The News Sentinel continues its monthly series of question-and-answer sessions with area artists. This month's artist is musician and entertainer Kelle Jolly. Jolly is a singer who often accompanies herself on ukulele while wearing her own fashion designs. The wife of saxophonist Will Boyd, she supports Knoxville art groups that include Carpetbag Theatre, Flying Anvil Theatre and WDVX. She loves to sew and make puppets; her lifelong goal is to travel as an ambassador of American music.
When did you realize you wanted to be an entertainer?
"I have always known I wanted to entertain. I joined the jazz band in high school because I felt like being a jazz singer would give me the opportunity to have a lifelong career."
What kind of music do you find yourself singing the most?
"I sing folk and gospel music to myself. I meditate on the words. Carrying my ukulele makes me think of these songs, too. I sing 'This Little Light of Mine' somewhere, to somebody, almost every week. For audiences I sing a lot of songs made popular by Chaka Kahn and Anita Baker."
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an artist, I'd be working as ...
"A graphic designer! Wait a minute, that's still an artist. Maybe I would be a carpenter? That's still an artist. There's no way to not be an artist."
What's the hardest thing about being a performer?
"It's hard to remember to take care of yourself. You do a lot for others in spite your own needs. Performers miss out on their own family gatherings and events. Sometimes performers sacrifice their own health. Figuring out how to manage your life is hard. Adding a family with husband and/or children makes it even more challenging."
So what's the best part about being a performer?
"Ushering in the spirit of joy into an environment and watching audiences magnify it is amazing. The best part is feeling like you are being used by God."
It's vacation time and money's no object. What's your dream destination and why?
"Muroran, Japan, is our dream destination. Will Boyd and I were married there in 2008. The city of Muroran gave us a wedding. The ceremony took place at the foot of the Swan Bridge surrounded by all of our friends. There were 30 little kindergartners carrying flags and flowers. The mayor was in the wedding. It was broadcast live over the radio. Knoxville's sister city club and the Muroran Jazz Cruise committee even gave a full reception with a seven-course French meal and six-foot wedding cake. We are always homesick for Muroran."
It's been a bad day and you need some comfort food. What do you put on your plate?
"I want soup and rice, maybe broccoli. For dessert I need Raisinets."
What artist, past or present, would you like to meet? Why?
"I would like to meet Lil Hardin Armstrong. She was Louis Armstrong's second wife. She took him and built him up to be a star. Even with all of her experience as a pianist, composer, singer and band leader, she worked to support her husband. She taught him how to dress. And she told Louis Armstrong that he was a first trumpet player, never second to anyone. She would be a great adviser for me on how to live this musical life."
What's your favorite quotation from a film or book?
"My favorite quote is, 'Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.' I don't know where it's from."
What one song always makes you cry?
"The hymn, 'It Is Well With My Soul' speaks to me. Horatio Spafford wrote this hymn. He and his wife lost seven children. When everything feels wrong and when situations don't meet my expectations I have to remember that it is all well. I am in the choir of Crossroads Christian Church where I sometimes sing this hymn."
What one song always makes you happy?
"Stevie Wonder's 'Do I Do' always lifts my mood. I love the movement of the melody. I'm grateful that Stevie Wonder took that recording as an opportunity to record Dizzy Gillespie playing. It's ten minutes of dancing bliss! Even my 1-year-old niece recognizes that it's the truth!"
You have a degree in music education. What thing do you wish everyone could learn about music?
"Everyone is musical. Life is music. And if you are disconnected from that you are missing a piece of your being. Many people have been damaged in music education, made to feel inadequate or unworthy. Starting today I want everyone to take ownership of his or her voice. Be confident and work toward your own truth. Respect other people's truth."