Bob Hall and Melanie Silva are affectionately known as a dynamic duo here in Milton. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with them previously via Arts Milton events, and also with the MPO. They are fun and easy-going, but at the same time dedicated to their craft and to the great kids that they mentor.
Jenn: Hey guys! So great to have the chance to Spotlight you as a couple! You two, of course, are the engine behind the ever-amazing Milton Show Choir. How long has MSC been in operation now?
Melanie: We’re going into our sixth year! So exciting!
Bob: We started MSC back in 2012. I remember crossing our fingers while we watched the registrations come in. We needed 12 singers to make it work and each single sign-up was a celebration. Now we are gearing up for our sixth season and we have so many candidates that we’ve added a fourth choir!
Jenn: That’s so exciting! More chances for the talented kids in Milton and area to get involved. How did you get into the song-and-dance game? What is your background?
Melanie: Actually, I was never in the song game. I was heavily in the dance game though! All through elementary and high school I was competing in jazz, tap, ballet, you name it. It was an amazing experience. I also took piano all through my schooling. I ended up at Wilfrid Laurier University studying piano and music education. Hands down, if my parents didn’t support my love for the arts growing up, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.
Bob: I sang in a lot of choirs as a boy. In high school, I divided my time between band, choir, and musicals. I also sang and toured with the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston. I went to Wilfrid Laurier University for my music degree and there I sang with Noel Edison and the university choirs. After university, I taught private voice lessons full time and it was during those years that I started teaming up with dancer/choreographers to run theatre camps. It wasn’t until I met Mel that I discovered Show Choir as an ideal medium for getting kids to sing, dance and act at the same time. It’s true that music theatre involves all those things, but there’s something about the teamwork aspect of performing in a show choir that I just fell in love with.
Jenn: Have you always worked with kids?
Melanie: Yes! I started working with kids in university teaching private piano lessons. Now I work for the Halton Catholic District School Board teaching homeroom and instrumental music to grade 7 and 8 students. It’s amazing!
Bob: I think I knew as far back as high school that I’d become a teacher. I worked as a peer-tutor then and transitioned into giving private voice lessons as soon as I started my BMus. Now I now teach (mostly music) for the Halton District School Board and it’s great! I have always loved music and I consider myself very lucky to have a job where I get to share that with young people.
Jenn: Milton really wants to know: who are Bob and Melanie?
Melanie: Yikes. There really isn’t that much to know! Bob and I are married…that’s always surprising to some! I just graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Master of Arts in Community Music. Such an inspiring program. And I LOVE to travel!
Bob: At the moment, Mel and I are pretty much married to our work. We did finally marry each other in 2015 after dating and working together for nearly a decade. It was a big moment for our choir kids as some of them had been waiting years for it to happen! Now we have a home in Stoney Creek which we visit on rare occasions between our full-time jobs as school teachers and our even fuller-time jobs as artistic directors.
Jenn: To be honest, I had no idea, but I was definitely wondering if you were married! Glad we got that cleared up. I wrote a story about your trip out west earlier this year. You had some great adventures. How was that for you personally, and where do you see your next trip taking place?
Melanie: Calgary was an absolutely amazing experience. It was our first big trip that we organized and it went off without a hitch. We are so proud. But what I found most amazing was what it did for our members. After spending 24/7 together, we all came back closer and a special bond has formed. In the words of one of our members, “we left as a team, but came back as a family.”
Bob: Our trip to Calgary and area could not have come together more perfectly. It was absolutely everything that we’d hoped for in a first out-of-province tour. For Mel and I, it was a wonderful chance to build relationships with the staff from Youth Singers of Calgary. It was fun to talk shop with people who had started out very much like us and then to see where they were after nearly 30 years. It was great to watch our kids discover another part of our country and to build friendships and performance skills with the other choir members. Perhaps more rewarding than anything was seeing our members return to Ontario with a greater sense of family, purpose, and pride. Given these very positive outcomes, we have included additional team-building excursions for all of our choirs this year. One of our groups, for example, is travelling to Ottawa to do some background research on their repertoire for the year. Our hope is that touring (at least every other year) becomes an expected part of the MSC experience.
Jenn: Are you full-up for next season, or are you still accepting applications? How do prospective young performers apply to MSC?
Melanie: We are still accepting registrations for next season. If you or someone you know loves singing, dancing, and acting, head on over to miltonshowchoir.ca to register for an audition. Don’t let the audition process scare you! I promise that it’s actually way more fun than it is nerve wracking!
Bob: We have only one more night of auditions left (in September) and we anticipate that those spots will fill up quickly. We also have a training choir called Spark for kids around Grades 2-4. That program runs for two eight-week terms starting in October and there’s no audition required.
Jenn: Audition is a scary word, but it’s really no big deal. Just enjoy yourself. What shows do you have planned for the upcoming season, and where will those take place?
Melanie: We’ve got lots planned! We are going to be performing in The Nutcracker Spectacular put on by the Dance Class again, a Christmas concert in early December, our big competition in April, and our final Gleeful! showcase in June. Performances will all be listed on our website with more details.
Bob: Wow Mel, seeing all that in writing only reminds me how much arranging I have to do before September!
Jenn: Quick-fire questions – whatever comes to you immediately!
Jenn: What is your favourite thing about Milton?
Melanie: The youth. The best students and choir members around!
Bob: I love the enthusiasm of its people. It’s very exciting to see a community grow as quickly as this one and the thought and care that goes into that.
Jenn: Favourite restaurant and dish?
Melanie: Main Street Donuts and Bakery! Best pasta! I used to eat there all the time when I was working at St. Peter’s.
Bob: As a devoted Tim Horton’s coffee drinker, I have to give a shout out to the friendly and speedy service at the Thompson and Steeles location!
Jenn: Favourite place in Milton?
Melanie: Melanie Park! Just kidding. Definitely the Arts Centre. It has become a second home.
Bob: I love the Centre for the Arts (now FirstOntario). It’s a wonderful facility and the town is really lucky to have it. The only downside is that there is so much going on now, we may need another one soon!
Jenn: Favourite colour
Bob: Because I am chronically indecisive, I will have to go with Blue. No, Green. No…
Jenn: Who else do you think I should interview for a spotlight, and why?
Melanie: Auleen Carson, president of Arts Milton! Auleen is such a huge supporter of the arts in Milton, we love her!
Bob: Just last week, we had a lovely conversation with Kelly and Ashley Summers from The Dance Class. They have a similar story to ours (starting up a family business) and it seems like they’ve had a lot of success!
Jenn: Some of my favourite people, I agree! You just never know who I’m going to nab next. Thanks for spending the time answering my many questions, it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you both better. Best of luck with MSC!