Born to refugee parents 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 Fox News and MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, where host Rachel Maddow described it as “the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on this show.” The Gonzales Cantata was subsequently staged as an opera by American Opera Theater and played a sold-out run in Baltimore, and has been performed in Chicago, Texas, and twice in the Pacific Northwest.
Dunphy's first song cycle Tesla's Pigeon has been recognized with several awards, including first place in the 2012 National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award. 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 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, and Boston Choral Ensemble and her commissions include pieces for Resonance Ensemble, Choral Arts Philadelphia, PhilHarmonia, Opus Anglicanum (UK), Cornell University Chorus, Susquehanna University, mezzo-soprano Maren Montelbano, the Kennett Symphony Children’s Choir, and Piedmont Children's Choir. She is the recipient of a 2020 Opera America Discovery Grant for Alice Tierney, a new opera commission by Oberlin Conservatory, set to premiere in 2023.
Dunphy has been composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra (2010), Volti Choral Arts Lab (2013-2014), Volti Choral Institute (2016), and the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus (2015-2018). In addition to her concert and choral music, she is a Barrymore Award-nominated composer and sound designer working with Philadelphia-area theatres such as InterAct, Theatre Exile, People’s Light, Azuka Theatre, and Simpatico Theatre, and she has been Director of Music Composition at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference since 2014.
Dunphy has a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. in Theory and Composition from West Chester University, and is a lecturer in composition at Rutgers University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Matt; 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, and co-hosts of the popular podcast The Boghouse about their adventures in Philadelphia colonial archaeology.
- 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.