Skip to main content

Kathleen Kelly, acclaimed conductor and School of Music alum, to hold master classes at ASU

Pianist, opera coach, conductor and master teacher Kathleen Kelly will offer master classes at ASU this month.

Photo by Travis Anderson

September 18, 2015

A pianist, opera coach, conductor and master teacher, Kathleen Kelly is a prolific musician with wide-ranging abilities.

Kelly got her start as a musician when she arrived at ASU, and, with her talents on piano, she received a bachelor’s in music and then a masters in music from the School of Music.

“I stumbled into opera through my association with Lyric Opera Theatre,” says Kelly. “At the time I took the accompanist position, I was doing it for tuition money in my last year of my master’s degree, and had no plans to get involved with opera long term. I didn’t know much about it and didn’t particularly like it – I was an art song lover. But the repertoire that year [“Così fan Tutte” and “Turn of the Screw”] changed my opinion, and, above all, Sylvia Debenport [associate director of the Lyric Opera Theatre from 1978–1994] changed my life; she was a truly great teacher, passionate artist, demanding leader and kind person. This practically accidental association determined the course of my life, professionally and otherwise.”

Kelly was trained in the Merola Program at the San Francisco Opera, and subsequently joined the music staff there as pianist, rehearsal conductor and prompter. She went on to serve as an assistant to James Levine at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1997–2006.

Kelly was the music director of the Berkshire Opera from 2003–2008. In 2010, she was given the honor of being the first woman and the first American ever to be named director of musical studies at the Vienna State Opera. Kelly recently joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as the first coach/conductor of opera, and conducted Handel’s “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” this past March.

“I love the consolidation of so many forces, the huge and constant compromise and the chance of a powerful group experience,” says Kelly of conducting opera. “And I love the stories, and the experience of live theater when we come together and try to understand ourselves.”

Kelly will return to the Phoenix area in late September to conduct the operetta “Arizona Lady” with the Arizona Opera. She will also be creating a new adaptation of the text for that performance.

In honor of Debenport, Kelly will also hold two master classes at the ASU School of Music, both Monday, Sept. 28:

- 10:30–11:20 a.m. in EB2-094, exclusively for students in the MUP 570 Graduate Expression class

- 1–3 p.m. in Recital Hall, for the entire voice area, and open to the public

Space in the 1-3 p.m. class is available to the public on a first-come-first-served basis, so arrive early to guarantee a seat!

If you have any questions or need information, please contact Carole FitzPatrick at

Public Contact: 
Heather Beaman
School of Music Communications Liaison