When Joey Mele, 26, was a kid, he wanted to be a doctor.
Things change, sometimes in part due to discovered passions and an inspirational teacher or two.
And so it happened that his musical passion, plus two teachers at Jonathan Law High School, set him on a course toward becoming a music teacher and an accomplished singer who is getting set to perform Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall with The Cecilia Chorus on Dec. 8.
Mele’s passion for music began at Jonathan Law High School, from which he graduated in 2010. At Law, he participated in band and choir.
In his sophomore year, Mele auditioned and qualified for the Southern Connecticut Regional Chorus and the All-State Chorus, and he has said he owes much of his musical inspiration to his dedicated music teachers, Paul Marino and Jean Kovacs.
Mele said it was obvious that both Marino and Kovacs loved what they did.
“It’s unfortunately not very common, in my experience, to find people who are as passionate as Mr. Marino and Mrs. Kovacs,” Mele said. “They may not know it, but they taught me so much more than how to be a musician. I learned how to carry myself professionally, how to handle difficult situations, how to have professional confrontation, how to prioritize and stay organized, just by observing the way they handled these things.”
Marino remembers Mele as a talented, hardworking student who loved the arts. Kovacs still recalls “a wonderful young man.”
“I was the director of the choir and Advanced Ensemble at Law,” Kovacs said. “I first met him as a band student. Before I knew it, Joey expressed interest in joining choir. Little did I know just how talented he was. He was my first student to audition for the Southern Regional Chorus and then All-State — and perform in both. We also worked together on several productions with Law’s Drama Club. Whether he is singing, acting or playing, he is dedicated to music. I am proud that he has gone into teaching because he has so much to give.”
After high school Mele studied at Long Island University (LIU), Post campus. As part of his training, he studied percussion, brass, woodwind and string methods. But singing and playing piano are his fortés, and he occasionally plays organ.
Singing started early for this Milford native, in eighth grade, and continued into high school, college and today.
He studied voice all four years of college and after graduating.
This is Mele’s first year teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade at a Catholic school in the Bronx, where he also now lives, and he loves it.
“It is awesome, indeed,” Mele said. “We work very hard in my classroom, lots of ear training. A typical class involves singing, of course, ear training, movement, spelling — yes, spelling — or vocabulary, and reading notation.”
This is also Mele’s first season singing with The Cecilia Chorus of New York, under the direction of Mark Shapiro.
“Dr. Mark Shapiro, the artistic director, is a true role model and inspiration for me on so many levels,” Mele said. “I am truly lucky to have been able to study with him for six years at LIU and still am learning from him weekly in rehearsals.”
The Cecilia Chorus of New York performs twice annually at Carnegie Hall with a professional orchestra and soloists.
The chorus is a widely recognized, highly regarded mixed community of native New Yorkers and people from around the world who have moved there, enriching New York’s musical life for over 100 years, according to the choir’s website.
Their repertoire spans four centuries, and includes commissions and premieres by some of today’s most promising composers. In 2015 the chorus received the Chorus America ASCAP Alice Parker Award in recognition of their adventurous programming, and Music Director Mark Shapiro is a six-time ASCAP Award winner.
Membership is by audition.
Mele has performed Handel’s Messiah before and said performing it is moving.
“I still am in awe of what Handel was able to accomplish in just 24 days. The more I perform it, the more I love it,” he said. “Regardless of religious beliefs, I think the story is inspiring and the idea of being saved from our iniquities and our own destruction is something I believe everyone can relate to, especially today.”
(Tickets, $25 to $85, can be purchased at carnegiehall.org)