Director of Outreach, The Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program
Dr. Melissa Lesniak received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and Business minor from Indiana University in Bloomington where she studied with Mimi Zweig. In 2005, she received her PhD in Music Education from the University of Miami, where she was a teaching assistant. Dr. Lesniak has presented sessions on string pedagogy at ASTA National Conferences and FMEA Conferences and has also had articles published in Florida Music Director, American String Teacher, Music Educator’s Journal, and the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education. She has also participated in numerous music festivals, including the Henri Mancini Institute in Los Angeles, CA. She is a regular performer and studio violin/viola teacher in South Florida and is currently Past President of Florida American String Teachers Association. Dr. Lesniak has also served on cultural grant panels for the county and state cultural affairs departments, as well as The Children's Trust. In 2004, Dr. Lesniak joined the Greater Miami Youth Symphony (GMYS) as the Concert Orchestra conductor. In August 2005, she became the first Executive Director for GMYS after writing a successful grant for The Children's Trust to create free beginner instrument classes in different Miami-Dade locations. Under her artistic and administrative leadership, the organization grew from serving 100 students to 900 students, adding ensembles, summer camps, and a variety of other educational opportunities. During this time, the organization was recognized by county, state, and national cultural institutions for excellence in music education and the budget increased by 800% primarily due to successful grant writing by Dr. Lesniak. In August 2014, Dr. Lesniak become the Director of Outreach at the University of Miami Frost School of Music where she supervises The Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program, The Community Education and Engagement Program at the Frost School of Music, which provides musical experiences for students throughout Miami–Dade. In her first five months of employment, the program received a one million dollar endowment from Phillip and Patricia Frost, enabling the expansion and development of the outreach program which serves underserved youth. Weekly mentoring, a diverse array of afterschool group music instruction, in-school support, sectionals, workshops, private lessons, and outreach performances at schools, hospitals, parks, and other community venues are provided free of charge to the community, serving hundreds of youth each week. Dr. Lesniak also provides grant, artistic, and other programmatic support and consulting to several non-profits in the Miami-Dade community, and recently completed Level 1 ORFF training.