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You’re in the Army (Chorus) now

Ian Kelly
Ian Kelly, performing in the 2018 aria

After graduation this May, Ian Kelly, 29, is off on a musical adventure. A senior vocal performance major and tenor section leader in the Boise State Meistersingers, Kelly just earned a coveted spot in the U.S. Army Chorus.

The job requires that he join the Army and comes with full military benefits. Kelly will go to basic training for 10 weeks in September.

“I’ll be active duty, permanently stationed at Fort Myer in Virginia,” said Kelly, who grew up in Seattle and came to Boise State after performing professionally for several years. “The members of the chorus are technically deployable. But the group has only deployed twice and that was to sing for other soldiers.”

Founded in 1956, the chorus is the vocal counterpart of The United States Army Band and is one of the only professional men’s choruses in the country. The group regularly performs at the White House, the residence of the vice president, the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. Department of State. Auditions are rare. The last time the group had an open tenor position was four years ago. Kelly had to out-sing 40 other tenors – many from the most prestigious music programs in the country – to earn his place. He was among eight finalists whom the chorus flew to Washington D.C. He sang through three rounds that included a mix of musical genres, sight-reading, and interviews. The chorus chose Kelly and just one other singer.

“Being selected to sing with the Army men’s chorus is probably one of the highest honors a singer can have. As expected from the military, they only accept the best of the best,” said Michael Porter, an associate professor in the Department of Music and director of choral activities. “Ian competed with some of the most experienced and accomplished singers in the nation.”

When offered the job, Kelly said yes on the spot.

“It was a three-month process, even to get to Washington D.C. And I had to lose 30 pounds to get down to military weight,” said Kelly.

He and his wife, Sabrina, and their young daughter, Rosalie, will move east later this summer.

Kelly has earned much local praise. Mark Junkert, general director of Opera Idaho, where Kelly was part of the resident company, praised his ability to transition from pop singing to opera.

Update readers may remember Kelly from a 2019 story about his leadership role with the Boise Chordsmen, “Boise State music student leads community chorus to world competition.” Kelly’s swan song with the chorus will be competing in the Barbershop Harmony Society’s world championships in Los Angeles.

– Story by Anna Webb