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.”