Meet the New Face of the Chorus Room

Rebecca Wehner, Staff Writer

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Most of you are aware that our chorus teacher, Daniel Henry, has been on paternity leave for some time now. While of course his students miss him dearly, they have not been left stranded; in fact, his shoes have been filled quite nicely by Alison Melchionna, 23, who has been teaching the class in his place since March. Although some chorus students have gotten to know her these past months, there are many LHS students who know nothing about her. So, this week I took the time to chat with Ms. M. in order to share her story with all of you.

Alison Melchionna is a Western Mass local. She attended high school in Longmeadow — home to famous vocalist Brynn Cartelli — and found herself falling in love with music and singing while there. She tells me that her chorus experience was a huge influence while searching for her career path and ultimately helped her in her decision to pursue teaching music herself.

“Chorus was always my favorite time of the day,” Melchionna said. “I made a lot of friends, and it was always my happy place. And I was like, ‘I wanna keep doing that forever, I wanna keep living in that space.’”

Since then, Melchionna has been committed to the idea of having that influence on the next generation of students. Before arriving at LHS, she has worked as a student teacher in three different positions. She first taught general music to first and second graders at a private Catholic school in Ithaca, New York, where she also attended college.

“That’s a lot of people’s first teaching experience, and you learn a lot about lesson planning and setting up the curriculum,” she explained. She then added, laughing, “It’s not my favorite age group to work with, but the kids were cute and we did a holiday concert, which was nice.”

In addition, Melchionna also taught a general music and music appreciation class at a vocational school to handicapped high schoolers, as well as conducting an auditioned high school choir, which, she informs me, is her favorite age group to work with. This preference was likely kept in mind when she was interviewed to replace Mr. Henry while he was away.

According to the LHS choir, Mr. Henry is a wonderful and inspiring teacher, so there was obviously some pressure going into the position for Ms. M., especially with a concert rapidly approaching. Admittedly, many of his students were concerned about how their performance would turn out.

“I felt bad because I had to cut some pieces, but I would always rather do a shorter concert that’s really well prepared than a longer one that’s kind of a mess,” Melchionna said. “But it went better than I thought. When we were warming up, everyone was excited and happy, and that was probably my favorite part of all of it.”

Sure enough, LHS held the chorus concert on May 1, and the performance was deemed a success. The concert was split into performances by the men’s chorus, the auditioned chorale group, and the entire choir as a whole.

When asked what song she enjoyed teaching the most, Ms. Melchionna immediately replied with the song “This Is Me.” This song comes from the movie “The Greatest Showman,” and she chose this song herself for the chorus to sing, as a monumental closing to the concert that brought everyone together.

Two soloists made their debut in “This Is Me” as well: freshman Shavon Scott and junior Amelia Smith. “I loved seeing everyone audition for the solos,” Melchionna said with a smile. “It was great to see people putting themselves out there and trying out even if they were nervous. Shavon surprised all of us and she was amazing.”

As the year is coming to a close, Ms. M. only has a couple weeks left before Mr. Henry returns and school wraps up. For the past few months, Ms. Melchionna has greatly shaped the chorus classroom and its students, and this experience shaped her just as much.

“It’s really important to my teaching philosophy to not be a dictator in the classroom, so I’m still navigating how to be a teacher without being bossy or that kind of thing…,” she said. “I feel like I learned a lot about adaptability and being flexible, and most of my students were my best resources. Anytime I had a question, [chorus members] were so helpful in answering it. It’s a two way street; your students can help you just as much as you can help them.”

The Ludlow High School chorus is very lucky to have worked alongside such a smart and talented budding teacher and her students wish her luck in all future endeavors.

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