Katie Kelly, 29, still remembers the moment she decided she wanted to devote her career to music. Now a classically trained trumpet player, she was playing in her eighth grade honors band in Memphis, Tennessee, when after the performance the crowd stood up, applauding with big smiles.

Inspiring people through art makes her feel the same way. 

“Being able to bring people in and invite people online and in real life, through social … (to) our concerts, is the real life embodiment of that for me,” Kelly said.  

After earning a master’s degree in music – trumpet performance from Texas Christian University, Kelly started working for the Fort Worth Symphony in 2017. She now works as the senior manager of communications. When she isn’t working at the symphony, Kelly maintains a private trumpet lesson studio and teaches students at Burleson Centennial High School. She is also hosting people at the under 40 nights at Amphibian Stage.

Making people feel welcome is key to bringing younger people to the arts, she said. She thinks about the barriers people might consider to attending events such as the symphony, like money. Money was a barrier to Kelly’s family, growing up as middle class.

“I have to think about myself in the shoes of families and younger individuals who don’t necessarily have the resources, and if they have them, they aren’t sure this is where they want to spend those resources,” she said. 

Amphibian Stage is an example of an accessible  space, she said. Kelly went to see Amphibian Stage’s production of “The Hollow” last year and said she was impressed with the production, the accessibility of parking and the reception after the show. Soon after she became an under 35 member – an option she said is good for people who are getting into their careers and are starting to have disposable income.

Evan Woods, marketing director at Amphibian Stage, invited Kelly to become an ambassador for their under 40 community night after seeing her post about “The Hollow” on social media. The community nights are an opportunity for like-minded individuals to meet together of certain demographics. Woods describes her as extroverted and bubbly with a knack for translating complicated topics into something relatable and simple. Enjoying art and many other facets of Fort Worth is a communal experience, he said.

“And Katie is just sort of like an instrumental part of that community,” Woods said. “I think she really brings out the part of people that want to step out of their comfort zone and really like to engage in a deeper level with the art that’s being made in Fort Worth.”

Part of creating community, Kelly said, is making sure people don’t feel alone or approaching them with empathy.  She engages the new faces, or people who’ve been around a long time.

“I’m always trying to meet them halfway. So that empathetic approach is, ‘Hey, I see you, I see that maybe you’re feeling tired, maybe you’re feeling worn out. I’ll meet halfway or wherever you are,’” Kelly said.

Buddy Bray, the instrumental keyboard at the Fort Worth Symphony, said Kelly has the kind of personality that makes itself known. She is fun and full of energy, has passion for the symphony and relates to them as a musician herself, he said. 

He thinks Kelly has a role in bringing younger people to the symphony because she is still young, and the language she uses on social media to draw people in.

“She wants you to love it because she loves it, and it’s almost like there’s something that she wants to share,” Bray said. “She’s not trying to appeal to people’s sense of exclusivity or elitism. She’s trying to appeal on a more basic level, which is come look at this, this is great.”

Katie Kelly bio:

Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee

Moved to Fort Worth: Moved to Fort Worth in 2016 after winning a performance-based Graduate Assistantship with Dr. Jon Burgess for the trumpet studio at Texas Christian University. 

Family: Daughter of retired U.S. Navy Master Chief John Kelly and Senior Chief Donna Kelly. She has one older sister named Sarah who resides in Baltimore. Her father’s side of the family is from Philadelphia and her mother’s side hails from Chicago. 

Education: Earned her master of music degree in trumpet performance from Texas Christian University. She earned her bachelor of music degree with a dual concentration in trumpet performance and music industry with a minor in recording industry management from the Middle Tennessee State University School of Music and College of Media and Entertainment. 

Work Experience: Worked for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in marketing and communications for six years. She was a member of the medici.tv Texas team as the competition community manager running social media for the streaming platform’s coverage of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. 

Volunteer Experience: Due to her nonprofit performing arts work schedule, which often has her working nights and weekends, she dedicates all of her spare time to mentoring and teaching her trumpet students. However, she has been inspired to donate to Under the Bridge Ministries in Fort Worth as it works to provide resources to the homeless population during the Texas winter freezes. 

First Job: First job was working at a Family Video.

Advice for someone learning to be a leader:  “You can be a leader from wherever you are and you can start right now. People tend to correlate leadership with a title or position, but I think leadership is a choice that we get to make every day. Choose your core values and be intentional about trying (and, yes, sometimes failing in the process) to live up to them. 

For me, leadership in my daily life tends to look like creating community by showing people that any room I am in is a room where they are welcome, prioritizing judiciousness in my decision making, and always trying to meet people where they are with empathy and an open mind. Before you know it, you are embodying those values in your thoughts, words, and actions.”

Best advice ever received: “The best piece of advice I have received so far was when I was having one of countless meetings with my mentor and the former director of the MTSU School of Music, Dr. Michael Parkinson. I had made a mistake and was really beating myself up over it. He said, ‘Lady Katie, some days you will fall short and some days you will get it right. As long as you are honest with yourself and others on the rough days, you can turn it around. Most importantly, you will always be moving in the right direction if you have people’s best interests at heart.’”

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120

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Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....