Grammy Award-wining singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester, whose father was a bassoonist for the New York Metropolitan Opera, began singing commercial jingles at age 15 and went on to become a staff writer for Chappell Music while attending the High School of Performing Arts. After taking a songwriting class at New York University taught by Paul Simon, Manchester took her talents to the Manhattan club scene, where she was discovered by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow; the two hired her as a backup singer. She recorded her debut album, “Home to Myself,” co-writing many of the songs with Carole Bayer Sager. Manchester’s Top Ten hits include “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” She and Kenny Loggins co-wrote the latter’s hit duet with Stevie Nicks, “Whenever I Call You Friend.” Manchester was the first singer to have two movie themes nominated for Academy Awards (“Ice Castles” and “The Promise”), and her highest Billboard singles charting was the No. 5 hit “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” which won a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance. Currently, Manchester alternates between recording, scriptwriting and acting, having appeared with Midler in “For the Boys” and on the television series “Blossom.” Her most recent album, “When I Look Down That Road,” includes collaborations with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Keb’ Mo’. Manchester received the Governor’s Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions to music and the recording arts.
ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?
MELISSA MANCHESTER: I would want to discuss first and foremost unemployment. Why is there an increase in payroll for all government jobs and pension plans while the private sector stays stagnant and their pensions decrease? How do any of his reforms thus far stimulate small-business hiring, which is the core of our nation’s middle class?
RB: If you could give President Obama one piece of advice, what would that be?
MM: Besides imploring him to stop smoking and rethink the building of a mosque near Ground Zero … I would ask him to make art education a part of the core curriculum. Standards are one thing, but standardized tests leave us with students who are able to take tests but clearly are not developing critical thinking skills, which the arts can bring forth.
RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be?
MM: It’s a toss-up between: 1) How much more challenging has the reality been to be president than it was to make campaign promises for the presidency? 2) Can you articulate our goals for what we are doing and hope to achieve in Afghanistan?
RB: Would you ever consider a political career?
MM: No, I am not interested in a political life. Being on contract to several record companies has been enough “playing politics” for me.