Melissa Rambles

There has always been music as far back as I can remember - it's never been particularly formal, but it's always been there. I started taking classical piano at the age of six, shortly after mom got a piano for her birthday and my sisters and I began to annoy her by playing her lessons more easily than she did - darn kids! It went on that way until around fourth grade in elementary school, when I took up viola in order to prepare for the following year, which was as early as you could join the music program at school at the time. Why viola? Because my older sister took cello, the younger took violin, and heaven forbid any of us should actually play the same instrument, of course!

By sixth grade, it was all about BAND. French horn replaced viola, but piano stuck with me the whole way through. Kiski Area had a fantastic music program, with symphony bands, jazz bands, marching bands (the works!) - and we played in as many of them as possible. I got my first taste of participating in big band jazz on the piano there, and I played French horn formally up to my last year at university at IUP, when scheduling conflicts with my Spanish/business major just wouldn't let it happen any more, even for no credits. I still tootle from time to time, and I play piano and compose for my own enjoyment.

Other than Girl Scout camp, I really didn't get around to singing until late 1999, when a random happy hour first time ever karaoke incident while living and selling cement in São Paulo, Brazil, led me to Cara e Coroa, a small four-voice choir concentrating on Brazilian and American music from the 1930's and 1940's. It so happened that the director of that particular group also directed a group called Sophisticated Ladies, a quartet specializing in American Big Band jazz from the 1930's. They were missing a "base," and I was invited in. What fun! We toured with a small band, singing in shopping malls and cultural events, and once even singing with a full-blown big band that São Paulo just happened to have. We sang together until 2001 and the group's unfortunate demise.

After that, I paired up with Gilberto Costa, great friend and guitarist, to take on the world of solo work. He loved the Beatles and wanted to learn more English, I was getting into bossa nova and learning the guitar, so we worked out a little exchange program that did well for both of us. We played in a lot of Irish pubs and on a lot of beaches, and were still going strong when I had to leave Brazil and come back to the US at the end of 2002.

There was a rough year and a bit there, with some serious reverse culture shock and an utter lack of music, until a single party in March of 2004 led me to both the Latin American Choir of Pittsburgh and an Argentine guitarist who loved Brazilian bossa nova. A year later I was president of the choir, and singing bossa nova developed into Onda Brasil, still featuring Claudio Soloaga on guitar and myself on vocals, but with the happy addition of Roger Day on tuba and his son, Nathan Resnick-Day, on congas. Somewhere along the line I also picked up hand percussion, mostly driven by wanting to participate in jam sessions even if I didn't know the words - a knack and instant stress relief, all at one go!

It was at about that time that Jorge and Paul also joined the Latin American Choir. When invited to perform at Colombian Independence Day in July, they thought it would be nice to have some percussion, and the rest is history!

Sometimes it's amazing just how nicely the world works out, isn't it?

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