Melody Thompson of Clayton believes in signs. Sometimes the sign may come in the form of encouragement from a family member or a professor. Other times in a dream, reassuring her that she will overcome the destructive storm of breast cancer. And sometimes, it literally is a sign — a Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) billboard on Delsea Drive inspiring a new career choice.
“For some reason my attention was drawn to RCGC, through ads in the mail, television commercials and while driving down the road. The signs were everywhere,” said Thompson, who became restless sitting at home while recuperating from a double mastectomy and cancer treatment. “The billboard pulled me in. I didn’t want another year to pass me by. I made a phone call and here I am two years later.”
Life has not always been easy for the former medical assistant who in 2015 decided to follow her heart and pursue a degree in music. Optimistic about the future, Thompson has no time in her busy life for fear and doubt. Instead, she is thankful for being raised by an exceptional role model— her grandmother— and is driven to help others through words and song.
“Melody Thompson is one of the most ambitious and tenacious students I have ever met,” stated RCGC Counseling Advisor Tanya Johnson. “Regardless of the life challenges that have come her way, Melody finds the good in every situation. She has such a strong beam of light that shows in her face, which confirms that anything she applies her mind to will succeed.”
“I want to reach people at different levels and music is a way to do that,” said the music student, who is a member of both the RCGC Choral Workshop and her church choir where she also plays the keyboard and drums. “The college experience has helped to bring me out of my shell and has given me the confidence to broaden my horizons. I am writing a book. I have posed for a breast cancer photo shoot and have recorded an inspirational CD with my 13-year-old daughter to help encourage others also facing difficult times,” said Thompson.
Dr. Natalka Pavlovsky, a music professor at RCGC, first met Melody as a student in her Music Appreciation class. Although Pavlovsky already knew her to be an excellent student, one day after class Thompson played a recording of herself singing. The music professor was floored—“her range and her expressive power were remarkable.”
“Melody is one of the founding members of the College’s new student choir. As I got to know her better, I saw many facets emerge: the encouraging peer to other students in the choir; the dependable section leader; devoted mom; cancer survivor,” said Pavlovsky. “Melody was very candid in sharing about her illness. She does not shy away from this part of her story, but neither does she let it define her: she is unfailingly cheerful, and very much focused on the positives in life. Whereas some people are embittered by trials, Melody seems only more appreciative of her world as a result of the difficulties she has been through.”
It was because of her mother’s love for singing that she was named Melody… perhaps yet another sign to follow her dreams.
“Music is a part of who I am, so why not pursue a career in it? I am so looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish in the future,” said Thompson.