IGNITE Summer 2019 - Page 7

I wanted to play, my friends said, ‘Hey, “cello” rhymes with your last name “Mello.”’ That was really my saving grace.” “The sisters kept me on track, made me feel valued, and provided me with a cello upon graduation,” Mello-Hemsley continues. “Before the music program, I had been on a path of total and complete destruction. Cello literally saved my life. So my biggest goal was to come back and make this program work for other kids as well.” “Before sharing the stage, the students first learn to share a space where they all feel safe.” Moving Forward — Together Over a decade into her time at the school, Mello-Hemsley’s efforts are paying off. This year saw the program’s first student to audition for conservatories, and more participants are expected to pursue cello education, music theory, and brass performance in coming months. Mello-Hemsley aims to help at least one player pursue a musical career every year. But the program’s ultimate promise, she says, is that students of all backgrounds — expert or novice, poor or privileged — have a place to play. “As long as you work, no matter what your level is, we’ll get you there,” Mello-Hemsley says. “That’s all we ask for. Work and care about your instrument, your music, and one another, and you’re welcome here.” 7