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Melanie Dyer

Harlem, NY      

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, an improvising string/rhythm collective rooted in Free Jazz in 2011. ​From 2004 – 2013, under her Bb Universe banner and in collaboration with the multi-generational, multi-ethnic Scientific Soul Sessions collective, Melanie’s Harlem home 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, The Grenada Revolution. 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, William Parker,  Reggie Workman, Tomeka Reid, Howard Johnson, Hakim Jami, Bobby Ward, Noah Jackson, Gwen Laster, Patricia Nicholson,Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, Tomas Ulrich, Alex Waterman, Andrew Drury, Ina Paris, Charles Burnham, Nioka Workman, Gerry Eastman, Joe Ford, Fred Ho, Jimmi Esspirit (aka Hopps), Michael Wimberly, Ken Filiano, Brandon Lopez, Nick Mathis and Many Colors of A Woman, Jason Kao Hwang, Tomas Ulrich, 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.

Recordings include 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), and others.