Born and raised in Australia, Melissa Dunphy moved to the United States in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in political and theatrical music. She first came to national attention in 2009 when her large-scale choral work the Gonzales Cantata, written while still an undergraduate at West Chester University, was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, National Review, Comedy Central, and on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. The Gonzales Cantata was subsequently staged by the American Opera Theater and played a sold-out run in Baltimore. Word of the Gonzales Cantata has since spread internationally, including to Croatian President Ivo Josipović, who played excerpts in a speech he gave at Yale University on politics and music in September 2014.Dunphy's first song cycle Tesla's Pigeon, has been recognized with a Spirit of Tesla award by the Tesla Science Foundation, first place in the 2012 National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award, 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 around the country by ensembles including GRAMMY Award-winning Chanticleer, Cantus, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, who recorded it for their album American Declarations. Dunphy has also received awards from ASCAP, the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, Boston Metro Opera, Boston Choral Ensemble, and the Secret Opera, and commissions include pieces for Ensemble Epomeo, Choral Arts Philadelphia, Opus Anglicanum (UK), mezzo-soprano Maren Montelbano, harpist Shana Norton, Voice of this Generation, the Kennett Symphony Children’s Choir, Piedmont Children's Choir, and Whitman College Chamber Singers.
Dunphy has been the composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra (2010), the Volti Choral Arts Lab (2013-2014), and the Volti Choral Institute (2016), and is currently the composer-in-residence of the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus (2015-2017). In addition to her concert and choral music, she composes frequently for Philadelphia-area theatres such as People’s Light, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, and Gas and Electric Arts, and since 2014 has been the music director for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference.
Dunphy is currently undertaking doctoral studies in composition at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Benjamin Franklin Fellow; her dissertation in progress is an opera about the sex life of author Ayn Rand. Her teachers have included Robert Maggio, Larry Nelson, Van Stiefel, James Primosch, Jay Reise and Anna Weesner. Dunphy lives 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 2017. 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 plays viola occasionally with the Delaware County Symphony and Penn Symphony Orchestra, and electric mandolin and mandola 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.