Melita Silberstein is a singer/songwriter, folk musician, childrens’ performer, and ceremonial song-leader based out of Berkeley, CA. She is the founding member of Octopretzel, a popular Bay Area band for kids, and has also recorded and/or co-produced a number of CDs in the realms of both singer-songwriter contemporary folk as well as childrens’ music.
Melita has also worked as a music specialist for young children for over 15 years. She currently teaches music classes in several preschools and other venues for families in the Bay Area. She holds a degree in eco-psychology from the Naropa Institute, and also a certification in early childhood education.
She has received training in an array of teaching modalities including Waldorf, Music Together, Orff Schulwerk, and Yoga for Kids. Melita also co-founded and for some time co-facilitated the girls’ rites of passage program Gaia Girls Passages. Last but not least, Melita is the mother of a bright and creative 13 year old girl, Leilah Meadow.
“Music has the power to transform, to uplift, to deepen and to inspire – the listener as well as the performer. I try to write and play music that speaks to a timeless place in all of us, our Inner Child and our Inner Wise One. My goal is to make music that is accessible to everyone. I believe that true folk music has the potential to cross genres and generations.
Woven throughout my music is a vision of inter-connectedness, both with one another and with all of life on this planet. This world is a magical place, if we choose to see it that way. Working with children has been such an amazing reminder to me that all people have a spark of purity and openness inside. It may get covered up, but it’s in there. I hope that my music connects with that place in you.”
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Melita Silberstein (formerly Melita Doostan) has had a complex and colorful journey through music, weaving in many different elements – cultural, ecological, spiritual and personal. For her, music has been the natural outflow of the deep personal work she has done over the course of her life.
Thanks to her encouraging family, Melita started learning piano at age 4, writing songs at 9, and teaching herself guitar at 15. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri with her two older sisters and parents, recent immigrants from Johannesburg, South Africa. As a young child, Melita loved to perform, regularly holding shows for her parents, sisters, friends, cat, or as a last resort, her stuffed animals. By age 5, she had memorized hundreds of songs and rhymes, that she would recite to anyone who would listen! In her late teens, she made her first recording, a tape titled “Exist Dance.” These songs were written at a time that marked the beginning of her interest in nature and spirituality.
After studying anthropology at UT Austin, Melita transferred to the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University in Boulder, CO and majored in eco-psychology and Religious Studies, an education that has informed and inspired her musical career. While still in school, Melita was gifted time in a professional studio and recorded her first CD “Shalem,” a set of deeply thoughtful original songs narrating her journey of self-discovery at the time. Melita later went on to earn accreditation as an early childhood educator, and taught at a number of progressive, Waldorf-inspired schools both in Boulder, and then in Berkeley, CA.
Melita graduated from Naropa in 2000. Following an eight-month journey to Israel, and a series of international Rainbow Gatherings, Melita moved to Berkeley, and fell naturally into Northern California’s emerging conscious music community. When she and her friends, a group of musicians and puppeteers, turned an old movie theatre into a recording studio for a week, the result was “The Adventures of Kid Kaleidoscope,” a rootsy, fun-loving, consciousness-raising album of original songs for children. Kid Kaleidoscope performed for years at festivals and benefits including the Oregon Country Fair, Harmony Festival, Earthdance, Salmon Aid, and Google’s Halloween Extravaganza in Mountain View, California.
Melita then performed for three years with the all-female acoustic ensemble Ya Elah, directed by Bon Singer, former director of the acclaimed Balkan a capella group Kitka, and appeared on the group’s 2004 CD “Each of Us” produced by Grammy-nominated guitarist Alex de Grassi.
In 2005, Leilah Meadow came into the world, born at home. In the year following the birth of her daughter, Melita created an album, with Ben Krames of Jungleshack Media. This album merged many of the genres that had attracted her: singer-songwriter originals, meditative chants, children’s songs, and contemporary folk music. What emerged was “Delicate Web,” an eclectic compilation of acoustic folk music, ethnic instrumentation, and thoughtful lyrics.
Melita has performed as a singer-songwriter for many years, collaborating with other accomplished artists in the realm of conscious “medicine music” such as Shimshai, Murray Kyle, Eliyahu Sills of the Qadim Ensemble, Lauren Arrow, Chad Wilkins, The Human Revolution and more.
Melita’s interest in children’s music grew along with her daughter, and soon she put her work as an educator together with her love of music. In 2006 she began teaching music throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, first as a Music Together teacher, and then she branched out on her own. She now incorporates elements of Music Together as well as Orff-Shulwerk into her own unique style. She has worked as a music specialist at a variety of organizations for children and families in the Bay, including preschools, elementary schools, play cafes, street fairs, city parks, public libraries, and more!
Melita also holds public and private music class series for parents and children. Using puppets and an array of acoustic instruments, she inspires little ones to discover their creative spark through song, story, movement, and dance.
In 2008, Melita completed “Earth Dream Lullabies” – an album of songs about the Earth and its creatures, the stars, and the forces that unite all beings on our planet. With this album, Melita’s hope was to connect children and their parents to a sense of the sacred in this world we live in, something that has always been very important to her.
This album was a direct outflow of Melita’s passion for eco-consciousness, her love of animals, and general earth awareness. She has put a lot of energy into this facet of her life.
Another manifestation of that is Gaia Girls Passages a rites of passage program for girls aged 7-15, that she co-found and for some time co-facilitated in Berkeley.
In 2007, Melita founded Octopretzel along with Sarita Pockell, a whimsical bluegrass-inspired folk band and puppet troupe for kids and families, whose highly-spirited shows regularly generate kiddie mosh pits at well-known music venues in the Bay Area, such as the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Marin, and La Pena Cultural Center in Oakland.
Octopretzel recorded their first album in 2008, another in 2011, and the third in 2015. Octopretzel continues to generate a vibrant and diverse following in Northern California. Their music stretches across genres and connects generations, appealing to people of various backgrounds and all ages, young and old. They have shared the stage with other popular kids bands such as Orange Sherbet, the Sippy Cups, Charity and the Jam Band and Asheba.
Melita has also worked extensively with the Jewish community in the Bay Area as well as nationally. Melita has performed throughout California as well as nationally at Jewish agencies and establishments, community centers, camps and music festivals. Some such venues include The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Bureau of Jewish Education, and the childrens’ distribution organization, the PJ Library. She and Octopretzel perform annually in synagogues and Jewish community centers throughout the Bay for Hannukkah, Passover and Purim celebrations.
Her album, “Shirei Gan Shalom: Songs in the Garden,” which was distributed nationally by the PJ Library in 2011 and now again in 2014, was inspired by her daughter’s beloved preschool, Gan Shalom, and is a collection of songs for children with Jewish and Hebrew content. Melita has also collaborated extensively with another Bay Area Jewish song-leader, Isaac Zones, and together they co-produced two albums, “My Roots Go Down” and “Rising Songs, Turning Tides,” both of which have been distributed internationally.
Since this time Melita completed another solo album of contemplative and heart-centered music entitled “Light Within,” and she is currently working on her next in this vein, “One Story,” recorded and co-produced with the talents of Jonjon Alevizakis of Little Buddha Studios.
Over the course of her colorful and unconventional career, Melita has continually striven to bring an authentic voice to her music, in whatever form it has taken. She aspires to truly connect with people through her songs, and seeks to touch her listeners in a way that opens them up to the joy and magic that we share in this world.
Excerpts of this biography from interview with Paul West, Gnosis Media