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Music Makers

Appling's Own Original Family Band

Meeting with the Kelley family is like taking a step back in time. Ranging in age from 6 to 22, these talented siblings know how to play a multitude of instruments from the violin and piano to the fiddle and mandolin. There is no television at home—they entertain themselves with their music. Jam sessions after supper are a frequent activity at the Kelley home.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will. The Kelley Family Band is getting out there and they live just down the road in Appling.

Making the Band

The Kelley Family Band consists of Brittany, 22, Timothy, 20, Bethany, 12, Victoria, 9, and Daniel, 6. They have been performing for the public together for more than five years, but their love of music started before that.

Their parents, Tim and Donna Kelley, both pursue music as a hobby. Donna, a former teacher who homeschools the younger children and acts as the band’s booking agent and manager, and Tim, a software engineer, shared their love of music with their children. “My husband and I would play at nursing homes and the children grew up hearing us play there and practicing,” says Donna, who plays the guitar. Tim plays the guitar and banjo and often joins the children on stage. “We never figured we would have a band, but they would just start playing with us and it grew from there.”

Timothy, 20, says the purpose of the band is two-fold. “We are trying to express and spread joy as entertainment and as the message that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. We want people to remember that and be uplifted by our music.” He says that with all the difficult things people go through in their lives, it is nice to be able to allow them to forget their problems for a while. “It means a lot as a performer if you see the people in the audience having fun and clapping along with the music,” he adds. Another benefit is seeing the little children enjoying it and, hopefully, it encourages them to try to play an instrument.

Both Timothy and Brittany attend Augusta State University. Timothy is a music education major and is the principal second in the ASU Orchestra. He also has his own studio and teaches violin, guitar, fiddle, viola and voice lessons. As a teacher, his goal is to bring out the musician in each student. “I believe even if you have a little bit of talent, it can be developed,” he says.

Brittany is an education major and music minor at ASU and operates her own studio in Evans where she teaches piano and voice lessons. “I love kids getting excited about learning and having fun making music,” she says.

Collaboration and Collective Talent

Playing both gospel and bluegrass music, the band performs at festivals, church functions and even funerals and weddings. The band plays on average every other week. “We have been able to visit places we never would have gone to and we have met some great people along the way,” says Donna. They are also going to begin a 30-minute radio program out of Thomson in the near future and they have a family CD coming out as well.

When asked what they like most about performing together, Bethany says the best thing is being able to play for the Lord and spending time with the family. Victoria agrees and 6-year-old Daniel shyly adds that he likes the food at the churches and festivals too.  

Timothy says he most enjoys the bond and relationships they make while they are playing. “I believe God gives everyone talents in certain areas and it is our responsibility to give this gift back to Him,” he says.

Rick Busby, minister of music at Second Baptist Church in Thomson and professional vocal coach and consultant in Augusta, recently met the Kelleys and has been helping them with private vocal lessons. He says they are incredible singers and musicians to work with. “As I have watched the Kelleys in our vocal sessions and then live in concert, I am amazed at how they are able to capture the attention of the audience with solid entertainment numbers accompanied by various musical instruments on an upbeat, toe-tapping number and yet be able to touch on the hearts of people with a slower, more heartfelt songs,” he says.

Family Band, Family Fun

It is plain to see that the Kelley kids really like each other and enjoy playing music together. Starting around age 4 with violin and after that piano, the band is comfortable with their instruments. The banter between them is lively and fun, and the mutual respect among them is quite evident. In fact, Timothy says that when they are playing live he can just look over at one of his sisters and they know what he wants them to do next or where he is going with the song.

But performing does include a commitment to practice. “They practice every day, not necessarily as a band, but at least alone,” says Donna.

While the drawbacks of their family band are few, setting up and taking down the equipment is one of the more daunting tasks for the family, according to the children. And Donna is quick to point out how difficult it can be to get eight people dressed and out the door on time. However, those are just minor drawbacks and the children all agree that the benefits of performing together go far beyond making up for the minor drawbacks.

“The smiles and the joy of expressing themselves through music is seen each and every time they sing,” says Busby. “They are a tremendous blessing to everyone who sees and hears them in person.”

For more information about the Kelley Family Band, go to www.kelleymusicstudio.com.

Cammie Jones is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.

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