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Melanie Fiona

Music megastar is all business

When Grammy and Juno award-winning R&B artist Melanie Fiona attended Seneca, she led a double life.

During the day, she was a dedicated student in the General Business program. After class, she was busy performing, recording and transforming into an international musical force.

Only her professors and close friends knew of her secret identity. Now, the whole world knows about Melanie, the rising star who has toured with Kanye West and Alicia Keys and collaborated with Cee Lo Green, The Roots and John Legend, just to name a few. She has also co-written songs with Rihanna and Kardinal Offishall, and her second studio album, The MF Life, was released in March 2012.

Melanie’s parents knew from quite early on that she was a gifted singer. Her father, who is a guitarist (and accountant), would play along with Melanie while she dazzled friends and family with her vocals.

“When I was two-and-a-half, we were at a picnic and my dad was playing ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston, which is a tough song,” Melanie remembers. “I was able to keep pace, and I think my parents realized then I had an ear for music.”

Melanie grew up in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighborhood and the City of Vaughan. She excelled at school, and was all set to go to university, when she was presented with an opportunity to record as part of a girl band. Shortly after that, she went solo. By age 21, Melanie found herself in the United States, her career moving ahead full steam.

“I had a team that believed in me and helped my development as an artist,” says Melanie.

Melanie made the difficult decision to take a break from full-time school and concentrate on performing. Still, postsecondary education was a priority for her. Even though her career was blossoming, Melanie made time to continue her studies at Seneca. Now, as an artist and businesswoman (by the way, she also owns a touring company), her accounting and business background is definitely serving her well.

“People forget: Music is a business,” says Melanie. “My academic background really gives me an advantage.”

Yet Melanie’s drive to complete her education went deeper than having a strong understanding of the music industry. It was part of a larger goal to balance her life with the things that matter most to her: education, career, love and family.

“It was important for me to stand up and tell other artists, ‘I graduated,’” says Melanie. “I feel proud knowing that I fulfilled that part of my life.”