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Art & Life with Kelli Estes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelli Estes.

Kelli, Lone Star Lyric, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My music career began in California as a Division II collegiate volleyball player. As a life-long athlete, I had always planned to be a collegiate coach but after a one-year hiatus from school, which my dad called “a year at M.W.U. (Minimum Wage University), I headed back to finish my undergraduate work at California State University Fresno. I needed an art credit, so I enrolled in the concert choir. That summer we went on a concert tour through Europe, and I thought, “Wow, this singing is easy, and I get to travel!” I changed my major that Fall and started my musical journey.

I lucked into a small but fantastic School of Music staffed by internationally recognized faculty. My voice teacher, Helene Joseph Weil, Metropolitan Opera National Studio member, and MET Auditions winner, taught me the honor of bringing great music to life. I was woefully inexperienced on the stage but had a fearless sense of fun so took to it quickly. I graduated from CSUF in 1994 with a Bachelor of Music degree then earned a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Moore’s School of Music at the University of Houston in 1996 under the tutelage of opera director Buck Ross and international mezzo-soprano Katherine Ciesinski. Unusual for my very common ‘soprano’ voice type, I finished both degrees with ten leading roles and managed to get cast in several Houston-based theater and opera companies.

I moved to New York City in 1999 and spent the next 12 years performing with regional companies in the tri-state area as well as making my Brazilian concert debut. Along the way, I started producing concerts for retirement homes, musical theater revue fundraisers and my own quirky just-for-fun concerts. In 2006, my friend Roger Keele and I co-founded Lone Star Lyric Theater Festival, a chamber opera organization committed to showcasing Texas-based artists, premiering new chamber works by living American composers and exploring the untapped repertory of lyric composers of the past. I’m proud to say that Lone Star Lyric is now in its 13th season.

The first six seasons were limited to summer chamber opera productions as I was still living in NYC. I decided to move back to Houston in 2012 and offer year-round programming. In keeping with our lyric chamber works model, I decided to bring a little New York back to Houston and produce a Lyric Cabaret jazz series focusing on music of the Great American Songbook. By the end of our 13th season this June, Lone Star Lyric will have produced 29 chamber operas, 10 commissioned new operas, two musicals, and more than 63 Lyric Cabaret shows. Oh, what fun!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My motto is to “live a creative life.” I often have a nutty idea then find a way to turn it into a production. In addition to the LSL administrative duties, I produce and direct all Lyric Cabaret events, direct most of the summer chamber operas and sing in as many as I can because after all, I’m also the casting director! (hehehe) My mission is to offer our audiences two hours of lyric theater delights. Music is a gift to be shared.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
I think the best way to connect with other artists is to get out and support them! See their shows and performances as well as follow them on their social media sources. The tough part is making the time. But it’s always worth it because creativity is inspired by experiences.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
When we’re not taking our shows on the road to the Hill Country and northwest Texas, Lone Star Lyric’s regular theater home is at MATCH (Midtown Arts Theater Center Houston).

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ashley Brooks Photography, Shannon Langman Photography, Chuck Luke, Richard Smith

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Omari

    April 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    What a great article! Kelli is truly a wonderful visionary, talent, thinker, and soul. She’s given so many of us opportunities, and filled an important niche in Houston. Here’s to many more successes for her and Lone Star Lyric!

  2. Lyon

    April 9, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    That’s my sweet friend and girl you’ve had that great voice since about third grade. Just sayin

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