Born and raised in Australia, Melissa Dunphy immigrated to the United States in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention in 2009 when her large-scale choral work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, National Review, Comedy Central, and on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, where host Rachel Maddow called it "the coolest thing you've ever seen on this show." The Gonzales Cantata was subsequently staged by the American Opera Theater and played a sold-out run in Baltimore, and has been performed by ensembles around the country.Dunphy's first song cycle Tesla's Pigeon won first place in the 2012 National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award, and has been recognized with a Spirit of Tesla award by the Tesla Science Foundation, the American Prize, and inclusion in the Chicago Ensemble Discover America VIII. Her choral work What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach? won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Composition Competition and has been performed nationally by ensembles including GRAMMY Award-winning Chanticleer, Cantus, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, who recorded it for their album American Declarations (Regent Records). Dunphy has also received awards from ASCAP, the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, Boston Metro Opera, Boston Choral Ensemble, and the Secret Opera, and her commissions include pieces for Choral Arts Philadelphia, PhilHarmonia, Cornell University Chorus, Opus Anglicanum (UK), mezzo-soprano Maren Montelbano, harpist Shana Norton, Ensemble Epomeo, the Kennett Symphony Children’s Choir, Piedmont Children's Choir, McNeese State University, and Whitman College Chamber Singers.
Dunphy has served as composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra, Volti Choral Arts Lab, Volti Choral Institute, and the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus. In addition to her concert and choral music, she composes and designs sound frequently for Philadelphia-area theatres such as People’s Light, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Azuka, Simpatico, Interact, and Gas and Electric Arts, and since 2014 has been music director and head of the music composition track of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference.
Dunphy has a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Benjamin Franklin Fellow, and a Bachelor of Music (summa cum laude) from West Chester University. She currently teaches composition at Rutgers University. Her teachers have included Robert Maggio, Larry Nelson, Van Stiefel, James Primosch, Jay Reise and Anna Weesner. Dunphy lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Matt, for whom she occasionally creates internet-famous Halloween costumes, and three cats; the Dunphys are currently the owners and developers of the Hannah Callowhill Stage, a new performance venue in Old City Philadelphia which they hope to open in 2020. In 2010, Dunphy achieved notoriety after appearing on Fox & Friends [Fox News] for playing the piano while upside down. She is also an accomplished actor, recognized in Philadelphia as "unquestionably the city's leading Shakespeare ingénue," [Philadelphia Inquirer]; in 2014, her solo performance in the Robin Malan play iHamlet earned her a Falstaff Award nomination from PlayShakespeare, and in 2015 she appeared as Puck in Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream and played solo amplified viola in the Opera Philadelphia new commission ANDY: A Popera. She also performs on electric mandolin/mandola and vocals in the rock band Up Your Cherry.
- As a composer, I believe that music is not only a form of expression but a means of communication. My primary mission is to connect with my audience so that they discover and understand the ideas, emotions, and narratives in my music.
- I want my music to be relevant to the world around it and exist in that world. It is inspired by and explores real-world issues of social justice and personal relationships.
- I am deeply committed to bringing the voices of women and minorities to the stage, either by telling their stories, or telling stories from their perspective.