As a child, Kellie Walker enjoyed her mother’s bedtime songs. Now, as the director of the Voices Lifted choir, she sings at the bedsides of those who are ill or dying. And she’s sung to people at just about every stage of life in between.
For Walker, music is the thread that brings life full-circle.
Walker completed her formal training at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, finishing her Masters in Creative Arts in Therapy (Music Therapy concentration) in 1984. But just as she never stops singing, she never stops learning.
Walker has continued to enroll in graduate courses in conducting and music education for the past fifteen years to keep her knowledge current. Over the years, she has attended a variety of denominational and music-therapy conferences, most recently focusing on those addressing music in end-of-life and palliative care.
She began working at the Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation nearly 20 years ago, starting as a volunteer and ultimately being named Director of Music Ministries. As director, Walker oversees all music for Sunday-morning worship services and directs a 45-voice adult choir and a children’s choir. She also manages the music budget, sound system and instrument maintenance.
Walker works to continually expand VUU’s music-outreach program, which includes the Voices Lifted singers and activities such as toddler music classes for parents and children, with help from two grants awarded by the UUA Fund for Social Responsibility.
Voices Lifted is not Walker’s first foray into musical groups with a therapeutic intent. She also directed the original Tremble Clefs, a choir of people with Parkinson’s disease and their family members and caregivers, for six years.
Walker says helping people find the courage to sing is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
“I think, in our culture, we think of musicians as being almost a breed apart,” she says. “We have this sound in our ears that’s highly professional, and we think, ‘I’ll never sound like that, so why even open my mouth?’
“But it’s something we can all do. I think having these groups kind of gives people permission to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I can do that. I can sing.’”