Kelly Fenton's Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra
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Kelly Fenton's Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra


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A lover of stories and a slave to her overactive imagination, New York City based composer Kelly Fenton uses her music to do just that, tell a story. Deriving inspiration from comic books, myths, and real life stories, Kelly’s programmatic music is enriched with symbolism and honesty, and open to interpretation. While it’s the stories and people she meets that give her the motivation to compose, she strives for her music to be accessible to all listeners, regardless of whether or not they hear the story she deemed to portray.

Born in 1978 on a military base in Okinawa, Japan, Kelly grew up with her three siblings, mother, and Marine Corps Officer father, on and around numerous military bases across the United States. Attending eleven schools before graduating high school in the high desert of California, Kelly was exposed to a diverse range of people and music that continue to influence her music today. As a freshman in high school in North Carolina, Kelly, an alto saxophonist, was a founding member of the school’s jazz band. It was two years later, upon moving to Newport, Rhode Island, that Kelly felt she discovered “real jazz” when a friend’s father, a jazz photographer, gave her a pass to the Newport Jazz Festival. The following year in California, Kelly received John Coltrane’s CD “Blue Train” for Christmas and fell completely in love with the music she then realized she would make into a career.

In 1996, Kelly returned to the east coast to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), where she was awarded the prestigious A. J. Fletcher Scholarship. Studying saxophone with teachers Craig Whittaker and Steve Stusek, Kelly played woodwinds for a variety of the Greensboro community and university ensembles. These included the University Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Jazz Ensemble. She also performed with saxophone quartets, wind quintets, jazz combos, and musical theater pit orchestras. It was under the tutelage of UNCG’s Director of the Miles Davis Jazz Program, Steve Haines, that Kelly was inspired to begin composing. In 2000, her arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “African Flower” was included on the UNCG Jazz Ensemble’s CD “Collaborations.” Kelly graduated in 2001 Cum Laude and with Honors, with a Bachelor of Music degree, where she completed a double Major in Music Education and Jazz Studies, and a Minor in Modern Dance.

Kelly spent the next three years in Fredericksburg, Virginia teaching music at Smith Station Elementary School. There she wrote and directed six children’s musicals while remaining musically active in the community. She played clarinet in the Fredericksburg Community Concert Band, of which she was the Vice President for the 2003-2004 season, lead alto saxophone for the Fredericksburg Jazz Ensemble, and alto saxophone & flute for the funk/cover band, Alias.

In 2004, Kelly moved to New York City to study jazz composition with Michael Abene and Michael Patterson, at the Manhattan School of Music. During her two year Master of Music program, Kelly had the opportunity to write for the school’s esteemed Jazz Orchestra, 80-piece Jazz Philharmonic, and various chamber jazz ensembles. She graduated in 2006, having established her own large jazz orchestra, which performs her original compositions and arrangements in venues around New York City.

Kelly currently teaches elementary band part-time whilst freelancing as a copyist and composer for small and large ensembles. Her commissions include works for middle and high school bands, as well as professional working big bands across the country. Current projects include collaborative performances with local modern dancers, and writing for her debut album that is scheduled for release in Fall 2009.