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Celebrated mezzo-soprano Virginia Kelsey joins Pacific's voice faculty

The Conservatory of Music welcomes Virginia Warnken Kelsey to the faculty as assistant professor of practice in voice for the 2020-21 academic year.

Described by The New York Times as a “rich-toned alto” with “riveting presence,” Virginia is known throughout the American musical community for her interpretations of the works of Bach, Handel, Purcell, Monteverdi and their contemporaries, as well as for her performances of avant-garde 20th and 21st century works.

“I am someone who always pushed the boundaries of vocal performance, and I found avenues for non-traditional practices in very traditional environments,” commented Kelsey. “I feel so fortunate to have found a home at Pacific, where the progressive and open-minded atmosphere reflects what I believe is the true future of the vocal arts.”

In addition to her work as a specialist in early chamber music, oratorio and Baroque opera, Virginia is a champion of contemporary classical composition and spends much of her time premiering new works and engaging with experimental sounds. Along with Pacific’s Eric Dudley, Virginia is an original member of the groundbreaking alternative-classical vocal band Roomful of Teeth. Integrating western and non-western vocal techniques such as Tuvan throat singing, Inuit throat singing, yodeling, high Bulgarian-style belting, Korean P’ansori, along with many others, this Grammy award-winning ensemble collaborates with composers to forge a new and adventurous repertoire for the voice with no limit to its expressive capacity. 

“In 2020, it is possible for a young singer to carve out a viable career in whatever musical niche to which they feel called,” said Kelsey. “I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to set up young singers for success by exposing them to every avenue available to them, be it traditional, avant-garde or non-classical. I support my students by encouraging them to holistically embrace their truest selves in their musical expression.”

Raised in South Louisiana, Virginia is the daughter of two musicians and grew up in a household open to the great artists of jazz, rock/blues, classical and world music traditions. She attended New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts where she studied classical voice, music theory and ear training in an intensive, full-time conservatory setting at the high-school level. She holds a Bachelor of Music in opera performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Trish McCaffrey. It was where she developed a great love for Early Music and Contemporary Music performance. She holds a Master of Music from the Yale School of Music, where she took part in the highly respected Early Music, Oratorio and Chamber Music Voice Program in conjunction with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Alongside her Roomful of Teeth family, Virginia has toured major concert halls in U.S. and the world and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, among countless others.

Read more about Virginia Kelsey.