Plucked to play
Melody Tai plays the harp for the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra. You may have also seen her recently on the Grammy Awards telecast, where she was invited to accompany Usher and Stevie Wonder on her harp for the song “If It’s Magic.” The producers wanted keep the performance simple and pure, with a younger performer backing Usher. Her talent and age made her the perfect fit.
Name: Melody Tai
School: Glen A. Wilson High School, Hacienda Heights
Hometown: Los Angeles
Instruments: harp, piano, basic percussion
How did you get involved in playing the harp? I fell in love with the harp around the age of 8 when I visited a family friend who happened to have a harp. I started studying with my teacher Alexandra Perdew around the age of 10.
What is your favorite piece of music? Who is your favorite composer? Honestly, I don’t have a single favorite piece of music and neither do I have a single favorite composer. The vast amount of brilliant pieces and composers makes it near impossible to pinpoint one, as so many are beautiful and unique in their own way. In addition, the world is growing with new music and new composers every day; the list of amazing pieces and the genius minds behind them is never-ending.
Who have been your influences? Did you have a mentor in your development as a performer? If so, how did they help you? Being born into a performing family (my mother is a dancer and my father sang Chinese opera) has definitely helped. My family, friends and teachers are very supportive of my endeavors. A musician is trained and mentored by a community of people who encourage them to perform and become better, whether it’s local or international performances and competitions, or with or without other musicians. In the end, there are so many people who mold your career, including youth symphony, teachers and every master class you take part in.
How did your performance opportunity with Usher and Stevie Wonder come about? The Grammys needed a harpist and I was referred by my teacher. After sending in my résumé and video recordings, I was called in to audition live in front of the producers. Later that same night, I received an email saying, “Welcome to the Grammys,” and that’s how I found out I had booked the job.
Other than music, are you involved in any other activities? If yes, what are they? Besides music, I am also a dancer and am trained in various styles including ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz and tumbling. Giving back to the community is also important to me, whether it’s dancing/playing music for a good cause or working a shift at a homeless shelter.
What do you get out of performing music? Performing music brings me a lot of joy and happiness, as music is a passion of mine. I hope that I can bring others this same joy when I perform for them.
How do the arts figure in to your long-term goals? I would love to be a professional harpist. I train to play popular, classical and ensemble music and I will continue training and playing professionally. I also want to continue my studies in the sciences. I love learning and applying new knowledge in all my areas of interest.
What is the best advice you have received? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received would be to just have fun and enjoy performing and studying. I don’t take one performance so seriously that I don’t enjoy it. I go on stage to enjoy that moment, whatever and wherever that stage may be.