Being a classical saxophonist, influences come from all directions. Mellema's most important influence was the French saxophonist Marcel Mule. Hearing a recording of him playing la Création du Monde was one of the most important reasons to start studying saxophone and trying to imitate that sound. Michael Brecker was another important influence, Brecker is one the greatest virtuosos of the saxophone, he demonstrates that everything can be done on the saxophone and that you can truly sing on the instrument.
Next to this, there was always music sounding in Mellema' parental home, music from all styles. He was confronted at an early age with all sorts of music, ranging from the genius pianist Horowitz (who Mellema still has a great admiration for), composers like Bach and Händel to singer/songwriter Randy Newman and contemporary composers like Arvo Pärt and Louis Andriessen. Also, when choosing his instrument, he was proposed different wind instruments (Mellema had asthma, hence his parents proposed a wind instrument, this could help his illness) and in the end the choice was between clarinet and saxophone. In practice the meant choosing between a Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman album: the choice was easily made: Bird won! Mellema owned his first saxophone one month later.
Mellema's first teacher was René de Jong in the south of the Netherlands. De Jong was a very enthusiatic teacher who at that time had a exceptional number of very talented students in his class. They joined in saxophone orchestra, saxophone quartets and the big band. Ensemble playing really stimulated Mellema's love for music. He loved (and still does!) to interact with his colleagues and talk about music and saxophone playing.
When it was time to choose a school to learn how to play saxophone professionally, Mellema did not choose the school that his teacher at that time graduated from, the Tilburg conservatory. Mellema chose Amsterdam, to study with the young up and coming saxophonist Arno Bornkamp, who just won the Netherlands Music Award. Mellema also wanted to be in a major European city. Amsterdam was the place for him to discover al sorts of music and go hear the Concertgebouw Orchestra, see museums, visit underground performances. The Amsterdam Conservatory and the city itself shaped Mellema's musical background further.
Mellema's conservatory teacher was the one who taught him to combine the saxophonistic details and big form: Arno Bornkamp. He was the first generation that can really say that classical saxophone is to be taken seriously and that has a general level of playing that is comparable to that of other classical instruments, like violin, oboe, clarinet, etcetera. Bornkamp showed him how to blow through the instrument, how to make different colours, the possibilities of phrasing. Having lessons from Bornkamp and him playing for Mellema, many times was an 'aha erlebnis'; "of course it should be played like that, why didn't I think of that!".
Swedish saxophonist Christer Johnsson was Mellema's teacher during his time in Sweden. Johnsson showed him that making music is flexible and ever changing. A whole new door towards thinking about music, which in the end led to the same goal as Bornkamp.
Mellema is always looking for recordings that can inspire him. Ma, Maisky, Argerich, Heifetz, Tiempo are among his favourtie classical musicians right now. Especially freedom in making music is something that he is looking for now. To have the feeling that you are improvising, even when playing a piece that he has been playing 15 years.
"Making music is something that is very abstract, something that you cannot grab a hold of. Once you've played a note, it is gone, forever. The next time you play it it will be different, sometimes completely different. Cd recordings help to conserve the style of a plyer, but his true soul can only be heard during a live performance. That is the beauty of music. The audience always hears a concert that is especially for them. That is the only time they will hear these notes played like this. That is extraordinary. In my playing and preparation I always want be aware of this. I want to feel the notes and phrases like they are made of elastic: they keep their basic form but I can stretch them as much as I like."