Melanie Dyer "...an outstanding modernist violist." Anthony Barnett, The Strad
Violist Melanie Dyer has an extensive background in viola performance in chamber, orchestral and improvised music settings. She trained with William Lincer (Principal Violist, New York Philharmonic), Lee Yeingst (Principal Violist, Colorado Symphony Orchestra), John Jake Kella (NY Metropolitan Opera) and Naomi Fellows (Colorado Symphony Orchestra); and studied viola performance at the LaMont School of Music/University of Denver.
After moving to NYC, Melanie began improvising with Makanda Ken McIntyre's Contemporary African American Composers' Orchestra and the Williamsburg Contemporary Music Orchestra. In Boston, she became a regular on the city's jazz scene performing weekly at Wally's and Connolly's Stardust Lounge as a side-musician for the Roxbury Blues Aesthetic. She brought her family of 6 to NYC in 2002, and started a 7-year weekly stint at St. Nick's Pub in Harlem as part of the Donald Smith Quintet along with Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, Ku'umbaa Frank Lacy, Andy McCloud, Mark Johnson, Salim Washington and a host of celebrated uptown musicians.
With composer/musician Salim Washington, Melanie sustained the Roxbury Blues Aesthetic nonet over 10 years, producing the ensemble's only recording, Love In Exile (Accurate Records) featuring the great pianist Joseph Bonner. She continued to work with Washington as part of the 12-member Harlem Arts Ensemble (UJam, Cadence and CIMP Records), touring and recording with the band in the Northeast and Midwest, United States.
Melanie founded We Free Strings, a string/rhythm collective rooted in Free Jazz. From 2004 - 2012, under her Bb Universe banner and in collaboration with the multi-generational, multi-ethnic Scientific Soul Sessions collective, Melanie's 126th Street Harlem brownstone became the scene of underground public performances by WeFreeStrings and other large and small jazz ensembles. Bb Universe hosted rehearsals, recordings, lectures, one-act plays and films ranging from visits of recognized indigenous activists including Toaksin Ghosthorse, a performance of Robbie McCauley's Sally's Rape and a screening of John Douglas' documentary, Grenada: The Future Coming Toward Us. These monthly and semi-monthly events brought cultural luminaries, emerging artists, social and environmental activists, working and under-employed people together. Open dialogues, emphasizing individuals as agents of change, were central to Bb Universe and Scientific Soul Sessions.
Melanie has performed with Joe Bonner, Henry Grimes, Reggie Workman, Howard Johnson, William Parker, Nona Hendryx, Hakim Jami, Gwen Laster, Charles Burnham, Marlene Rice,Jason Kao Hwang, Tomas Ulrich, Nioka Workman, Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Patricia Nicholson, Tomeka Reid, Michael Wimberly, Ken Filiano, Brandon Lopez, Colour Of Music Festival chamber and symphonic orchestras, Andrew Drury, Ina Paris, Gerry Eastman, Joe Ford, Fred Ho, Jimmi Esspirit (aka Hopps), Nick Mathis and Many Colors of A Woman, Steve Neal, Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra, David Eure String Quartet; the Colorado Springs, Longar, Brookline and Gateway Symphony Orchestras; Regina and NY/Harlem Opera companies, and a host of skilled, innovative musicians and ensembles in Europe, South Africa and across the U.S.
She is deeply committed to the improvising music community. She performs regularly with Laster's New Muse 4tet.
Recordings include WeFreeStrings - Fulfillment (2018), Come Sunday (T. Cumberbatch, 2015); Fred Ho & Quincy Saul Present the Music of Cal Massey: A Tribute (2011); Live at St Nick's Pub, Salim Washington & Donald Smith Ensemble, Cadence Records (2007); With Strings, Salim Washington & The Harlem Arts Ensemble, CIMP Records (2007); Harlem Homecoming, Salim Washington & The Harlem Arts Ensemble, UJam Records (2005).
Melanie's published poems/prose appear in Gap-toothed Girlfriends: The Third Act anthology published by Third Act Press, 1984. Her creative work also takes visual art forms, including works on canvas, textiles and assemblage.
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