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Sewickley Academy plans scholarship fundraiser with popular show tunes

| Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 8:24 p.m.

Music, cocktails and food come together for an evening of entertainment to help increase a scholarship fund at Sewickley Academy.

Alumni and current students of the private Edgeworth school are preparing for “Dick & Oscar: A Grand Night” — a musical cabaret event that doubles as a fundraiser for the Melodia Performing Arts Scholarship.

The scholarship commemorates the life and career of Mario Melodia, who had a hand in choreographing and directing 65 productions over his 40 years at Sewickley Academy. Melodia was named the Sewickley Herald's Man of the Year in 1988.

Henry Shenk said he wanted to start a scholarship in Melodia's name to commemorate the legacy of the faculty member, all while continuing to support and encourage students who are involved in the performing arts at the school.

Shenk said he had the idea to create a scholarship to commemorate Melodia while he was sitting by a fire listening to Roger and Hammerstein music.

“The rest was history,” he said.

Shenk, a member of Sewickley Academy's graduating class of 1974, remembers a time where he was cast in “Cabaret,” and how he found his niche growing up on stage. Much of this he attributes to Melodia, he said.

“He demanded probably the most out of me that anybody did there,” Shenk said.

“He was the musical director and dance teacher here, and so, several decades of Sewickley Academy students and students from out in the community who studied with him after school, benefited from Mario's expertise as a director and choreographer,” said Susan Sour, who handles alumni relations for the academy, and “producer” of the fundraiser.

Sour and Shenk said they hope the evenings pays appropriate homage to Melodia's legacy at the academy.

“It's going to be a lot of fun. We did one last fall, and the cast started out with a cocktail and mingling with everybody, and then from then on, it was just one big party. And that's what we want it to be, the cast and the audience just having a wonderful time,” Shenk said.

The lineup for the show features the music of Dick Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein from well-known shows, including “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I,” “Cinderella” and “The Sound of Music.”

Four notable alumni will be performing in the fundraising show, including Anna Singer, a member of the academy's graduating class of 1976. She will be performing “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.”

“If anyone can do that, Anna Singer can do it beautifully,” Shenk said.

There also are six graduating seniors who are performing pieces for the production.

“It's so fantastic, because all the kids in the show are from all different times,” said June Melodia, Mario Melodia's wife. She said alumni who got to experience the leadership and direction of her husband still call her when they pass through Pittsburgh to tell her about her husband's impact on their lives.

Shenk said the longtime director's work instilled life lessons for students.

“Mario could take the wallflower, which there were quite a few, and make them blossom,” Shenk said.

Vince Russo is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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