Artist of the Issue: Melissa Cusanello

Melissa Cusanello plays the violin in the Gammons Recital Hall
A. Banks ’16

Melissa Cusanello ’14 is not only a star on the field hockey field, on the ice, and on the lacrosse field, but a distinguished violinist as well. For this Music Prefect, violin is a large part of her family’s history. Having grown up around classical music and with a mother who played violin in several orchestras, it was only natural that Melissa began to play at a young age (her best estimation is at age four.) “I wasn’t forced to play the violin,” Melissa joked, “but it was strongly encouraged.” In fact, she and her three siblings all played the violin together at some point. Sadly, there was a “bit of schism in the ‘Cusanello Clan,’” as they were called. Her brothers quit the violin in order to pick up the saxophone, but her mother, her sister, and she still play the violin. As to which one is the better violinist, Melissa said that she “has a couple years on her [sister].” When asked if her father plays an instrument, she responded: “He plays golf.”

From fiddle camp with her family, to the select Community Youth Orchestra of Boston, and the Northeast Junior District Orchestra, Melissa had an impressive résumé when she arrived on the Circle in her fourth form year. Melissa is now the concertmaster of Groton’s Chamber Orchestra, after being a part of the First Violin section for the past three years. The orchestra was given the opportunity to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra last year, which was a “once in a lifetime opportunity that would not happen anywhere else.” As far as the orchestra this year, Melissa said that she “looks forward to orchestra every day,” and this year is one of the orchestra’s “best years yet.” Mr. Terranella, the conductor of the orchestra, said that “Melissa is an invaluable member of our ensemble bringing her best to every rehearsal and performance.  Our next concertmaster will have very big shoes to fill indeed.” Melissa is especially excited for Groton’s Christmas Pops Concert, where the orchestra will perform. “‘Sleigh Ride’ is a violinist’s dream,” she said. “It would be a sin if I haven’t had a chance to play it before college.” This year, the orchestra is looking into the possibility of playing a concert at Carnegie Hall sometime in the spring.

Melissa is also a member of Groton’s all-female acapella group, the Grotones. Melissa has been singing just about as long as she has been playing violin, but not nearly as seriously as she plays violin, although she was involved in a concert choir throughout middle school. For Melissa, singing takes much less effort than playing the violin. “For me, singing is just a way to let loose and have fun,” she commented. Although not an official member of Groton’s choir, Melissa enjoys singing with the choir when she can, and is looking forward to singing in this winter’s Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

After Groton, Melissa hopes to audition for an orchestra wherever she may find herself. “Violin and just music in general will always be a big part of my life,” she said. Melissa aspires to join a larger orchestra with a large repertoire, and looks forward to being able to play big symphonies by Beethoven and Mahler. “There is something exhilarating about being a part of something bigger than yourself,” she said. Now that she has matured, Melissa is at a level where she can figure out just about any repertoire. “When I was younger, I didn’t always like violin,” she explained. “When you’re young, you don’t want to be stuck practicing when other kids are out playing, especially if you weren’t that good at it,” she joked. “Nonetheless, I am so thankful that my mother pushed me to keep practicing.” Now, Melissa treks to the chapel during 10-12 to play violin as a way to “shred out anything that is cooped up in my mind.” She said music is her way of “bleeding out emotion.” Regarding her inspiration, Melissa cited Itzhak Perlman, the “Yo-Yo Ma of violin.”

Outside of Groton music, Melissa likes to play with her family on their farm in Vermont.  “We play fiddle with our neighbor, but he’s terrible. Just terrible, but it’s a good time nonetheless,” Melissa said. This past summer, Melissa began to teach herself how to play the guitar as well. When she’s not playing music or participating in athletics, Melissa just enjoys the company of her friends. “I don’t want to give the generic ‘I love hanging out with my friends,’ but I do,” she said.

A. Banks ’16

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