Article by Melodie Yvonne Ramey
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Music and art has had a lot to do with my life even at a young age. I remember wanting to be a photographer from about age five, and I specifically knew I wanted to be a concert photographer probably at around ten or eleven. I remember being highly aware of how beautiful and powerful music was well before I was old enough for my parents to let me anywhere near a concert, but I knew I wanted to somehow make people SEE the music hence the photography.
Unfortunately, I became a bit derailed at 16 when I ran away from home, got married, and had a daughter. A lot of super bad stuff happened during that time period ranging from general mischief to actually being held at gunpoint, duct taped up, and robbed in my own home. I was divorced by 18. I did stay in school throughout, and after graduation was lucky enough to get a job at a prominent factory in order to give my daughter the best life I could. I thought my dreams were dead, and I was content with the life I had, but the music was still unknowingly pulling me.
I was not at the factory long when I was suddenly offered a support apprenticeship. I knew it would be longer hours away from my daughter plus school, so at the last-minute I decided if I ever went back to college it would be to follow my dream and for my true love, photography. A few years later I was actually able to do just that.
I graduated with an associates of photography, and started to shoot metal shows on the Indy scene. This was back around the turn of the century, and I was still shooting film which was a challenge, but certainly not a mountain. I even moved from North Vernon to Indianapolis to expand my business. It just didn’t feel right, though, to be away from my growing daughter at concerts even if it was a job. As much as I loved the music, I knew I needed to be with her. I continued to make art, but I gave up my musical dream once again, and just concentrated on working to provide the best I could for my family.
As my daughter grew older and needed me less I started occasionally shooting local hip hop shows for a friend. I upgraded to digital equipment, and got a business license like a grown up, but I still wasn’t confident enough to take that full leap. I just sat back and dabbled in concerts, but used most of my energies showing my work at art festivals and galleries. This was amazing for a bit, but not my home. It wasn’t too long, though, before I got the jump-start that I needed.
My daughter moved out a few years into college, and as sad as I was it was probably about time for her to be on her own. I felt broken. My house seemed empty and sad. So, I started going out more, and shooting even more concerts. This fueled my dreams which suddenly came rushing back, and I continually thought, “I NEED to be doing this for REAL!”
So, I looked for concert photography jobs online, and fairly quickly got a wonderful gig with an out-of-town online concert magazine. Amazingly enough the couple running the online music publication in Texas were actually born and raised Hoosiers, so it was an immediate fit. As with most first jobs in the music field, though, it only paid in photo passes. This still had me stuck at the factory.
Fortunately, the factory I worked for was one of the world’s leading companies with amazing benefits, but I struggled trying to fit into a mold that I was never meant to fit into. Eventually, though, after hammering away at the local scene in various towns, and shooting multiple bigger shows through my new job with the online publication I started getting paying gigs.
The more I became part of the music world the harder it became to live this double life. I spent part of the time living my dream, and part of the time waking up at 5am to go to a huge cold concrete building. To add insult to injury quite often the only music I got to hear throughout my day was country songs about being stuck in a factory job and not getting to live your dreams. This definitely didn’t create the best ambiance in my factory life, and I got antsier by the second.
I amped up my job hunting efforts, and through a lot of applying and praying I was offered a few positions. The opportunities included work with Purdue University Theatre and freelance with the IndyStar as well as jobs with area venues and bands. It finally seemed like it might be enough. I made the decision it was time to leave the factory, and submerge myself in the music scene that so much felt like home. I spent a couple of years frightened, though, not knowing if I was being a child, having a midlife crisis, or truly feeling the pull to get back on my path.
One day I finally had enough, and decided to check my RSP/pension funds to find out if I could possibly quit. It was then that I found out I was actually eligible for early retirement. I could never completely verify why I was eligible, but the going rumor included a “magic number”. If an employee reached 20 years of service by their 40th birthday they were eligible. I had been at Cummins 23 years including temporary time, but coincidentally I had hired in full-time ON my 20th birthday. I had hit the magic number by ONE day. It was a sign.
Now I am retired which is super silly as I am only 41, but I now it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. There is a fine line between coincidence and destiny, and I know now more than ever that music photography is what I am meant to do. It all lined up. If I hadn’t gotten sick of being a temporary and gotten forceful about getting hired full-time at the factory at the exact moment I did, if I had went to that support internship, if I had done anything differently I wouldn’t have been eligible to retire… to go live my dream.
It’s funny how the music of our lives can guide us if we let it. I’m just super tickled to see where it will lead me from here. The only thing I’m left wondering is…. If I had not been named Melodie would I have been so drawn to the music that made me who I am? If my parents had spelled my name like the actual word would I have gotten so far off beat? I guess I’ll never know, but either way I’m excited for my new life soundtrack that has already began.
View a few on the job images of me in the gallery below, and check out my concert & event photography at melodieyvonne.com/category/galleries/concerts-events/
View all of Melodie’s concert and event photography at melodieyvonne.com/photo-galleries/concert-and-events/
View all of Melodie’s work at melodieyvonne.com/category/melodie-yvonne
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