Olivia Mello ’20

Recent Chapman graduate Olivia Mello is a prime example of how law school applicants aren’t limited to humanities majors but can be applied to all types of backgrounds. Mello graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance and a minor in Political Science.

Mello began studying the two seemingly different subjects, classical music, and constitutional law when she took a piano literature class at Chapman. Mello’s professor, Dr. Ryan Shiotsuki, gave a broad prompt for the paper which led to exploring her different interests. She began to explore the idea on a deeper level by seeking out help from faculty members.

“The first person I thought of to hash out my idea was Dr. John Compton. I had taken a constitutional law class with him during my junior year, and he served as a mentor for me and helped to prepare for my law school applications… We both have the same background in piano, he started undergrad as a Piano Performance major.”

Mello’s paper analyzes how interpretation methods in Western art music and constitutional law intertwine. For instance, many conservatory students will look at original manuscripts or past performance choices when preparing for competition which corresponds to the practice of judicial review, specifically constitutional theories such as originalism. “So when Supreme Court Justices have taken an original intent standpoint, they’re viewing the text and asking themselves how the framers might have examined the score. So parallel that with music, you can think about it in terms of scrutinizing original manuscripts or letter composers may have exchanged regarding the piece,” Mello explained. Another similarity Mello noticed was the rigorous amounts of time needed to both learn how to play an instrument and prepare for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT); both can be described as a conceptual endeavor, and not just acts of memorization. 

After spending lots of time and research, Mello submitted her paper to the Global Undergraduate Awards. The Global Undergraduate Awards is typically held in Ireland each year and is a unique experience for students to have an international panel of judges review their work. Mello’s entry was labeled “highly commended” and was among the top 10% of entries submitted in the Music, Film & Theatre category. This year, due to the pandemic, the global summit will be held virtually through November 16-18. 

When asked why she decided to submit her paper, she confessed that she did so on a whim. “My biggest piece of advice is to remain intellectually curious and to go above and beyond what you’re expected to do in the classroom because that can lead to opportunities like these I never thought I’d obtain,” she added. Mello found many different opportunities by utilizing the resources at the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE), keeping a spreadsheet of those she wanted to apply to. Upon finishing her paper, Mello presented this at the 2020 Spring Student Scholar Symposium. 

Mello’s future plans include submitting all law school applications by December and to enroll in one by Fall 2021. Inspired by personal experiences and creating the First-Generation Mentor Program, Mello wants to focus on child advocacy through family law. 

The CUE congratulates Mello on her achievements and wishes her the best in her future endeavors at law school.  Interested in applying for scholarship and grant opportunities? Follow our Facebook page and Instagram for more updates and announcements, or email us at cue@chapman.edu with any questions.