STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Pianist Melody Handy


Melody Handy takes a moment from her busy schedule of performing to pose for a photo. While at the Boykin Piano festival, the federation piano festival and ACES, Handy received phenomenal ratings. She reached the state level all four years of high school at the Alabama Music Teachers Association (ATMA) piano festival.

Micah Sanders and Darian Howell

Home of soprano singers, saxophone players, and various other talents, the Alabama State University Department of Music is known for handcrafting and cultivating powerhouse performers such as Clarence Carter, Ronald Handy and now the well-accomplished pianist Melody Handy.
The senior music and psychology double major was awarded the very prestigious 2021 Music Award, allowing her the prodigious opportunity to further pursue her higher education at no expense.
“We are so proud of Melody and excited for her to have the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a music therapist,” said Carly Johnson, Department Head for Music. “Her determination, focus, and hard work at ASU have paid off, and being involved as a professional in the therapeutic arts will allow her to give back to her community while using her artistic and creative talents to nurture and help those in recovery from emotional and physical trauma. Melody is a remarkable student, and we are so proud and excited for her as she continues following her passion on to the next level.”
While most five-year-olds simply learn how to write their name and memorize the alphabet, Handy was busy tapping G minors and B-flats on the piano, converging her love for music very early on in her life.
“My grandmother taught me the basics at the age of 5, and once I entered the third grade, she said. “ I took piano at Carver Elementary School with a lady by the name of Mrs. Boyd.”
From elementary all throughout high school, Handy was engulfed into the vibrant world of the arts by only attending art schools.
“When I was 10 years old, I started private lessons with Corine Free, Ph.D. In sixth grade, I attended Baldwin Middle School where my magnet was piano from sixth to eighth grade.”
Attending Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama, Handy was well-prepared beyond her years and peers. During her sophomore year, she already earned her title as a piano soloist for a musical showcase. Additionally, she was given the opportunity to be a featured pianist at the annual MLK event at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. While at the Boykin Piano festival, the federation piano festival and ACES, Handy received phenomenal ratings. She reached the state level all four years of high school at the Alabama Music Teachers Association (ATMA) piano festival.
Making Alabama State University her home for the past four years, Handy has continued to excel by being heavily involved in the music department. She studies under the direction of school faculty member Adonis Gonzalez, DMA, an acclaimed pianist and composer. The faculty members all agree that Handy is an accomplished pianist with a promising career as a composer.
Things were going exceptionally well for Handy, and then the entire world stopped in 2020, creating challenging obstacles and situations for the students in the department of music at ASU since social interactions were prohibited.
“When COVID-19 started, I was in my last class for theory, but I had choir, and I played piano, which was a challenge to do virtually due to the fact that the computer was often lagging, but we stayed focused, and I must say we overcame all obstacles,” she said.
Although the pandemic has alerted the way of living, the resilient spirit invoked in Handy did not let that get in the way of utilizing her gifts and talents. In 2021, she received the $4,000 Presser Scholar Award due to her excellence in performance, high standards in character and academic citizenship.
“I was in my performance class, and my professor had a slideshow, and it showed the winner at the end,” Handy said as she explained her initial reaction to winning the award. “I felt so honored that it was me because I told myself ever since I was a freshman I wanted to work hard and do what I have to do to get good grades, and I’m so grateful to see the work I am putting in pay off,”
As graduate school at Florida State University is in Handy’s near future, she looks forward to using the scholarship money to help relieve some financial burdens.
“The award money will definitely make the transition from Alabama State University to Florida State University smoother,” she said.
To current and future Hornets who want to explore music therapy, Handy expresses the responsibility to be open to new ideas and pathways as they allow individuals to embark on their fullest potential.
“For all the people who want to do music therapy, I want you to know you can get opportunities by auditing, graduate school, or schools that offer the program through the music department. Last semester, I audited grad school. It was called music of healing art. I got a chance to see how music therapy really works because they did not provide those courses at ASU. I believe it is also a great idea to network with other people in the field,” she said.
Pushing out and molding her peers is of extreme importance to Handy as she wants to ensure musical therapy is still thriving long after she graduates from the university. With an interesting and dynamic mix of music and psychology underneath her belt, she is able to analyze and conceptualize the intervention between music and psychology, which sometimes is used to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being.
For those Hornets interested in completing a double major, Handy states that, “You have to plan. I suggest that you figure out your day in advance to know how much time you want to spend on each assignment. Another thing I would do is do one class a day. Choose one class and have it on a specific day so you will not become stressed with other class assignments.”