by CHRISTINE BIGNEY
Joe Kelly is an amazing man. No, he probably could not lift 1000 pounds, nor could he perform amazing acrobatics. But he sure can play a mean guitar.
Kelly, who has been teaching music in the Rockford area through various stringed instruments for 40 years, has a passion for the art. “You’re going to get a musical education. But you’re also going to have fun,” Kelly said.
Kelly teaches approximately 40 students weekly on the guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, viola, dobro, and pedal steel guitar. Kelly instructs students between the ages of nine to 70 years of age. “I have some students that I call ‘The Grasshopper Project’ after the protégé in the series Kung Fu. These kids really want to learn something,” Kelly said.
Kelly notes that some kids come in to “show me what they’ve got” by showing off a little bit. “It’s hard to teach them the basics when they want to go right into the hard stuff.”
Kelly believes that his students have to have the knowledge of the chords and the scales. “Notes teach you structure. But the kids want to learn the lics, sound cool in front of their girlfriends,” Kelly said with a smile.
Kelly says the easiest person to teach is one that is grounded: has good parental guidance, and has the physical abilities to play the instrument. “Talent means nothing without hard work.” said Kelly.
Kelly had a life altering experience in 1985. While driving home at 2:00 a.m. after playing a bar gig, a “drunk” woman crossed the center-line and hit Kelly.
After waking up in a hospital room, Kelly said, “the music kept pouring out of me. It’s really exciting! I wake up now, it’s a new day.”
One way Kelly gives hope to people is through his new self-titled CD “Joe Kelly, Child of the Mountains.” The difference in my music is the feeling of it. There is so much cynicism nowadays. My music of hope comes from a different place.
Kelly became a born-again Christian, and began writing inspirational songs, songs of hope. “I worked at Roger’s Department Store for 15 years before it shut down. I recognize the darkness and the bad economic times. I want people to have hope,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s musical style falls somewhere between John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot, a traditional folk-style. “I write a song like a painter. If you sing a song about the West, I want you to feel the wind.”
Kelly lives with his wife Sharon in Rockford. “Being a musician,” Kelly said, “kids weren’t in the cards. But I have all these kids come to me every day, and then they all go home after a half an hour,” he says with a broad grin.
You can hear clips of Joe Kelly’s CD on www.myspace.com/jkellyband, or purchase his CD on CDbaby.net.