Pass It On: The Making of Young Musicians in Oakland
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
“I still remember vividly what it was like to not be accomplished on an instrument and how that can easily lead to frustration,” says MusicianCorps Artist David Meletiche. Having started playing the guitar when he was 8—he’s 36 now—Meletiche is long past the frustrations of the early stages of learning an instrument. But luckily for his students, he hasn’t forgotten what it feels like. “I try to emphasize to my students that they should ‘play their game,’ and not try to play anyone else’s.”
Meletiche teaches middle school and high school students in-school and afterschool at MusicianCorps partner sites in Oakland. At Westlake Middle School, he teaches percussion, with a focus on various rhythms like bomba, samba, nyabinghi. After school, at College Track Oakland, he puts his guitar on and teaches contemporary playing styles. Right now, he says, "those students are learning to play the melody and accompaniment of Heart and Soul, a song that most instrumentalists can probably recall learning as a beginner."
Meletiche is uniquely suited to take on his two roles as a MusicianCorps Artist. Growing up in New York under Puerto Rican parentage, he initially learned guitar from his Dad, who taught him traditional music styles from Puerto Rico. As a teen, Meletiche got into alternative music, “bands like The Cure, Nirvana, and Morrisey’s music, and all the other popular songs at the time.” His playing continued to evolve with age, as he learned blues scales, jazz improvisation, and the art of the electric guitar from a neighbor’s Dad. This led him to eventually study jazz at City College of New York. “My life as a student has been good,” he says. “I've been blessed with having many patient instructors.”
Outside of MusicianCorps, Meletiche performs with various Bay Area bands and develops his own music, an interesting mixture of genres that he calls “post-modern boogalú hip hop.”
“I find myself most concerned with playing and performing my musical personality,” he says. “The arts in general are society's mirror. I don't mean the arts as product but rather the arts as true expression.” Working to nurture true expression with his students, Meletiche’s understanding of music and the arts’ place in society is succinctly expressed through his mission as a teacher. “If I can make my students feel good about themselves and their instrument, I feel like I've made a difference.”