Why She’s Top 40: She founded a choir that accepts people with all types of disabilities and all levels of vocal talent.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be?“I would love to change our transportation system. My brother does not drive and has a learning disability. It takes him two hours to get to my house.”
Melissa Hladyshevsky is hard-pressed to pin down a single defining moment that validates her music-teaching career path. That’s because she has dozens of those moments every time a new person joins Choral Morphosis, a disabled-friendly choir she founded eight years ago at Robertson-Wesley United Church.
“They’ll show up with their parents or guardians, who sit during rehearsals,” she says. “And usually, they’ll end up crying during the rehearsal and come up to me after to thank me for offering a program that’s so inclusive. For me, that’s the biggest reward. Not only am I affecting the individuals who have disabilities, but their family members as well.”
The choir performs live roughly six times a year at various Robertson-Wesley functions. In 2014, it also performed at City Hall to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“Choral Morphosis reaches out to everybody,” says Hladyshevsky. “It doesn’t matter about their age, disability or musical ability.”
There’s also no emphasis on heady hymns, either. The choir’s repertoire has ranged from Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to Disney-movie favourites like The Little Mermaid‘s “Under the Sea” and The Lion King‘s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Besides helming Choral Morphosis, Hladyshevsky also teaches elementary school music at Academie Saint-Andre in Beaumont, where she runs a choir and musical theatre program. An occasional pianist at St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church, she also conducts the choir at Edmonton Moravian Church, volunteers her own voice with the EKOSingers choir and is a monthly donor to the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
Those efforts were recognized in 2009 when she received the Mayor’s Award for outstanding community service to the City of Edmonton, but that doesn’t compare to the emotional payback she gets at Choral Morphosis rehearsals.
“When they come together on Saturday mornings, they are just so full of energy and so full of life and so enthusiastic to be around,” she says. “You can’t help but smile.”