By the age of 3, Myra Melford had found her passion: the piano. “One of my earliest memories is of climbing onto a piano bench and starting to improvise my own songs,” she says. “I begged my parents for lessons, and they gave in. I’ve been playing ever since.”
Today, Melford is a world- renowned avante-garde jazz pianist and composer who nurtures the musical passion of others — both as professor and performer. In between performing with jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis and preparing for the release of a 25-year retrospective of her work, Melford is ensuring that Cal students get their own musical leg up to success. As holder of The Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers Distinguished Professorship in Music for three consecutive years, Melford paired students with renowned composers, invited guest artists to teach master classes, enabled students to record their work, upgraded musical equipment, and began new work with her quintet, Snowy Egret.
“The Chambers family fund has enabled so much, from enriching students and the campus community to supporting my research,” says Melford, who depends on discretionary funds to support engagement opportunities for students. “I’m profoundly grateful for their generosity.”