“Some people are, like, ‘Can you write off my ticket?’ I’m not a cop anymore. I’m a civilian now,” says Latin jazz trumpeter Melissa Mejia. “But some people think that even though I resigned [from the San Diego Police Department], they still think that I have these abilities.”
Mejia says that after six months of intensive training and a month on patrol, she came to a simple conclusion. “The job wasn’t for me.” The Oberlin College music grad quit without a backup plan, so she filled her days practicing trumpet. She practiced in her car so as not to disturb the neighbors in the Rancho Peñasquitos apartment complex where she lives with her husband.
“I began to pray. And I wrote out my goals on three-by-five cards. And I went on a two-day mini fast to be better able to hear where I was supposed to go. It was a big decision,” she says. “I didn’t have a job anymore.”
A week later, Mejia, who says she had dreamed of performing in a Latin band for years, got an inspiration. It came in the form of a whim to cruise craigslist. “I typed in one word: trumpet.” An ad came up from a Latin band that was looking for a female trumpet player. “It was crazy,” she says. “The ad had posted just two hours earlier.” The band was Todo Mundo, and at the time it consisted of Jake Sibley and Santiago Orozco. Mejia dialed the number.
Orozco founded Todo Mundo in Argentina last year. When he decided to move the group to the U.S., no one could travel with him for lack of visas. He arrived alone in San Diego in January and began working with Sibley. They needed a third musician to round out their vision.
“The first day we all played [together] was in a bar.” Orozco says the two of them jammed at Bar Dynamite with Mejia. “It was just amazing,” he says, his accent heavy as he searches for the proper words. “The thing she was doing, was...like I told her — where you have been for my life?”
“When I answered the ad,” Mejia says, “they didn’t know I’d been a cop and hadn’t played for seven months.” How did that work out in the beginning?
“For me it was a surprise,” says Orozco. “I was always looking at the police like aliens. Not in my world. It was different,” he says. “Now I’m playing with an ex-police. But in the end, it was cool.” Later he will say, “Now the police are my friends.”
Mejia has performed with Todo Mundo for almost two months. She says the musician’s life is a fit. But once a cop, always a cop? Mejia considers the question for a moment. “We played downtown and I told a guy I used to be a police officer, and he was, like, whoa! Some people do have that kind of reaction.”