"Mel is not only a fine box player but her teaching is clear, well paced and fun. She has a variety of great techniques to help you improve as a player whether you're a beginner or a more advanced musician"
(Blowzabella, Leveret, Topette, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr etc.)
"These lessons for me are like a big musical jewel box where you put your hand in and come out with a musical gem"
"Melanie's playing is fluid yet rhythmical, light and punchy. She has the flexibility of style that shows what this instrument is truly capable of both melodically and stylistically. There's no doubt that she could teach other players a good deal worth learning"
(Blowzabella, Token Women, Old Swan Band etc. etc.)
"Your playing is phenomenal!"
(Albion Band, Edward II, Tickled Pink)
I began playing music at the age of 10 whilst having classical flute lessons at school. My initiation into traditional music came when a small folk ensemble was put together to play for a pyramid schools dance show at Malvern Theatre. Soon after, I became involved as a dancer and musician with the local Foxs Border Morris, of which my father is a founder member.
In 2006 I started a BSc in Molecular Biology at Cardiff University. The most local border Morris team to Cardiff at the time were The Widders in Chepstow. Only a mere 3 hour round train trip to get to! They are still as full of enthusiasm and swagger in their performances today as they were then.
It was only weeks after joining the side that I enquired after the spare Hohner Erica that squire and fellow box player, Mike Lewis (aka tattoo king Micky Sharpz), would bring along to each practice but never play. Well, after a gruelling 6 months I had mastered the basics by taking it along to sessions, workshops and Morris meets, trying to glean as much information as possible from anyone and everyone who was interested in helping. I ended up paying for the melodeon out of my student loan (better than spending it on beans and beer right?)
As well as border Morris, I also had a short stint dancing in the Cotswold tradition with Bedcote Morris and Bunnies From Hell. During this time, I was persuaded to take on the role of Acting Secretary for Open Morris in 2012. I currently play for Harlequin Morris: a scratch side formed from younger members of various sides from across England.
Since attending the first of the Wantage workshops in Autumn 2011, my confidence has improved significantly which has lead to all sorts of conversations and collaborations with inspiring creative individuals already well established on the UK folk scene. Moirai and the EFDSS Aspire program would not have happened for me without my fond association with the Wantage workshops.
In 2012 and 2013 I attended the English Acoustic Collective summer school based at the beautiful Ruskin Mill College, Gloucestershire. The course, started by Chris Wood, is now run by Rob Harbron and Miranda Rutter with guest tutors including Sam Sweeney and John Dipper. The summer schools, which take a more holistic approach to music making, are designed to encourage attendees to "find the gold which is in your own backyard". I came away with a strong sense of direction and understanding for how I am able to better express myself through my music and how music can be used not just for entertainment but as a therapy, too. I make no exaggeration when I say that my life has been changed by attending the summer school!
I take influence from the many talented musicians that I am privileged to know and share music with. However I believe the bare-boned nitty-gritty details of my playing can be traced back to late night sessions shared between an intimate group of musicians until the wee small hours. That is where I believe the real honey pot of the living tradition lies and where my playing style evolves from.