Melanie's Flute

More than just a memory

By Carla Maldonado

Melanie DeMore '76 BM will never forget a certain stormy morning some 30 years ago at UIW. That's when she discovered a silver lining that would forever change her life.

Melanie DeMore '76 BM

“Back then the Fine Arts Department helped sponsor an outdoor Mass each year to celebrate spring and renewal, and I was going to play some music as part of the program,” DeMore remembers. “The weather was lousy -- it was stormy, grey and dismal and I remember thinking that we might have to move the proceedings indoors.”

But no one else in the Administration Building seemed concerned about the weather. In fact, just the opposite was true: DeMore says that it seemed as if everyone she encountered that morning was smiling and commenting on what great a day it would be. Little did the music major suspect that her classmates and the Music Department faculty and staff had a surprise for her.

“The mass started and during the homily, Father talked about renewal and things rising from the ashes. That's when my classmate Jerry Watson pulled out a brand new Armstrong flute from beneath a blanket.”

The flute, purchased with funds raised by her friends, was, as Watson says, a gift from DeMore's family at UIW. And what a gift it was. The flute was a replica of the one her mother had given her that had been stolen during a statewide gathering of music students earlier that year. But even more significant, the stolen flute had been the last gift DeMore received from her mother before she passed away.

“I was blown away by the kindness of the entire UIW community … that people would go to that level. I had been so sad and upset about my flute that I almost stopped playing,” DeMore says.

“I don't think I would have finished school if it hadn't been for the people at UIW. They held me up during one of the most difficult times in my life. The UIW community is a very precious thing.”
Today, DeMore is a singer-songwriter-teacher who has toured extensively performing and sharing her love of music with others. Just a few of her accomplishments include working as a studio musician, a commercial jingle vocalist, an actor, a teacher and a choral conductor. She has also shared the stage with music greats like Pete Seeger, Laura Nyro and Ani Defranco, and is one of the founding members of the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, which focuses on African-American roots folk music. In fact, if you are a fan of the children's story, Stellaluna, you might know her as the voice of the mother bat on the interactive CD-rom by the same name.

“Even though it's been many years since I was a student at UIW, the fire of life, justice and music was kindled within me at 'the Word.' I have and will continue to be changed by my time there.”