By Sue Moore
Over 240 Vicksburg High School (VHS) students have received a scholarship offered by the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation. In theory, this money should be helpful to boost a student’s success in starting their journey through higher education pathways. Nate Melvin was one of the first recipients in 1999, but he admits that he can’t remember receiving it. “But my mother does,” Melvin exclaimed.
It’s likely he won it because of his four years at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC) and his many stage presentations while in high school. “I wanted to get out of going to KAMSC every year but my folks didn’t think much of that idea. All the kids there were really smart, except me,” he opined.
Melvin made up for his half day of traveling to KAMSC by participating in every single high school play and musical that was performed during his tenure. “I tried out my freshman year and worried that I didn’t do well enough to get the part.” Fortunately, he did and has gone on to become a resident actor at the New Vic in Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, worked behind the scenes at Western Michigan University’s Miller Auditorium, performed at the Air Zoo, and now is the business development manager for Discover Kalamazoo.
In between all of those acting gigs, there is also a musician who played saxophone and bass drum for his last two years in the Big Red Machine marching band. His ability didn’t go unnoticed as he qualified to play in the Michigan Lions club All-State band. “We got to perform in Quebec, England, Scotland, and France with that band. I loved marching band under the direction of Chris Garrett and Dennis Kozan. I thought my future was in film and video, so after a year at WMU in general education, I transferred to Central Florida for an associate’s degree. Florida was not my favorite place, so I went to school year-round and got out in 13 months, exactly a month after 9/11 happened and came right back to Kalamazoo.”
Things were pretty bleak for a guy who could sing, maybe dance a little, and act in the theatre at every opportunity to find a good paying job. He started shooting free-lance photography. “But I didn’t love that enough, and got a part-time job back stage at WMU. The low point was working on a production line job at Pharmacia on the factory floor. I hated this one more than anything, even more than corn detasseling. I would often fall asleep wrapped in the Tyvek garb but had a friend who would kick me under the table to keep from getting fired. Then an entry level job opened up at the Air Zoo running the amusement park rides. They soon made me floor manager, but the best part was joining an acting troupe to perform historic air flights on the museum floor in 2005. I even wrote one original piece for a character. There were six of us in the troupe and one was Angie, now my wife, who has given us 2-year-old Stella, a beautiful little girl.
“Angie and I were in a play together at the Civic called Class Reunion. Our characters were written to hate each other, but I soon fixed her computer, so she deemed me to be useful.” Melvin’s parents are musicians and theatrical, so he has had plenty of encouragement from home. His dad Tim, is a jazz drummer and mom Lynne plays the organ, the flute, and has had leading roles with the South County Players.
The best gig of all, has been with Discover Kalamazoo, he said. “You’ve got to use your connections any way possible. My boss there is Renee Newman and she oversaw my work at the Air Zoo too. I moved with her to Discover and now she heads up the marketing department. I love this hidden industry. We are here to benefit Kalamazoo County in a special way. It is fun and rewarding. We promote our local partners: the restaurants, the hotels, the meeting spaces, and best of all the craft brewery industry. Kalamazoo has an awesome craft brewing scene and I’m responsible for helping with the Beer Week that brings thousands of visitors to this county. I’m passionate about Kalamazoo and what it has to offer to the outside world. To think it started when my parents moved to Vicksburg when I was one year old.”