Mel Hsu and her cello, Charles, are rather inseparable. Their mischievous friendship sparked one fateful afternoon, many moons ago, when Mel's high school band director told her that there was no room for her or her cello in the school jazz ensemble. Refusing to take "Learn another instrument" for an answer, Mel and Charles spent that afternoon (and the decade, for that matter) huddled at the back of the cafeteria with their heads close, plotting their way into rooms that were not built for them, vowing to always make space for themselves at the table.
The adventures of Mel and Charles took flight during their four years at Wesleyan University. Lured in by the contagious and electric energy of the artistic community, the pair found their way into collaborations with dancers, visual artists, rappers, poets, actors and filmmakers. [As an act of defiance against her high school band director, Mel worked her way into Wesleyan's jazz orchestra, first by distorting Charles through an amp to sound more like a saxophone, and then eventually by picking up the double bass --or rather, "the big cello."]
To this day, Mel plants her musical roots in those catalytic moments at Wes-- the crowded living rooms and packed staircases, the 3AM jam sessions in the practice studios, the nights she snuck into the chapel to sing herself holy-- those days that taught her how to be fearless.
Mel and Charles can now be spotted most frequently somewhere around Exit 4 of the NJ Turnpike, leading their double life between Philadelphia and New York City. Mel is the Community Organizing Director at Girls Rock Philly, where she works to amplify the voices of girls, trans and gender non-conforming youth through the radical process of unapologetic sound-making. She has been a teaching artist for Spiral Q, Play On, Philly, and ArtWell. She composes and performs for film, theater, dance, poetry and epic neighborhood parades. Her work has been debuted at the SXSW Film Festival, Poetic License Theater Festival, Source Festival, Fringe Festival, NY Indie Theatre Film Festival and the BAM "Puppets on Film" Festival.
Mel and Charles travel regionally and along the East Coast as musical support for various ensembles and projects. They have had the privilege of performing with Eminem, Skylar Grey, Mahogany L. Browne, Noah Baerman, Oliver Lake and Buddy Wakefield. Mel and Charles have opened for Amanda Palmer, My Brightest Diamond and Anis Mojgani.
When Mel and Charles need a healthy break from one another,
Mel can be found dancing around the bass, the guitar, the piano, or any kitchen appliance that can be played with a durable spoon.