On a nearly perfect California afternoon, Melissa Phillippe studies the menu. It's the kind of restaurant where you might expect to find a musician whose work is informed by her spiritual awareness. The fare is varied, but mainly vegetarian. The design is "earthy" -- a perfect fit in Marin County, where the air seems just a little cleaner, if not actually lighter.
Melissa's pure and compelling blue eyes gaze out from behind long, tawny bangs. Her brown ribbed cardigan features a fake fur collar. She wears matching slacks, a bit of gold jewelry and a shiny wedding ring. She orders a salad. But giggles to admit she's occasionally come to this "health food" restaurant and had only the "air baked french fries".
It's partly this whimsy that sets this speaker/entertainer, who has performed all over the world, apart from most. She's a seeker of truth in a fake fur collar, eating her greens, but spicing it up with fries. So too her music -- often deeply felt and moving ballads, even haunting chants but doused liberally with R&B and rock hooks.
She has released four albums on Presence Productions: Infinite Possibilities and Heal It! both offer an exciting mix of original material, beautifully arranged and voiced. Chants of a Lifetime and Second Chants feature Melissa's hypnotic message meditations (both vocal and instrumental versions). "There is only one of us. In your eyes it's me I see. There is only one of us. You are my reflection. There is only one." ("There Is Only One of Us" from Second Chants.) She is also the featured vocalist on the Steven Halpern release, Deja Blues.
As a singer, songwriter and keyboardist, Melissa, who grew up in the Bay area, began her musical life at age 8 studying classical piano. Her parents were professional people who provided a comfortable lifestyle for their three children (Melissa is the youngest), but Melissa was a rebel from the start, destined to be less than comfortable in the world. "Music" she recalls, "was my angel. I escaped with it through all those years."
An accomplished songwriter by her mid-teens, Melissa assisted at her mother's contemporary clothing boutiques while attending high school. At 19, she was managing a shop and deciding what to do about college. "I hated the idea of college. I didn't see the point. But as much as I was into rebelling, I was also into appeasing. I knew my parents really wanted me to go."
She settled on CSU Chico, majoring in both Music and Psychology. Within days of enrolling, she was singing with a band. And she was partying. Mentored by advisor Dr. Robert Bowman, she was also meditating, and so her life in the Spirit began. Bowman suggested meditation as a tool for improving performance. He shared his own spiritual path with his protÃ©gÃ©. "What he was teaching was basic metaphysics," she asserts. "I learned that changing my thinking could change my life."
She did change her life. After Chico, she went on to a brief early marriage and then to one of Jan Tangen's legendary music camps. There, she was awarded studio time and recognized as a serious talent. Jan was an important influence on her life from that time until his untimely death in 1997. Melissa and Jan formed a musical partnership and they ran music camps and classes together, which Melissa describes as "some of the most fun times of my life."
It was Jan who suggested that Melissa join him at jazz gigs, adding yet another genre to her wide repertoire, and that she try teaching. Reluctantly at first, she did -- singing, music theory and performance -- student after student, for some 20 years. But there was much more to this union and to this unique talent. "He taught me so much," she exclaims with her characteristic humility. "I was completely unconscious and didn't understand the concept of being responsible. He helped wake me up." And now it is this awakening that she shares through her music and her messages.
As she sings in "Tomorrow Never Comes" (Heal It!), "Don't put your passions on layaway or stop yourself because of yesterday. Right now is where dreams are made. Tomorrow never comes."
While working with Tangen, she also performed with The Teddies, an all girl a cappella group often chosen to open for visiting superstars: Jerry Garcia, Taj Mahal, Donovan and Jesse Colin Young are just a few. And she did a five-nights-a-week solo lounge act south of the Bay, in Santa Clara. She spent two years exploring her spirituality with the Alive Tribe, but when they headed for Colorado, she headed briefly back into her partying past. Until she ran into an old friend, Shakti Gawain, who suggested Melissa spend some time with her in Hawaii. There she wrote "The Healing Storm", from the CD Heal It!, and gave up partying for good.
Since then, her enlightenment has been enriched by the Church of Religious Science. Now a licensed Religious Science Practitioner, she has sung her songs and delivered her messages of hope and transformation throughout the world. Already extremely well known and highly regarded in the Western United States, she tours nationwide.
Clean and sober for over fifteen years, she has discovered meaning and the magic in life. With her husband, physician David Gorchoff, who often sings on her albums and in her choir ("He's quite good," she says, her blue eyes dancing), she has found happiness. "David totally supports me in ways that others were only able to talk about." Together for over ten years, for the past five they have been studying Toltec Wisdom with don Miguel Ruiz, author of the best-selling book, The Four Agreements. Melissa is also a licensed mentor of the Toltec Path trained by don Miguel.
After touring for over eight years, she has recently been taking a break from performing. For now, she is focusing on writing, recording and teaching -- all tools for still continuing to meet her mission -- to be "a contributing factor in raising the consciousness of humanity...to awakening people to the awareness of the Divine within them."
Melissa sips the last of her coffee. The sun heads out over the Pacific. She is still: "I see that all is as it should be. I am safe -- so are you, doing all the things God wants us to. In this place, I know -- I do have everything. God is good and dwells within. With each new breath, I begin again." ("Sitting in the Presence of God" -- Infinite Possibilities.) She'd probably be writing that now, if she hadn't written it already.
BOOKINGS AND INFORMATION:
Toll-free: (877) LUV-SONGS
Check out the artist's website:
1. I Am Remembering (With Vocals)
2. I Am Remembering (Instrumental Only)
3. You Are Not Alone (With Vocals)
4. You Are Not Alone (Instrumental Only)
5. There Is Only One of Us (With Vocals)
6. There Is Only One of Us (Instrumental Only)
7. I Know That God Loves Me (With Vocals)
8. I Know That God Loves Me (Instrumental Only)