Virginia Warnken Kelsey
Virginia Warnken Kelsey, mezzo-soprano, is internationally celebrated for her heartfelt and dynamic interpretations of Baroque opera, oratorio, and contemporary chamber music. She maintains an active career in an adventurous assortment of musical and artistic settings.
Kelsey is an original member of the Grammy© Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, an alternative-classical vocal band dedicated to reimagining the expressive potential of the human voice. By engaging collaboratively with artists, thinkers, and community leaders from around the world, the ensemble seeks to uplift and amplify voices old and new while creating and performing meaningful and adventurous music. Lauded by The New Yorker, NPR, and The New York Times, Roomful of Teeth has premiered innumerable compositions for voice, whose composers include Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Tyshawn Sorey, and Angelica Negrón. Alongside Roomful of Teeth, Kelsey has been featured with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, BBC Symphony, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Roomful of Teeth’s eponymous debut album won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and their sophomore album, Render, was nominated in 2016 in the same category. Kelsey has worked alongside celebrated opera director Peter Sellars in numerous performances of Claude Vivier’s surrealist chamber opera Kopernikus, which she has performed in several countries spanning the globe, as far-reaching as New Zealand and Germany. A lover of non-classical and post-genre music, Kelsey has also appeared alongside Questlove & The Roots, Holly Herndon, tUnE-YaRds, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road ensemble. Kelsey was featured on Silk Road’s Sing Me Home, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.
In her forays into earlier repertoire, Kelsey is a company member of the Boston Early Music Festival Opera, with whom she has performed several roles in various recent productions. Her performance as La Conversation in Charpentier’s Les Plaisirs de Versailles earned her a Grammy Award nomination as a headlining soloist in the Best Opera Performance Category in 2019. She has appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, Carmel Bach Festival, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Philharmonia Baroque. A longtime former resident of New York City, Kelsey has made frequent solo appearances with venerated musical institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, American Classical Orchestra, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Clarion Music Society, Tenet Vocal Artists, Musica Sacra, and Oratorio Society of New York.
Profoundly dedicated to educating the next generation of vocal artists, Kelsey has been engaged by more than seventy institutions of higher learning, including MIT, Princeton University, Cornell University, Yale University, Williams College, Dartmouth College, and many more. Responsibilities for these engagements have included a combination of teaching masterclasses, private voice lessons, and coachings, choral and small ensemble coaching, dramatic/stage coaching, ethnomusicology, workshops on composition for voice, career development, vocal pedagogy, extended techniques, and more. Kelsey previously served on the faculty at the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music for three years as an Assistant Professor of Voice.
Kelsey received her Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance from Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Trish McCaffrey. She was awarded a Master’s Degree with Honors in Early Music, Oratorio, and Chamber Music from the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University, and was the recipient of the Alumni Prize.
Kelsey joined the Bennington faculty in Fall 2023.