Former Celtic Woman Star Lisa Kelly Opens Voice Academy in Georgia

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Former Celtic Woman Star Lisa Kelly Opens Voice Academy in Georgia
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Lisa Kelly and Chloe Agnew at The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy in Peachtree City, GA. (Photo courtesy of …

On Monday, Lisa Kelly, former soprano with internationally acclaimed ensemble group Celtic Woman, taught her first classes at a new performing arts academy in Peachtree City, Georgia. Recently, I talked with her about her family's move to Georgia and this new venture, The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy.

Decision to Leave Celtic Woman

Kelly was an original member of Celtic Woman and a fan favorite. When she announced her maternity leave for her fourth child in December 2011, she expected to return to the group and its extensive touring schedule. Her family -- husband Scott Porter and Cian (10), Jack (8), and Ellie (almost 5) -- had traveled with her for eight years. But she considered what it would mean to add an infant (Harry, now 8 months) to the mix. "It is just too difficult. I want to give 100 percent in whatever I do. I can't do that as a mum and as a performer. I'm older now, too," Kelly explained. Though understanding that fans mourn, she is done with Celtic Woman for now. Instead, she and her husband settled into Peachtree City, Georgia, and are opening The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy.

Settling in Peachtree City

Kelly is from Dublin, and Porter is from Australia. They have traveled around the world together with Riverdance and Celtic Woman. They had a home in Manhattan, where Porter worked as a producer. But they wanted something different for their family, especially their children. Kelly started to look online for the best places to live. She wanted to be on the East Coast of the United States and near an airport with a direct flight to Dublin. Peachtree City kept appearing on lists of best places for families (like Money Magazine's list in 2009). Porter went to investigate. He called Kelly and told her, "You are going to love it here."

He was right. Kelly has always loved the American South. She loves the weather, the slower pace of life, and the friendliness of the people. It reminds her of Ireland (aside from the weather, perhaps). "People are even still smiling at you when they are out exercising," she quipped in her delightful brogue.

How is her family adjusting to life at home instead of on the road? "Harry is the first child I got to be home with, and it is an amazing time. It is lovely to be home." The routine is less structured, too. "It is less of a military operation," Kelly said. Touring requires a strict schedule and doesn't flex around sick children or time for play. She and Porter are enjoying the learning curve of parenting together in a new environment.

Voice Academy Takes Shape

Kelly is not one to quit working, and although Porter is usually the one full of ideas, the academy was Kelly's passion. "I have always wanted to do this. I also wanted to work together with Scott and do something to immerse ourselves in the community," she said. The academy promises to use "new methods of teaching all aspects of voice training and performance arts." Kelly explained that she had three different teachers during her training. While she loved them, they "were all cut from the same cloth" and trained using a classical approach. She maintained that to be an employable singer, versatility beyond the classical style is key. A singer has to be able to perform across many genres. Kelly said that it is important "not to destroy what children already have" by forcing a single style upon them.

Kelly wants to build her students' confidence through semiprivate group classes and a noncompetitive atmosphere. She has demonstrated the power of confidence throughout her Celtic Woman career. Her secret? "I am not the most artsy person or the best technical singer. I just love music. I love music of all kinds. Even when I was physically exhausted, I would step out onto the stage and see the sheer delight on people's faces. You never realize the impact you may have, but I just loved it."

One of the keys to long-running success, Kelly said, is showing mutual respect for everyone from the crew to the musicians and out-front performers. "You have to be easy to work with." Class schedules and pricing are worked out individually, and Kelly is teaching all the classes. Aside from joining the academy, Kelly encourages young singers to keep learning. "Use any 'no' to help you. If someone doesn't like your singing, there are probably four more who will."

Sean Durity is a freelance writer in the Atlanta area. He and his family are longtime fans of Celtic Woman and Lisa Kelly. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanDurity.

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