Melissa Meyers Strikes a Chord with Students, Receives Teacher of the Year Award

Orchestra teacher Melissa Meyers snaps to keep the rhythm. Her students play in sync forming a harmony that resonates down the music wing.
Orchestra teacher Melissa Meyers snaps to keep the rhythm. Her students play in sync forming a harmony that resonates down the music wing.
Nathan Burns

Walking down the music wing, you’ll find conductor Melissa Meyers sitting in the center of the orchestra room flipping through her sheets of music while the sound of her students tuning their instruments echoes down the hall. If you decide to stay for a second, you’ll see something magical; with a swift tap of her bow, the room dulls to a hush. “One and two and,” Meyers counts in, and in a single moment every bow hooks together in synchrony to perform in harmony.

For over two decades Meyers has been an orchestra teacher, currently she teaches 5th grade and high school students while also serving as the music department chair. Her dedication and love for music education throughout her career have made her the latest MSOBA Region 7 Orchestra Teacher of the Year award winner.

“It’s a huge honor to me, because my peers nominated me,” Meyers said. “It’s great to be noticed, but it’s time to get back on the saddle and keep teaching. It’s really nice that they did it.”

Meyers’ journey to becoming an orchestra teacher wasn’t always obvious for her. After high school, she abandoned music and explored her other passions, trying a variety of pursuits. Yet she kept finding herself coming back to music. Eventually, she pursued a Bachelor of Music Education at Grand Valley State University. Directly after her degree, she landed her current position and has been changing the lives of students ever since.

Meyers shares her enthusiasm with her students through a variety of opportunities for each student to find their own love of music in class, in concerts, and in clubs. She voluntarily runs GOTAK, which is an after-school Celtic music group that performs gigs around the community.

Orchestra teacher Melissa Meyers plays along with her students and models the violin in front of the class Christmas tree. Her students shadow her to improving their skills and techniques along the way. (Nathan Burns)

”She doesn’t get any payment for GOTAK and she’s been doing it for 20 years, because she wants to inspire students and engage them,” sixth through eighth grade orchestra teacher Tatyana Walter said. “She has sacrificed a lot of her extra time after school, to give the students an opportunity to play alternative styles of music and then play in the community.”

Meyers often sits in with her students during class and models how to play to help her students. She believes music is not only something to learn and practice, but also a part of enjoying life and is something to share. She individually guides each student in a friendly and down to earth way that encourages each student to enjoy the journey of learning while still learning how to play their instrument to the best of their ability.

“I want to introduce them to the love of music,” Meyers said. “You learn a lot from it, and there’s so many cool things that happen along the journey. I want them to have fun with it. I want them to learn something. I want to make awesome music!”

Since Meyers teaches five different grade levels, her ability to adapt to each students’ strengths and weaknesses is crucial. And after teaching for so long, she has learned how to help each student regardless of their initial skill level by supporting every student and keeping the classroom engaging to make sure they not only learn, but enjoy it as well. Her students value the opportunity to grow as musicians alongside her guidance.

“I’ve done orchestra for eight years now, since 5th grade,” senior P.J. Young said. “Mrs. Meyers taught me how to play bass and she pointed me in directions that I didn’t know I could go, like pointing me in the direction of electric bass. Like going out and doing gigs. Mrs. Meyers had an influence on all of that.”

Meyers gives her students the chance to travel internationally with her every three years and also perform at venues such as Grand Rapids DeVos Hall, allowing her students to showcase their passion for music with an experience beyond any of their other performances. Last year, her chamber orchestra had the honor of playing at the Michigan Music Conference.

Just like her students, Meyers is continuously improving her technique and knowledge of music, along with ways to teach these skills. She believes learning about music doesn’t stop after college and seeks opportunities to expand her knowledge and skills.

“Mrs. Meyers goes to national conventions for string teachers,” Walters said. “She is at the state music conference every year. Not only is she presenting, but also going to workshops, and learning from other educators, she meets other composers. She even invites the composers in to work with her students.”

Another reason for Meyers’ success also comes from her belief that learning music should be fun. To that end, she holds hot chocolate days, movie days, and a class Christmas tree to build a positive environment that students want to be a part of and, in turn, build their love of music.

“I think my most effective teaching strategy is being able to be excited with them,” Meyers said. “We’ll do crazy stuff like circle rehearsals, we’ll have hot chocolate days, we’ll put up a tree and decorate it. I’m willing to do anything to keep it fun and fresh.”

In her teaching, Meyers encourages her students to practice diligently, seek mentors, and never hesitate to ask for guidance. As throughout her time playing music she has found these skills the most impactful to progressing to where she is today, and continuing to progress into the future.

Meyers’ recent recognition as the MSOBA Region 7 Orchestra Teacher of the Year is a well-earned testament to her dedication and love for teaching music. She doesn’t just teach students to play music but to have a lifelong love for it. Her impact on this next generation of musicians is immeasurable.

“Mrs. Meyers is really good about inspiring students to stick with orchestra,” Walters said. “Through the years, she finds a way to connect with each individual by building personal relationships with them. And because of that personal relationship, they become a family. So they want to stay in the orchestra because it’s a place of belonging for them where they feel accepted and loved.”


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