To further spread the gospel of music, in 2005 Richey founded Music 4 Change, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit dedicated to free music education programs for two underserved groups – armed services veterans and young people. Through its Guitars 4 Vets program, Kelly holds frequent guitar instruction workshops for veterans, an experience she finds both exciting and rewarding. The nonprofit’s second mission is to bring music and inspiration to elementary and high-school students (especially in low-performing schools), as well as colleges and universities across the USA. “I feel very passionate about keeping music, and the arts in general, be kept alive in our schools,” she explains. “So many art and music programs have been drastically cut in the past 15 years.” Through guitar instruction workshops, online guitar classes, and songwriting programs, Music 4 Change teaches students about the history of American music, helps them develop appreciation of all kinds of music, and informs them about career opportunities in the music industry.
A Piece of Paper Always Listens
In her “spare time,” Richey is an avid journal writer and poet. “I have dyslexia, which always made school really difficult for me,” she explains, “but I started keeping journals as a teenager and I just kept going.” After 30-plus years of journaling, Kelly has amassed more than 5,000 entries on such deeply personal themes as self, relationships, love, and spirituality. She collected 89 of those musings in her first book, Whisperings: A Collection of Poems (2012), which comes with a spoken-word CD. True to form, Richey feels compelled to share her love affair with words with others. “I’m proof that there is no cookie-cutter mold for learning,” Kelly adds. “Having severe dyslexia has given me an insatiable appetite for learning and a passion for helping others learn.” With typical determination, she became a certified writing facilitator in 2015 and now leads writing workshops for the Cincinnati nonprofit group Women Writing for (a) Change. In response to her own struggles with writing and love for words, Richey developed and leads a series of programs she calls “A Piece of Paper Always Listens.” Using timed creative writing exercises called “fast writes,” she helps students learn how to express themselves through journaling and poetry. The workshops are fun, interactive, and include a mini-concert. (For more information, see www.APieceof PaperAlwaysListens.com.)
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Around 2008, after years of constant touring, recording, and teaching, Kelly began to reevaluate her personal career goals. “I had spent years onstage and working one-on-one with students when not performing,” she recalls, “but I felt drawn to exploring the process of becoming a life coach.” Through this process, Richey realized that she needed some healing in her own life. She began to study the works of spiritual and mystical writers like Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Depak Chopra, and Eckhart Tolle. In 2010, Kelly took a year-long break: “I got sober and healthy, and I was ready to rock.” With a fresh perspective on her life and career, Richey became a certified “dream coach” – helping others to accomplish their goals and dreams. That led to a three-year, intensive certification process to become a True Purpose Coach and Group Leader. Kelly is currently enrolled in a three-year Spiritual Director training program at Wellstream in Columbus. “I had mistaken my artistic talent for my purpose in life, and that left me wanting more,” she explains. “By defining my own true purpose, I am able to enjoy both a more fulfilling career and a richer personal life.”
Obviously, the energetic Ms. Richey practices what she preaches. Her three overriding passions – for the blues, teaching, and spiritual growth – are at the heart of everything she does. More than just another guitar-slinging hotshot, Kelly Richey is a genuine American original, a multi-talented woman deeply rooted in the blues, but constantly driven to explore new territory.