A song of sisterhood: ‘Orion’s Belt’ holds special meaning for Regina vocalist

Shane Schemmel
Melia Pursley performs an original song during Regina Catholic Education Center’s Spring Choir Concert at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Some of Melia Pursley’s earliest memories include singing around the house with her older sister, Josie. These joyful recollections inspired the Regina Cath­olic Edu­cation Center junior to perform an original song, “Orion’s Belt,” at the school’s spring choral concert. Orion’s Belt gets its name from a prominent group of three stars in the galaxy.

The All State alto has been performing in musicals and church choirs since childhood and the Iowa High School Musical Theater Association recently recognized Melia for her performance in the Regina spring musical, “Hello Dolly.” However, the idea of performing her own composition was a bit nerve-wracking. “She’s very humble about her music,” said Melia’s mom, Adina. “It’s taken her a while to start sharing it.”

Students often perform solos at the spring concert but rarely ones they have written themselves. “Most of the time students choose a pop song that speaks to them or just a song they like,” explained choir director Travis Richter. “Singing my own song that so many people hadn’t heard before, I didn’t know right away how they’d feel about it,” said Melia, who counts female singer/songwriters Lana Del Ray and Delaney Bailey as musical influences. Friends, family and faculty members who knew of Melia’s songwriting ability encouraged her to give it a try.


Melia first offered to perform “Orion’s Belt” at the spring Pops Concert, a fundraiser for fine arts programs and events at Regina. As she strummed her acoustic guitar and sang the self-penned lyrics, her thoughts drifted to her sister, who is studying political science at Iowa State University in Ames. Like Orion’s Belt, Melia experiences Josie’s impact from far away. “I see it as a symbol of my sister when she’s gone at college and also of me finding myself throughout the years, building my character and developing as a person. My sister helped me grow.” Melia’s doubts vanished, as she got lost in the music and lyrics.

Playing off a growing sense of confidence, Melia chose to sing the song for a larger audience at the Spring Choir Concert. When she returned to school the next day, younger students came up to her and offered compliments. “They didn’t know I was a songwriter. They didn’t know I did stuff like that.”

While Melia intends for listeners to find their own meaning in “Orion’s Belt,” it’s personal for Josie. “One of my favorite things is listening to (Melia’s) music and singing along with her,” Josie said. “‘Orion’s Belt’ is a very special song to me because it reminds me of stargazing with my sister and spending all our time creating harmonies for different songs together.” Josie believes her sister has a bright future in music. “Everyone I have shown Melia’s music to is so amazed and wants it released.”

Melia is taking the positive response to her music in stride. A member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, she credits God for giving her the ability to sing and express herself through music. She hopes to record some songs this summer and publish them online but doesn’t dream of achieving fame. “I just want to share my music with people.”

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