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Perpetual Change By Pamela DeGroff — Melissa Clark

| May 12, 2008
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Melissa Clark is a singer/songwriter from the Schenectady, New York area. She is a retired U.S. Postal Service employee who has been living full time since 2002, and whom also has just released her first recording, an EP entitled Coming Out. She is also a cancer survivor who is adamant about health screening and uses her performances to stress how important it can be.

I first encountered Melissa through the Transgender Music Society’s discussion group. As with most discussion groups, sometimes there’s a flurry of activity; other times there are extended periods of quiet. But there are always inquiries about the group and about membership. Melissa was one such contact several months back, and she has been gracious enough to submit to a round of questions from our inquisitive staff here at Perpetual Change World Headquarters and Bar-B-Q.

TGForum: Give us a little bit of your musical background, if you don’t mind.

Melissa ClarkClark: The early influences were the groups of the 1960s, primarily The Beatles. And because they had a hold on my attention, I was getting a second hand intro into the blues. Ironically, the “British invasion” was American fueled, even if the American artists who followed were trying to sound British. As for my (personal) musical background, there’s no formal training. Most of what I have learned I simply picked up from trial and error, or the odd DVD where I could watch the guitarist. I’ve played rock, folk, and blues (to a degree), on both acoustic and electric.

TGF: You work exclusively as a soloist, correct? Given any thought to putting a band together?

Clark: I am a solo artist now, primarily because I couldn’t get others to “leave their fishing nets behind and come join me”. I’ve tried a few times to invite TG musicians, locally, to give it a try, but I haven’t been lucky in finding folks who are willing to do that. It is something of a microcosm of our larger situation in that I am not afraid to be myself in public, but I am aware that others have a rightful fear for their own privacy. I would welcome the chance to record with other folks, so yes, I’m still open to collaboration of any sort.

TGF: Talk a little about your new project, Coming Out.

Clark: I recorded this last fall and jokingly referred to it as the “gas money” EP, because in the venues I was playing, the sale of it provided the necessary money to fuel the drive to and from. The main air play cut on the EP has been No Man’s Land. The reactions to the EP have been encouraging. I am currently putting together a full length CD, which I hope to have available by June.

TGF: This is a question I almost always ask: what advice would you offer to other musicians, trans or not…

Clark: I began playing about a millennium ago, eased into the “living room with my Martin” attitude for some time…before giving it another serious shot. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was diagnosed with a colon tumor, which I had removed. I developed an infection and had plenty of time to lie in bed and recuperate. During that time, I began polishing some of the music I had written previously. The experience focused me very well, and I’ve determined to get this out there.

I’ve been in excellent health for the past two years now, and have decided that dwelling on the past is a double waste of time. Living and appreciating life has been a blessing. As for other artists, as the Nike ad says, “Just do it!”

TGF: Anything you’d like to say to the transgender community in general?

Clark: If we portray ourselves as only victims, we will be regarded in much the same way. However, if we include our victimization as part of our positive struggle and choose our battles carefully, we have a wonderful chance to improve our general acceptance in the mainstream community. We need to show our willingness to stand without being confrontational at every turn. If we act with dignity, it will be harder to be marginalized by those who would treat us as freaks. It’s not a challenge, but rather a determination to earn what is available to you…respect.

TGF: In closing, anything you want to say as a final thought?

Clark: When I perform, I also try to emphasize the necessity to medically screen for any disease a person could be at risk for, whether HIV, or any of the cancers, or if there is a family history of diabetes, or anything that could become a problem is less of one with early detection. I am, quite literally, living proof of that statement. I’ve been clean of any cancer for two years, and my likeliness of living a “full length” healthy life is excellent. This is one of several reasons for my optimism. We are all in this together, and our sense of community can only benefit everyone in the long run. Thanks for the chance to share some thoughts.

(Author’s Note: To contact Melissa Clark personally, and for ordering information about her Coming Out EP, as well as information on upcoming gigs and future projects, send her an email at [email protected] )

Help Wanted:

Metal/Industrial Guitarist wanted Minneapolis area

Established national touring band with many gigs nation wide currently booked with overseas tours possible. If you are a fast learner we can have you on stage very quickly as our current guitarist needs to step back for personal and health reasons Must work with existing original material and be willing to contribute to new recordings (studio time reserved for work on feature film soundtrack project and possible new studio album by the end of 08). You must have professional gear and transportation. Passport for international travel is a plus. Strong stage presence and attention to both musical detail and presentation desired, we are a visual band although the music comes first (think Slayer & Mushroom Head meet Manson and NIN). Long term commitment required, no “Jobbers” looking to switch bands every 2 months, if playing in a multitude of bands is your thing we think thats great but probably wont work with our touring schedule. If you have links to existing work please include with your reply.

Contact Tempest at [email protected]


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Category: Music, Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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