William & Mary

A family affair: Mother, daughter unite for senior recital

  • Recital reunion:
    Recital reunion:  (From left) Marcia Koller, Wanda Graybeal Melchers '88, Alyssa Melchers '16 and Thomas Marshall pose for a photo.  Photo by Sydney MaHan '16
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From classes and exams to extracurricular activities and job hunting, senior year can be a stressful time for many.

For William & Mary student Alyssa Melchers '16, this stress was alleviated last month when she had the opportunity to perform with her mother, William & Mary alumna Wanda Graybeal Melchers '88, at her senior recital in Williamsburg United Methodist Church. The mother-daughter team was joined on Feb. 20 by Marcia Koller, who taught Wanda Graybeal Melchers while she was a student at the university.

"It was definitely a memorable experience," said Alyssa Melchers. "We’ve played duets often over the years, so it was comforting to play with her during a very exciting but stressful performance. It definitely helped calm my nerves. "

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Having first learned to play the piano at the age of five, Alyssa Melchers began organ lessons this past fall due to her interest in the way in which the instrument produced music.

"I was always interested in how many different colors and sounds the organ could produce," she said.

With the assistance of Thomas Marshall, instructor of organ, piano and harpsichord, Alyssa Melchers performed pieces — on both the piano and organ — ranging from Bach's “Prelude and Fugue in B-Flat Major” to Marius Monnikendam's “Toccata.”

"Most of the pieces I played for the recital were suggestions from my teacher, Mr. Marshall, and part of my repertoire from lessons over the past five semesters," said Alyssa Melchers.

One piece in particular — “Double Fantasie” by Jean Langlais — stood out, however, due to its requirement of two performers.

When asked about the collaboration between mother and daughter, Marshall noted how unique an occurrence a performance like this is, alluding to the Bach family during the 18th  century. 

“I’ve never had anything like this happen," said Marshall, who has been an instructor at the university for 34 years. "It's an extended family all along the way. I heard her mother's organ jury and wrote up her test at the end of the semester though I wasn't officially her teacher. So we’re all still connected."

"In a way, I'm sort of a musical grandfather having the child of a student who I knew back here when she graduated in '88," said Marshall. "And the Monnikendam's ‘Toccata’ that she played, that's the only piece I ever remember her mother playing."

"Playing with my mom allowed me to honor her as a parent and a musician, as well as her teacher and experience at William & Mary," said Alyssa Melchers. "For me, the parallel of studying music at William & Mary between my mom and me emphasized the value of tradition here and how the unique experience we receive as part of the Tribe spans every generation that comes through the College."