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ZAP Music presents: BIO


Singer-songwriter, producer, choir leader and music teacher, John Meldrum is putting all his talents together to create the most ambitious work he’s ever done : Peace Oratorio.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, John Meldrum did a five year stint there in the jingle business there but grew tired of the relentlessness of advertising music, so he left America in search of something else, a different way to live. John Meldrum  won second prize in the Billboard song contest with the instrumental “Samba del Mar” in 1989, but upon seeing Paris for the first time, it was too late. He fell in love with the City of Lights, and his life was never the same.

He started working in Paris playing Highlife music with Freduia Ageymang, a superb Ghanaian drummer and songwriter. John Meldrum played rhythm guitar and sang with him for 5 years; the influence of this experience was to play a large role later on. In 1993/94, Meldrum wrote and recorded his first album  “no rules here”(Melmuse). As the title suggests, the disc holds to no particular style, but explores the range of his talents in a variety of settings: rock, pop, jazz and  classical guitar.

John Meldrum spent 6 weeks in Ghana in the summer of 1995 where he visited the village of Ayijah near Kumasi. Upon returning to Paris, John Meldrum put together his group, Zongo Ambassadors and recorded the album “Ayijah” (Melmuse/Night and Day), which ranges from Highlife to pop and gospel all distilled through the craft of a singer-songwriter.  John’s song, “Brother,Brother” was performed with 650 children from 27 countries at the UNESCO auditorium in Paris. Along the way, John Meldrum was lucky enough to meet Carlos Santana, Salif Keita, Max Roach, Jacques Higelin, Jean-Philippe Rykiel and Nana Danso  and Madeleine Peyroux. Produced by PierreJean Gaucher, the French Jazz guitarist and composer, “Long Live Love” was John’s latest album in 2006 with concerts in Paris, London and the USA.

John created his choir John Meldrum and the Soulways in 1999, and they now perform  as  John Meldrum and the Highlites. John is also a singing teacher and music group coach at the ATLA school of modern music in Paris.

John received his first commision in 2009 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the choir festival Les Voix sur Berges and he composed a 13 minute work in Latin, French and English entitled“The River of Love” which was performed on June 29th, 2010 with over 200 singers and 6 musicians. His music is featured in the new documentary “GrandPa Was a Freedom Rider” by the young French film maker Martial Buisson.  He has also written and produced the debut album “Indiana” by French-Italian singer Julie Cavalieri and a not yet released solo album called “Rock and Roll Heart”. John is currently working on a song cycle for Tenor, Piano and Narrator called "The Lost Letters".



13, Passage des Soupirs 75020 Paris, France / tel: 33 (0) 1 43 58 39 71  

letter to the American Embassy in Paris

  Association ZAP Music

13, passage des Soupirs 75020 Paris, France 33 (0)1 43 58 39 71

Monsieur Rafik MANSOUR – CAO
Acting Minister Counselor for Public Affairs
Ambassade des Etats-Unis d’Amerique
2, avenue Gabriel 75382  Paris Cedex 08
                                                                                                                            November 27, 2012

Dear Sir,

Thanks to the generous support of the American Embassy in Paris, we succeeded in having over 500 children come together to celebrate and sing the life of Martin Luther King on the afternoon of October 17th, 2012 at the Alhambra Theater. We worked for over three years to put together this unique event, but we will come back quickly in 2013 with another production in a smaller venue here in Paris to polish this diamond in the rough! As we continue our musical journey, we hope to share these intense moments of music making and the values of learning to sing and live together in harmony in cities all over the world.

You will find in the annex a series of documents to show you how I have achieved my objectives. I have not finished exploring the method, but my instinct has helped me to work with children from the Paris recreation centers around the syncopated High Life music of Ghana coupled with singing a message of tolerance in English and talking about the life of Martin Luther King. After over 15 hours of working with these children, I can confirm that my teaching target is 4th, 5th and 6th graders whose average age is between 8 and 11 years old. They have the physical capacity to practice the songs for 90 minutes with the coordination that this music calls for as well as the mental concentration and a receptiveness to the message of learning to live together by discovering and understanding those different from themselves.

On Wednesday October 10th we hosted a big dress rehearsal at the Salle des Fêtes of the Town Hall of the 20th quarter with the participation of over 200 students from the Paris recreation centers as well as the private schools Paul Ricœur from the suburbs and the Massillon in the 4th quarter of Paris. The Peace Oratorio’s South African star Portia Solani Manyike got things off to a roaring start by performing a capella « The Circle of Life » from the Lion King, and the kids were immediately enthralled. They then stood up and we all sang together « Happy Feet » and « Brother, Brother » the two songs I had previously rehearsed with all the different groups of children that were participating. The kids were singing very well so we immediately went on to the speaking part of the program. The young American lawyer from the American Embassy Taais Jacobs-Grosse told the story of the life of Martin Luther King for more than 15 minutes to the very attentive children; then Portia Solani Manyike sang a song from her native South Africa followed by a spellbinding Zulu dance.  Portia spoke with deep emotion of her childhood in the South African township Alexandra in the ‘80’s and what is was like for her to live in segregation under the apartheid laws.

Finally, before rehearsing the two songs one last time, I played my guitar solo « Elegy » from the Peace Oratorio which is a piece of instrumental music that is reflective and a bit sad. I started playing this song without words during my sessions with the children in the recreation centers, and I realized that they love to listen to instrumental music! When I played it in the cavernous hall of the Salle des Fêtes for the 250 children, there was absolute silence. It’s incredible the attention that these children brought to my music. I was very happy, even gratified. We must never underestimate the capacities of children. On the contrary, we must stimulate them with rhythm and song, inspire them with the beauty of music and the lives of people such as Gandhi and  Martin Luther King, and instruct them on the art of peaceful negotiation and mutually beneficial understanding.

On Wednesday  October 17th at the Alhambra Theater I had the honor of having over 70 singers on the stage as well as some excellent soloists and the children’s choir les Polysons directed by Elisabeth Trigo. There was also a string quartet and a young musician who played the French Horn parts from my written score as well as improvising a solo on the trumpet. The amplified instruments included the Hammond organ and the Fender Rhodes, electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass and stand up bass, African percussion instruments including the Talking Drums from Ghana. I had the pleasure of introducing each musician who then played a short solo on his/her instrument to show the children the sound and the way each instrument is played. On the stage of the Alhambra our young guests saw and appreciated the musicians from the classical orchestra mixed with traditional African musicians as well as the more modern musicians ; this proved to be an enriching experience for their young impressionable minds. The children then stood up and started moving their feet and clapping their hands to the rhythm of « Happy Feet » and they sang along with all of the musicians and the Highlites choir! The sound of over 500 children singing in tune and in rhythm with my choir and orchestra is etched in my musical memory. It was one hour of music with a short narration of the life of Martin Luther King read by Mr. Curtis Robert Young. I have an audio recording of the event and one can hear the implication of the children in the show, it is simply magical.

I am an artist, I have never studied child psychology, I go to my task with the desire to share my passion for music. If I can inspire a child to be successful in his studies because he/she is passionate about music and he/she has the desire to be successful, I will have achieved my objective. I write to you what I said to those 500 children at the end of their show because it sums up everything that I’m trying to put together in the Paris recreation centers and beyond. I said, « Before you go, I would like the choir, the musicians and all the adults to applaud you the children, you are fantastic ! And do you know why ? Because we have spoken of the past about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and today we speak to you about Nelson Mandela and President Obama, but the future, where is it ? It is not us, it is you. And perhaps a future President of France is a boy or a girl in this theater. Our hope is for you children. Work hard at school ! Be successful in your lives ! Thank you!”

I sincerely hope to continue my work at a broader level here in Paris, elsewhere in France and  perhaps in Washington DC in July 2014 to participate in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which was signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in front of Martin Luther King. I will present an educational/cultural project of our show PEACE ORATORIO (Forever Free) for the 2013 - 2014 and 2014 - 2015 seasons. I hope to reach out to children from all kinds of neighborhoods in all parts of the world with my guitar as an Ambassador of Peace!

Thank you again for your support of this project, I am at your complete disposition for any questions or comments that you might have.

Sincerely yours,




ZAP Music Composer / Artistic Director