Teen volunteer heading to theater school in New York

(L-r) Maryann Aguilar, Melanie Dali-Molina Lopez, Manny Aguilar
(L-r) Maryann Aguilar, Melanie Dali-Molina Lopez, Manny Aguilar
(Photo courtesy of La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc.


One of Solana Beach’s brightest lights is about to shine on Broadway.

Melanie Dali-Molina Lopez, 17, is bound for the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

“When you attend AMDA New York,” the school’s website says, “Broadway is your backyard.”

Closer to home, Melanie has brought her sunshine to the nonprofit La Colana de Eden Gardens, Inc., as a member of the Teenology Rangers program and as a volunteer at food distribution events.

She began making connections as a role model during a Teenology Rangers summer camp. Younger children latched on to the example she set of hard work, honesty and being polite.

“Melanie just reached out and made my daughter feel very welcome,” Susana Romero-Reis said of the time they spent together. “The world needs more Melanies.”

Melanie is preparing for her world to expand in ways she can’t imagine.

On June 11, she graduates from Canyon Crest Academy. On June 21, it’s off to New York to begin intense training in musical theater.

Like most activities during the past year, her audition for AMDA was online. Of course she felt nervous, but an informal chat with someone from the school in the online waiting room helped her relax. For the audition, she sang a song from the Addams Family musical and delivered a monologue from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

The audition, it turned out, became something of a tutorial. The critique included pointers on how she could strengthen the performance.

“Then we ran it again from the beginning,” Melanie said. “It was like working with instructors in a class.”

During the pandemic, Melanie kept her tap dancing primed by taking online classes in the garage with her sister. Wedged among the tools and materials of their father’s handyman business, a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood served as their dance floor.

Melanie is preparing to break from Solana Beach, from the home and neighborhood where she has lived her entire life.

“I’m not accustomed to being so far away,” she said. “I’m really connected with my family.”

Looking ahead, Melanie can picture herself on the stages of major performance venues. Or on movie screens. But she won’t forget places like the JCompany Youth Theatre, Village Church Community Theater, North Coast Repertory Theatre, and Hey JoJo Productions, the youth theatre company right in her neighborhood.

During a recent food distribution event, organizers got together early to celebrate Melanie’s accomplishments. She wore a lei and headdress of red flowers, a tiara with the words “Look Out World!” and, of course, that infectious smile.

“When I see her perform or interact with other kids she’s got this light about her,” said Manny Aguilar, president of La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc. “She gets into the role with all her heart and soul.”

Learn more at www.lceg.org