safari vehicle, nipped on my bottom by a lion, and a way-too-close encounter with a baboon that got into our car, to playing in Carnegie Hall with the Juilliard Symphony, with Michael Buble in the AT&T Stadium, and on stages around the world, to snow-machining in the Alaskan Brooks Range, dog-sledding along the Yukon Quest Trail, seeing the Northern Lights in -40 degrees, and camping in the soft moss covered Boreal Forest, the Redwood Forest and State and National Parks around the country. I love experiencing life fully in all its colors, flavors, sounds and variations, from smelling the tiniest flower on a morning walk to thrilling adventures and everything in between.
My favorite hobbies that I could spend all day doing if I have time are wood carving, being outdoors in nature, or playing chamber music with friends.
I am fascinated with psychology and brain science. To me, teaching music to children is part music, part psychology, part brain science and part emotional intelligence and every part of it is interesting every day!
My other job is being a cello teacher in my wonderful cello studio after school hours, where I teach kids ages 3-18 private lessons, and have cello orchestra, quartet, beginning and advanced ensembles, recitals and teach masterclasses and workshops around the country.
My two kids, ages 12 and 10, are the apples of my eye, the loves of my life, my greatest joy and the center of my universe.