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Melanie Dyer

Harlem, NY      

Cited in The Strad by Anthony Barnett as “…an outstanding modernist violist,” Melanie Dyer performs and composes in creative, improvised and through-composed music spheres.  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.  

Melanie founded WeFreeStrings, an improvising string/rhythm collective rooted in improvised music 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 music ensembles. Bb Universe hosted open rehearsals and performances, recordings, lectures, one-act plays and films including presentations by recognized indigenous activists Toaksin Ghosthorse, a performance of Robbie McCauley’s Sally’s Rape and a screening of John Douglas’ documentary, Grenada: The Future Coming Towards 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.

WeFreeStrings has received project support from New Music USA, Chamber Music America, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, and individual donors.

Melanie currently performs with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Gwen Laster’s New Muse 4tet, William Parker,  Tomeka Reid Stringtet, Patricia Nicholson’s Women w an Axe to Grind.  She’s played and/or recorded with Henry Grimes, Nona Hendryx, Joe Bonner, Reggie Workman, Howard Johnson, and a many other notable musicians in Europe, South Africa and across the U.S. 

Recordings include WeFreeStrings Fulfillment (Indepstrings, 2018), David Haney’s Birth of a City (2019), 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.

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.