When Kelly Cunningham was in high school in the Pittsburgh area, she took an oboe master class with West Virginia University music professor Cindy Anderson.

The class influenced her so much that that she decided to study music at WVU, where she received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1998.

Today, Ensign Kelly Cunningham Cartwright is assistant director of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band, the largest of the U.S. Navy’s eleven fleet bands. She will return to the WVU Creative Arts Center Monday (March 7) to direct the U.S. Navy Fleet Jazz Ensemble.

The event begins 7:30 p.m. in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre and is free and open to the public.

U.S. Navy Jazz Ensemble Tour Schedule
Monday, March 7
10:30 a.m. – Concert and Clinic, Metropolitan Theatre downtown Morgantown, W.Va., for Morgantown area schools
7:30 p.m. – Free concert at the WVU Creative Arts Center's Lyell B. Clay Theatre
Thursday, March 10
10:00 a.m. – Concert and Clinic, Bentworth High School, Bentleyville, Pa., for Washington county schools
7:30 p.m. – Free concert at WVU Health Sciences Center Eastern Division Auditorium, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Friday, March 11
10:00 a.m. – Concert and Clinic, Martinsburg High School, for Martinsburg area schools

The concert is part of a tour of West Virginia and surrounding regions that is being sponsored by the West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival.

The Fleet Forces Jazz Ensemble is part of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band and is comprised of some of the finest jazz musicians in Navy music. The ensemble performs compositions by such masters as Sammy Nestico and Rob McConnell, as well as modern hits by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and many pieces by the band’s own staff arrangers.

As assistant director of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band, Cartwright is one of three female band directors in the U.S. Navy and the fourth in the history of the program.

“I feel like just another sailor doing my job,” she says. “But being in a leadership position overseas is where I think my experience differs from my male counterparts. I have encountered everything from simple curiosity to men refusing to speak to me.

“Other cultures’ social norms are not something I can change and in our role as musical ambassadors it is important to respect others’ customs and simply adhere to the task at hand.

“Last year I had the opportunity to conduct the band at the Virginia International Tattoo (an exhibition of military bands), the largest tattoo in the United States. After a performance, an elderly woman came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me how thrilled she was to see a woman leading a military band. It’s moments like those that remind me of what a truly fantastic opportunity I have.”

A native of Carmichaels, Pa., Cartwright also holds a Masters of Education degree from the University of Hawaii.

After graduating from WVU, Cartwright enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1998 and spent several years with Navy Band Southwest in San Diego, Calif., where she performed as oboist and saxophonist in the Woodwind Quintet, Wind Ensemble and Ceremonial Band.

In 2002, Cartwright reported to the Pacific Fleet Band in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she served as the unit leader of the Tradewinds Quintet, as well as oboist and saxophonist with the Wind Ensemble, Fleet Jazz Ensemble and Ceremonial Band.

In 2005, she was a member of the Allied Forces Band Naples, Italy, serving as leading petty officer, operations coordinator, and was an inaugural member of the multi-service, multi-national Woodwind Quintet. In 2006, she was selected as the Joint Forces Command Naples Senior Sailor of the Year.

During her tenure at the Allied Forces Band Naples and as a member of the newly formed 75-member U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Band, she led units throughout the European and African theaters of operations and in 2007 was selected for chief petty officer.

She has been assistant director of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band in Norfolk, Va., since 2009.

Cartwright has fond memories of her days at the WVU Creative Arts Center.

“My sophomore year was my first experience in the orchestra at WVU and, to be honest, I was content to hide on second oboe,” she said. “Conductor Larry Christianson assigned me as principal oboe for ‘Scheherazade,’ which, as you know, contains some of the most idiomatic oboe solos in orchestral literature.

“The first rehearsal, my performance was less than stellar and Professor Christianson was never one to mince words. For several subsequent rehearsals, I left wanting to crawl under a rock, but because of his insistence on excellence—and some oboe therapy from Professor Cindy Anderson, of course—to this day I credit the preparation for that concert as having the most significant and positive impact on my musicianship.

“I sincerely believe the diversity of my education at WVU has been a large part of my success in the U.S. Navy. As an oboist, sometimes our access to music other than classical genres is limited. Not only was I permitted, but I was actually encouraged to study many different types of music.”

For more information, see the U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band website at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Fleet-Forces-Band/184902101420

Since this is a free concert, no tickets are necessary. Seating in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about the concert, contact the College of Creative Arts at 304-293-4359.


CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304-293-4359, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu

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