Kelly Haney: Homegrown Talent

The Anderson Party Car always pulls up to Vocal Arts Ensemble rehearsals erupting with laughter. These four singers (L-R: Kelly Haney, Sandy Thornton, Kathryn Albertson, and Caroline Keith) save on gas, but not giggles, by sharing a ride from the east side. This is one of the best parts of the VAE family for Kelly Haney.

Kelly Haney (nee Koch) grew up in Northside, Cincinnati, and attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) for as long as one can – from fourth grade through her senior year. She was among the generation of Cincinnati artists that ruled the former SCPA building on Sycamore, from the marble stairways to the old freight elevators. In fact, she first sang alongside the Vocal Arts Ensemble as an SCPA student, under the direction of Deb Centers.

After graduation, Kelly continued her music studies at Bowling Green State University, where she met and began dating a handsome young man named Stacy from Long Island, New York. Stacy was an accomplished musician and singer himself who was working toward his graduate degree in conducting.

In 1995, Stacy was seriously injured in an auto accident with a semi-truck, which broke all his ribs, punctured his lungs, shattered his pelvis, and worst of all, severed the nerve to his vocal cords. After a year in the hospital, his family moved him back to New York to continue his recovery.

It wasn’t long before Kelly and Stacy realized they would be together for the long haul and became engaged. In 1997, Stacy received a total hip replacement with the goal to walk down the aisle at his wedding. As he worked on recovery in New York, Kelly planned their ceremony and celebration in Ohio. After months of hard work and a long-distance relationship, everything came together perfectly, and Stacy was able to exchange vows with Kelly on his own two feet.

After their marriage, the young couple settled down in Long Island, where he began teaching at Babylon High School, and Kelly became voice instructor nearby at Five Towns College in Dix Hills. (Kelly remembers that their first apartment was so small, they had to wash the dishes in the bath tub!) In Long Island, Stacy fell in love with teaching. While his vocal injury fundamentally changed his approach to music, he found a special talent for coaching young men through their voice changes and learned to communicate with singers about technique through the piano.

Fortunately for us, Kelly came back to Cincinnati from time to time to visit family and share her talents as a substitute singer with the Vocal Arts Ensemble. In 2000, she brought Stacy along with her and they settled down in Anderson together, where Stacy was hired to teach music. Stacy is now in his 22nd year with Anderson’s public schools.

While they weren’t sure it would be possible, the two were blessed with children of their own – three girls! Their oldest, Caitlyn, is a student at Lee University in Tennessee studying elementary education, and their twins Megan and Shannon attend Nagle Middle School. Soon they will attend high school in the same building where their father teaches. A pug and a new French bulldog pandemic puppy complete the Haney household.

In addition to her membership in the Vocal Arts Ensemble, Kelly lends her voice to many groups across the city. You may have heard her performing at Plum Street Temple, St. Peter in Chains, the Athenaeum in Mount Washington, or at Armstrong Chapel in Indian Hill, where Stacy plays the organ.

“As an experienced singer, I can trust my instrument and have developed flexible ear that allows me to listen around the room for voices I know and recognize. I do draw upon the new technique and artistry of younger vocalists. They keep me on my ‘A Game.’”

Kelly’s vocal “home” remains with the Vocal Arts Ensemble, where the high trust level and camaraderie have created a second family for her. Kelly fondly remembers when Craig Hella Johnson began conducting for the VAE, particularly a moment just before a concert when a few of the women were pregnant. All the mothers in the Ensemble made sure to say, “Have a good concert, baby!” and Craig was there to witness this unique bond – mothers helping each other with shared meals and embracing motherhood together. He was so touched; Kelly knew he would be a fantastic fit for the VAE.

While Kelly is certainly not done singing by any stretch of the imagination, she does see herself transitioning into a service and hospitality role within Cincinnati’s choral community in the future. If she’s not onstage, she will be content to distribute programs and help patrons to their seats. So, we are confident and proud that our own hometown girl Kelly Haney will be around for years to come.

To get to know Kelly better, visit the Vocal Arts Ensemble’s Spotify channel to listen to her personal playlist.