A native of Stafford, Virginia, Melika M. Fitzhugh (A.B. Harvard-Radcliffe: Music Theory and Composition, M.M. Longy School of Bard College: Composition) has performed with the Radcliffe Choral Society, Coro Allegro, the Harvard Wind Ensemble, the Village Circle Band, and WACSAC. Ei studied conducting and composition with Thomas G. Everett, Beverly Taylor, James Yannatos, Julian Pellicano, Roger Marsh, Jeff Stadelman, and, most recently, John Howell Morrison. Mel, who has composed music for film and stage, was a member of Just In Time Composers and Players and is currently a member of world/early music ensemble Urban Myth and the early music ensemble Quilisma Consort, in addition to playing bass guitar with acoustic rock singer/songwriter Emmy Cerra, the ambient rock band Rose Cabal and the genre-defying band Sans Nomenclature. Mel enjoys playing a variety of instruments for folk dance ensembles, including: violin/viola, acoustic guitar/bass, recorders, flute, dumbek/djembe/kahoun.
What's a brief overview of what you do? (Feel free to give a few examples.)
In brief: I am a musician. A bit less brief: composer, instrumentalist, teacher, part-time singer-songwriter and budding medievalist possessed of a mild obsession with the Ars Subtilior.
Are there some past projects you'd like to mention in more detail?
Longy Conservatory Orchestra (with Geoffrey MacDonald conducting) premiered my orchestral work Clever Sinks back in November 2013. I have had compositions premiered by noted early musicians Aldo Abreu, John Tyson and Libor Dudas; John Tyson and other early musicians/historical instrumentalists have commissioned pieces from me as well. One of my pieces, commissioned by local shawm and curtal player Frank Jones, was selected to be performed as part of the inaugural Parma Music Festival in Portsmouth, NH. I was a member of Just in Time Composers and Players in the mid-1990s, where I had pieces premiered by Jennifer Montbach, Ian Carroll, Michael Puri, Luna Pearl Woolf, Patrice Williamson, Tom Pendergast, Oliver Schneller, and Carlton Kish.
Is there anything new you're working on, or an event that's coming up? (This is where you get to plug your new stuff!) My main projects are currently:
Folks in the Hartford, CT area the weekend of 8 March 2015 would be able to hear two of my pieces performed as part of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford.
Why do you do what you do? What's something you get out of it?
Music has always been a part of my daily life. Growing up, my grandmother always had either the radio or the telly on in the background. My favorite shows had music by Richard Lewis Warren, Pete Carpenter and Mike Post, Alf Clausen, Mark Snow, and Danny Elfman. Film composers were also of keen interest to me: Michael Nyman has been an enduring favorite; when I was younger: Henry Mancini, Bernard Herrmann, and John Williams figured high on my list. Oh, and my Uncle Verdi loved spaghetti westerns, so Ennio Morricone was frequently heard around the house on the Saturday afternoons he visited. In high school and college, when most of my acquaintances had select actors or directors, I more often went to the cinema to see a film whose music was composed by certain esteemed musicians. Even though today I don’t have a radio or telly on in the background 24/7 as I once did (attempts to reduce my carbon footprint eventually overrode my need for constant aural stimulation), I still feel the need to fill my existence with music. So, I listen, I write, I perform, I teach!the order may change day to day, but the presence of music in some form does not – even if it’s just in my head!
What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.)
I was born into a musical family; my mother was a concert pianist; my grandmother, a Southern Baptist Deaconess and vocalist. When I was about 5 years old, I began pestering them for a guitar --so that I could be "just like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley." I was thrilled when I received my first guitar for my 6th birthday, and soon started weekly lessons in Fredericksburg, VA with Hans Brennan. In addition to some of the jazz and folk guitar finger picking styles which were popular at the time, Hans taught me transcriptions of Schumann and Bartok, Grieg and Bach, which cemented my enduring love for "classical" music. This admiration started me in musical circles. I have performed in orchestras as a violist, in wind ensembles as a timpanist; I spent my collegiate career as composer and conductor. This journey has indirectly led to forays into what might seem to be two extremes: early music and rock bands. One might wonder how this could possibly be the case; well, in retrospect, even I am not certain. It appears that one thing led to another thing!one conversation with this person led to me doing session work with that individual!one performance with this band led to a tour in India with a modern dance company. A stray email led to a master’s degree in composition. I don’t know that I can posit to one particular big break or mentor, as I have had several incredible opportunities and have worked with many amazing people.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene? (No need to be a Somerville booster here.)
- Somerville Open Studios
- Opensound Series, and flexible/affordable performance spaces like Third Life Studio, and the Green Room (or if you go just a bit into Cambridge, you have places in Inman Square like the Lilypad and Outpost 186)
- Festivals like Honk, Squeezebox Slam, ArtBeat
Any question you want us to ask? Anything else you'd want to mention?
I am quite appreciative of the vibrant scene in Somerville. Unfortunately, the bar scene in Somerville seems a bit on the wane --it feels as though more places which had live music are closing (Rosebud, Precinct) than are opening.