MELISSA grew up in the small, Midwestern town of Kent, Ohio. She spent most of her early childhood playing Barbies and dress-up with her sisters, studying piano and violin, watching The Sound of Music on VHS, reading, writing, and daydreaming. When dreaming about what she wanted to be when she grew up, Melissa considered teacher, first female president of the United States, concert pianist, doctor, ballerina, princess, and professional baseball player.
Melissa’s foray into the theatre was in preschool when she produced, directed, and starred in her own production of Cinderella, which received rave reviews from her parents and 4-year-old friends. Her first public appearance was several years later in second grade when she debuted with “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” at the Franklin Elementary School Christmas Concert.
In seventh grade, Melissa landed her first stage role as the ghost of a dead silent movie star in Our Guests Are Ghosts. Later that year, Melissa entered the Davey Junior High School Talent Show and took home the $50 First Place Prize. She also began singing with the school’s jazz ensemble and would continue with them throughout high school.
Throughout high school, Melissa continued to develop and explore her talents and interests. She was the vocalist for the jazz ensemble, editor of the school newsmagazine, secretary of the International Thespian Society, and valedictorian of her graduating class. During her sophomore year, Melissa’s performance at the Ohio Solo & Ensemble Competition earned her an invitation to sing with an all-Ohio choir that toured Europe the following summer. She was also a member of her school’s elite vocal ensemble, accompanist for the choir, statistician for the varsity football team, and a puppeteer for Kids on the Block, a troupe that works with disabled students to help promote awareness.
Melissa’s varied interests (and Midwestern rationality) initially led her to pursue a liberal arts degree from Kenyon College. Although she planned to declare an English or French major, she found that she was spending all of her time in the music department. During spring break her freshman year, Melissa visited a friend at the Eastman School of Music and totally fell in love with it. As she had missed the transfer application deadline by three months, she immediately set out on a campaign to be heard by the voice faculty. After one month of daily phone calls and e-mails from Melissa, they finally told her, “Fine! Send a tape.” She sent the tape and was accepted as one of the ten vocalists in her graduating class.
Although Melissa loved her time at Eastman studying classical music, she still felt the pull of musical theatre. After working for one year upon graduation at a small, not-for-profit theatre, she was still unsure of which direction to take, so she opted to earn her master’s degree while she figured it out. She moved to North Carolina to study voice at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she performed in both theatre and opera productions. And while studying opera at UNCG, she learned that she loved sweet tea, Southern hospitality, mild winters, and most of all, musical theatre.
Melissa also loves animals, books, France, coffee, 1980s hair bands, English grammar, the beach, party dresses, her neurotic Chihuahua, Zoë, and her orange tomcat, Stanley. Melissa and her husband, Brian, spent a handful of years living and working in New York City as professional actors before the birth of their children, Scarlett and Leo. They currently live in Athens, Ohio.