Melissa Therese Then has learned that you never know until you try. Trying things on a whim has lead Then to attend a top music conservatory, perform in Germany, go onstage at the Wick, and even sing before one of the biggest boxing matches in recent history.
“I always underestimate myself because [I’m not] as experienced as my other peers,” she
Indeed, Then didn’t grow up a child prodigy—she has no anecdotes of singing with perfect
pitch as a toddler. Instead, she accidentally discovered her talent in high school when a teacher encouraged her to take vocal lessons.
Born in the Philippines, Then came to the U.S. as an infant when she was adopted. She grew up in Plantation, started playing piano at 6, and moved to Boca Raton in elementary school. She attended North Broward Preparatory School and joined the choir in
“The teacher came up to me and said, ‘You should think about taking voice lessons,’” she remembers. “I told my mom; she said ‘Oh yeah, right, there’s no way.’”
The teacher convinced her mom otherwise, and so they made the drive from Boca to Tamarac for weekly lessons. It was there she learned that not only did she have a voice, but she excelled in opera.
“It just felt so beautiful and so free,” Then says. “It just took me to a different world.
… In pop songs you sing about love, but here we’re singing about nature, the river, it’s actually appreciating our surroundings. I liked that.”
She continued to blend in with the choir at school—until she was given a solo during a school performance. She belted “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” introducing herself to the world as a singer.
“I’m not going to lie, I actually felt really good and I knew I wasn’t so terrible of a singer,” she says.
When it came time to look at colleges, Then took a chance and auditioned for notable music programs, including the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where she was accepted. She spent a year there but returned home to Palm Beach Atlantic University to be closer to her family. There, she was chosen to attend the Saarburg Festival in Germany, where she studied the language and performed from town to town.
After singing at a prayer service before the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in 2015, she landed the role of Rosalia in “West Side Story” at the Wick in 2017. She also served as the understudy to the lead female role of Maria.
“I’ve seen the movie 19 times and the Broadway [musical] twice,” she says.
Today, Then teaches performing arts at North Broward Prep, sings at St. Jude Catholic Church every Sunday, and teaches dance classes through the Vixen Army brand, where she says she can “sweat it off and let things go.”
This story comes from our January 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.