Melanie DeMore

Short Film by The Understory, Maya Pisciotto & Fabián Aguirre

Melanie DeMoresongwriter, troubadour, vocal activist and an emissary of tolerance, kindness, and harmony through the sound of her voice.

Melanie traces her interest in music to her parents who started one of the first Black theater groups in Alaska in the early 60’s. She majored in music at Incarnate Word University in San Antonio, Texas. She later worked as a studio musician, was a member of a melodrama company, sang in an all-women’s black a cappella group Scintilla, sang for commercials and wrote music for the theater.

Melanie describes her music as “in the African-American folk tradition of Odetta,” to whom she has often been compared, noting, “I have a very, very, very low voice.” 

Melanie is a founding member of the Grammy nominated vocal ensemble Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, a group that toured extensively in the US and abroad. In addition to being an artist in this group, she also understood that artists need support and offered her strength to Linda Tillery, the artistic director of the ensemble.

“I work with everyone from Baptist to Buddhist.”

-Melanie DeMore

DeMore was a California Artist in Residence with the Oakland Youth Chorus for 10 years and has received an award from the Music Educators National Conference for her work with young singers and artists. She is on the music faculty at St. Paul’s School in Oakland, CA where she teaches a cappella singing.

Perhaps nothing is more dear to Melanie than bringing people together to experience the healing power of music. Whether she’s performing solo, leading stick pounding workshops, doing residencies with choirs all over the country or teaching Sound Awareness to sixth graders, baby boomers, or senior citizens, one thing is certain: her mission is to make sure you unlock the gateway to experiencing yourself in all your glory.

With a solid education in music composition and childhood life memories in Texas, Alaska and New Mexico, this accomplished songwriter, composer, choral conductor and former Sister of the Cloth, has a level of understanding as to the pure intention of Music. Life for Melanie DeMore is for the seeking and sharing of light, joy, and deep love.

Melanie DeMore with Chorus

She has attended international folk music festivals from Europe to Cuba to New Zealand and has shared the stage with some of the world’s most notable musicians and political activists.  And yet she will remember one child who had a troubled life and the music turned that life around.  Melanie is known to the mothers of screaming babies as a human pacifier. She is known to the parents of challenged children as the child whisperer as she transforms the raw energy of human beings into flowing rhythms, self empowering awareness, with a sweet top note of humor and not taking oneself too seriously.

An admitted kid at heart, Melanie loves to inject her effervescent playfulness into traditionally serious forums and gatherings, reminding us to lighten up, step out the way and let our spirits do their dance.

She has been called to the bedsides of both newborns and those in transition.  She has chanted and toned to awaken the newcomer into this world, and soothed many a weary soul about to pass, with praises and hymns for a life well lived.

Sure she plays the guitar like a good  folk singer but she doesn’t need it.  She just needs you.

“Melanie DeMore’s singing is thrilling. This is not a voice that comes along every day. This is WOMAN POWER WRAPPED IN VELVET.”   – Ronnie Gilbert

Holly Reflects on Melanie’s work:


Melanie walks in, gives me a big hug and says “Sister, I love your bones.” No one has ever told me they love my bones. She is wearing a fine butch suit, but no formality is required for Melanie to sing. She hears music in every situation. No hesitation, trusting the song is already in the room. When I hear her deep-rooted voice fill the space, I am grateful for the lift I feel. Odd isn’t it that as a voice goes deep, a spirit goes high. It is no small thing to be able to alter the dynamic of a room, to change a state of mind. Melanie has low notes rivaled only by Odetta, Ysaye Barnwell and Judy Henske.

That kind of power can be unsettling for when she stops singing, then what?

Melanie DeMore, Photo: Irene Young

Photo: Irene Young

Photo: Unknown

A conversation with Melanie DeMore and Holly Near

Filmed on location at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California, 2019

Rhiannon reflects on Melanie’s work, 2019