Wellesley POPS Senior Profile: Eoghan Kelley’s commitment to musical empowerment

Special to The Swellesley Report courtesy of the Wellesley High School Bradford and Parents of Performing Students (POPS). This is one in a series of POPS Senior Profiles we’ll be publishing.


The nitty-gritty of a rehearsal is as rewarding as the performance itself, if not moreso, for musician Eoghan Kelley, Wellesley High School ’24. A member of the Honors Chamber Orchestra, Rice Street Singers, and Inchordination A Cappella, Kelley’s virtuosity is telling, but to him, it’s one’s character in the classroom that ultimately makes or breaks good musicianship.

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Kelley has been playing in musical ensembles since fourth grade when he began to play cello for the orchestra at Schofield. Photo by Matt Kelley.

 

“Originally I was drawn to these ensembles because I really liked the feeling of being part of a group, the community it provided. Of course the music itself is great, but the process of creating music and the collaboration required in orchestral music is what I like most about it.”

“I think creating music is really fun, but the process itself is, too,” said Kelley, “and especially coming together to help other people. When I’m here, I can offer someone some advice, or something as simple as giving them a ride to rehearsal, or picking them up on a bad day when I can see they need something.”

Kelley, who has been in the high school’s orchestra program since freshman year and the choir program since sophomore year, started studying music in second grade with cello lessons, in keeping with a family of string players. His father started cello lessons in his 40’s, and his older sisters, Maeve and Clare, play the violin and viola. This summer, the four will travel to Europe to play together in a community orchestra with American Music Abroad.

To Kelley, a performance without an audience in mind merely marks performativity. On the stage itself, he finds the most satisfaction in expressing his music in a way that can resonate with others and create a genuine connection. “I do think music is the ultimate form of expression. It transcends language, and has the capacity to move people like nothing else.”

“It’s really great when I can use it as an outlet,” he said. “When someone’s listening to it, when they can get something out of it, whether it compels them to feel a certain way or if they just think it’s beautiful, I think the way that I can engage other people through my playing is a really beautiful way of sharing.”

In Honors Chamber Orchestra, Kelley has found opportunities to lead the ensemble, whether it be by providing mentorship for his fellow musicians or making creative suggestions for the ensemble’s repertoire. His commitment to collaboration and community is invaluable, fostering an environment of collective accomplishment and success. 

“Eoghan shows leadership in Rice Street, in sectionals, as an intensive, and as an a cappella leader through the balance he strikes between doing the necessary work and building the sort of community that performs well together,” said Eva Meraw ’25, a soprano in Rice Street Singers. 

“He’s really dedicated to any space that he finds himself in, and he puts his whole self into it, so that kind of commitment is inspiring to others,” said Asia Foland ’25, a cellist in Honors Chamber Orchestra.

Whether it’s transcribing parts for other instruments, making repertoire suggestions, or analyzing his music, Kelley’s attention to all aspects of musical detail translates into his leadership among his peers.

“He often reflects on different recordings to see what we can improve,” said Jonathan Liu ’24, another cellist in the Honors Chamber Orchestra.

“He wants [Honors Chamber Orchestra] to succeed, encouraging his fellow students to take pride in their ensemble and to work along with him to be the best they can be; through teamwork, cooperation, acceptance of differences, discipline, and creativity,” said Sergey Khanukaev, conductor of the high school orchestras. “This kind of contribution and assistance to the conductor is priceless.”

The comparatively less student-driven environments in Kelley’s out-of-school ensembles, such as the Rivers Youth Symphony, mean that a healthy musical community relies more on a conductor’s guidance. “I have had many great conductors along the way and have learned different things from each,” said Kelley. “They are by-definition running the rehearsals, but if you’re paying attention, they really are also teaching you. I am grateful for having had the chance to participate in these ensembles, for what I’ve learned, and for the friends I have made.”

As Kelley views it, virtuosity is not a coincidence: support from others is a prerequisite for becoming an authentic musician, and beyond that, an effective ensemble leader. “It’s helped me sit back, and think, who do I want to be as a leader? And also just as a friend to these people? How can I go about doing that? What steps can I take?” he said. “It’s been a methodical and intentional way to experience becoming a leader and becoming the person who I want to be in an ensemble as well as just with the people I’m around.”

“In any ensemble, there’s mutual accountability, and an expectation that you are there to do your part, and you don’t want to let others down,” Kelley said. “That social aspect of wanting to be there for others and work together like a team has pushed me in times where I might have wanted to put down my bow or was struggling to work out something that was particularly difficult.”

By crossing the boundary between playing as a learned discipline versus playing for the sake of the music and community, performances became Kelley’s opportunity for expression. “It takes a tremendous amount of focus to play a string instrument. It’s definitely hard at first to not be bottled up, but once I could kind of step out with my music and express who I wanted to be, and let the musicianship come through, it opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me,” he said. “Everybody is scared of difficult things at first, but the support of my teachers and family, and the fact that my peers are doing the same has definitely pushed me to challenge myself.”

While the Performing Arts department as a whole is very strong at WHS, Kelley wishes there could be more collaboration between the different departments. “Really, aside from a couple string players accompanying a chorus performance, or being in the pit for a musical, I don’t think that there’s been much collaboration in concert,” said Kelley.

He recalled playing with the orchestra in Wellesley’s traditional in-school concert the day before Winter Break, in which the Rice Street Singers, 2:00 Jazz Band, and Honors Chamber Orchestra share a stage and play renditions of holiday classics. The performance offers a rare opportunity for sharing performances between groups that otherwise tend to be both secluded and self-exclusive. But Kelley laments the fact that these performances are sequential and not collaborative. “With so much musical talent across all the departments, orchestra, choral, and band, it seems like a lost opportunity to not collaborate more. I think everyone would benefit and might have a lot of fun along the way. I hope someday they bring back the Masterwork concerts, where the entire choir would perform a beautiful piece of music complete with accompaniment by both band and string instruments. Let the entire music department shine at once, making one big sound. That would be tremendous.”

When not studying or in the Performing Arts wing of the high school, Kelley can be found sailing on Lake Cochituate with the varsity sailing team or at his part-time job at Volante Farms serving up coffee or ice cream. All these things require similar skills he points out: being able to hold multiple things in your head at once, moving in time, anticipating what is next, and keeping your head up while working together to make the group succeed.


Article written by WHS Bradford Features Editor Joanne Zhang ’25 & Staff Writer Josie Song ’26

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