The American choral conductor and music pedagogue, Catharine Rose Melhorn, studied at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and holds Master of Arts degree in musicology from the University of California at Berkeley and a DMA in choral music with a minor in viola from the University of Illinois.
Catharine Melhorn began her conducting career at Lexington (Massachusetts) High School, and also taught high school and middle school in suburban New Haven. From 1970 she seved as as Director of Choral Activities at Mount Holyoke College, where she directed the Glee Club, Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. She also taught music theory and appreciation, as well as several seminars for first-year students, and served as Department Chair. She led Mount Holyoke undergraduate and alumnae choirs on tours to China, South America, eastern and central Europe, England & Wales, Costa Rica, and throughout the USA and Canada. Combining with collegiate men’s choruses including Harvard, WPI, Cornell, and UVA, Melhorn conducted numerous choral masterworks with orchestra. In 1971, with colleague Donald Chen, she “invented” Mount Holyoke’s beloved Christmas Vespers concerts in a format unchanged to the present day. Melhorn also created the Second Saturday program, which introduced hundreds of new Mount Holyoke students to the Pioneer Valley, working in small groups on recreational and community service projects at the outset of their college experience. In 2006, she retired after 36 years as Director of Choral Activities at Mount Holyoke College. She is now Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music Emeritus.
In 1973, Catharine Melhorn conducted the Aspen Chamber Choir at Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. In 1983, in national competition, her work on Felix Mendelssohn's Die Erste Walpurgisnacht was awarded the Julius Herford Dissertation Prize for the outstanding doctoral terminal research project in choral music. Between 2006 and 2014, she was director of the South Hadley Children’s Chorus, a community choir enrolling boys and girls ages 7-14. From 2011 to 2013, she served as President of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, and currently serves as Past-President and Summer Conference Chair. Her Mount Holyoke choirs performed at three ACDA Eastern Division conventions, and she served as Massachusetts Repertory & Standards Chair for Women’s Choruses. She also has led several ACDA roundtables, repertory and interest sessions.
Catharine Melhorn lives in Amherst, western Massachusetts with husband and Mount Holyoke Professor John Lemly (whom she married in 2009), and is mother to operatic baritone David McFerrin and MGH resident physician Diana Lemly, and mother-in-law to Boston choral conductor Jamie Kirsch.