California Institute of the Arts: Composition, World Music & Dance
Otis/Parsons School of Design: Illustration
What is your hometown?
I was born in New York City but I spent my formative years in Teaneck, N.J.
What are you passionate about outside of music?
I am passionate about the idea that dance is totally possible in every body, we only have to listen and allow the body to teach us.
Who were your major teachers?
Augusta Moore, ballet (SF Ballet), Fred Meller, piano (my dad)
What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?
"Once more, with feeling."
What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?
When I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. When I was sixteen I wanted to be in "A Chorus Line" and have a career on Broadway. Then I joined a band and spent the next twenty years in the music business. In 2012 I finally became a professional dancer. I can't wait for the next "defining moment"!
What was a turning point in your career?
I was in ballet class and my teacher told me a local opera company was looking for dancers. I thought I was too old to be going on dance auditions but then I decided to seize the day and go anyway. It turned out to be the San Francisco Renaissance Voices. They were putting on "Cupid and Death" and wanted early dance. I didn't even know what early dance was! I got the gig and the rest is history.
If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?
I would probably be a mom, live in a house, own dogs, cats, and maybe a goat.
What is your daily practice routine?
Every morning I check myself in the mirror and make sure I can still walk without falling down. Then I do some bends and rises and point my toes and roll out my muscles with various torture devices. Then I take or teach a dance class.
What is your unrealized project?
I want to create a Baroque salon for the senses with musicians, dancers, actors, singers, delicious pastries and wine, games and performances in some large venue with multiple things going on in multiple rooms like it would have been at Versailles. Everyone would be dressed in full costume and nobody would need to be super quiet sitting in the dark but to be able to enjoy performances seated or standing while eating and joining in.
What do you think makes a concert experience unique?
I love to see musicians and dancers lose themselves when they perform. I love to see them really reach for something too high so that the struggle shows their true humanity. When I perform if I can reach that place of pure joy and expression for mere moments I am satisfied. If you go there, the audience will be moved and that is what they will remember most.
Please list your most important collaborations. (Three only.)
Catherine Turocy of The New York Baroque Dance Company, Lisa Grodin of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, Vicki Melin of Nash Baroque ensemble
Jennifer Meller is a musician and dancer, and enjoys exploring connections between the two disciplines. She founded The San Francisco Renaissance Dancers in 2012 and in 2019 became Artistic Director of long-standing historical dance company Dance Through Time (founded 1980 San Francisco). Jennifer works with early music ensembles in the Bay Area to create performances, reconstruct ancient operas, teach classes and organize workshops and events centered around early dance and music. She has taught master classes to music and dance students at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, St. Mary’s College, Dominican University, and College of the Pacific. She enjoys collaborating with the Educational Department of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, and working with children every summer at the San Francisco Early Music Society Music Discovery Workshop. Jennifer teaches classes in early dance at ODC dance.