George Mason University, BA, Arts Management
Harvard Extension School, MA, Psychology candidate
Royal Academy of Dance, Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies
Stott Pilates, Certificate in Pilates Teaching
Passion for the Arts and Education
Melissa has spent the past 20 years enthusiastically innovating, creating and cultivating a leading performing arts school in the Washington DC area dedicated to launching students into the world as extraordinary artists, innovators and global citizens.
Founder and Visionary
Melissa founded Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA), formerly known as Metropolitan Fine Arts Center, in 2001 in response to a community wide need for high quality, non-competitive and professional dance education. As a performer and dancer, Melissa felt called to meet the need and launched a small dance program specifically aimed toward young children. Within 3 short years, Metropolitan Fine Arts Center grew to a bustling dance community of over 500 dancers. Over the next 17 years, Melissa worked alongside her carefully chosen team to develop and manifest her vision of Metropolitan School of the Arts into a fully comprehensive performing arts school guided by the unique principles of extraordinary artistic achievement in a nurturing, supportive, safe, age appropriate and student-centric environment. Today, Metropolitan School of Arts educates students in dance, theater and music and currently serves over 1,000 extracurricular students, 100 homeschool students and 30 full-time in the newly launched Academy program. Over 20 years, Metropolitan School of the Arts, has educated and served over 14,000 children and adults.
In 2013, Melissa led the charge to transition the school from her for-profit, privately owned corporation to a non-profit organization in an effort to support the necessary next steps for strategic growth to meet the needs of the community at large. During this transition, the school transitioned from two small retail spaces to two state of the art facilities, increased our enrollment and programming by 35% and hired 15 new employees. This expansion also marked the launch of the Academy, which was the first and only private performing arts school in the Washington DC area that offered a fully comprehensive arts program including dance, theater and music alongside an accredited academic program. Melissa successfully managed and led the artistic and educational program growth efforts, the leasing and build out of two new state of the art facilities, the financial transition from for profit to non-profit, the development of a new marketing and communications strategy, the hiring of a community relations and fundraising professional and oversaw all day to day operations of the organization. In addition, she served on the first governing Board of Directors and worked alongside Board members to develop the initial structure for non-profit operations.
Teacher and Educator
In addition to her role as Executive Director and Founder, Melissa made it a priority to stay connected to her students as a passionate teacher, mentor and director. Until recently, she taught nearly 15 classes per week and directed multiple performances throughout the year. Known for her motivational and enthusiastic teaching methodology, Melissa gives her students the tools to reach their maximum potential. Her deep studies of psychology, mindfulness and quantum physics allows her to bring a unique perspective to her students as she encourages them to understand the intimate connection between brain, body and soul, encouraging them to perform from the inside out. Dancers trained by Melissa can be seen on Broadway, numerous National Tours, HBO, internationally acclaimed dance companies, national television shows and have been accepted into some of the most prestigious colleges and Universities in the world. More importantly, however, Melissa’s students go into the world as kind, hard working, innovative and generous community members who have a burning appreciation for the arts.
Beyond serving the students who attend classes at Metropolitan School of the Arts, Melissa has always made it a priority to partner with child-centered non-profit organizations. Some of the organizations include Children’s National Medical Center, Cole’s Closet, Alexandria Women and Children’s Center and Childhelp. The students, families and communities of MSA had the first hand opportunity use their gifts in the performing arts to serve those in less fortunate circumstances. Over the past 20 years, Melissa’s efforts have helped raised over 15,000 toys for Cole’s Closet and has given students the opportunity to perform over 450 free performances to spread joy throughout our community. Most recently, Melissa had the honor of teaching weekly dance classes to some of the most severely neglected and abused children in the nation at the Alice C. Tyler village at Childhelp in Virginia. This sparked her interest in using dance as a modality to heal childhood trauma.
Melissa is a proud mother of her three children, Cayli, Jake and Elliott, who are the center of her universe and teach her more and more each day about the important things in life. Her daughter Cayli was her first student and the driving force behind the creation of Metropolitan School of the Arts. Her husband Matt, sister Emily and parents John and Janet, were all valiant supporters of Metropolitan School of the Arts and helped lay the groundwork from which the school was built.
Melissa was born and raised in is from Fairfax, VA and began her dance training at age eleven with the highly acclaimed dance educator, Marilyn Baird. She continued her training in New York at the Briansky-Saratoga Ballet in New York, Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, and received her interdisciplinary degree from New Century College in Fine Arts Management from George Mason University. Melissa is a certified teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance in London and a certified Stott Pilates instructor. She is nearing completion of her Masters of Arts in Psychology at Harvard Extension School. Melissa has performed in numerous theatrical venues and national events, including the Special Olympics Gala, ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia, Walt Disney World, Clinton’s Presidential Inaugural Ball in Washington DC, and as a tap dancer in the 13th annual gala: A Salute to the 1940’s Broadway Musical, with the National Symphony Orchestra, hosted by Julie Andrews on the Kennedy Center stage.
Melissa served as Artistic Director, then Executive Director of Metropolitan School of the Arts since its inception and recently transitioned to the role of Founder and as a member of the Board of Directors in July of 2020.