From music conservatory to conservative Joplin college

Lindsay Baker

As soon as the violinist bowed at the end of the performance, Maddy’s eyes twinkled as she whirled around to her mother to exclaim, “I’m going to be a violinist!”

Fast forward 16 years and Maddy Kellenberger still has that passion in her deep twinkling emerald green eyes. Kellenberger is a small 4’8” with long jet black hair that sweeps around her face in a wispy, wild manner. Her skin is pale – a stark contrast between her hair, and she wears candy apple red lipstick on taut lips. Sitting on the edge of the couch with her violin as if almost perched in the crook of her shoulder, she examines the sheet music on the stand in front of her. Meticulously searching the piece for chords not yet mastered, she slides her fingers up and down the strings of her instrument, patient, yet determined.

“I wanted to study with Benny Kim. He is a world-renowned violinist, and my former teacher was a student of his, you know” said Kellenberger.

    From a young age, Kellenberger knew she wanted to play in a conservatory. The University of Missouri-Kansas City is one of the few prestigious music conservatories in the nation and fortunately the closest for her. From the small town of Carthage, Missouri, she knew she wanted to remain somewhat close to home. At the Conservatory at UMKC, Maddy thrived. The program took up an extensive amount of time; not leaving much room for her to enjoy time spent outside of class. However, she loved the atmosphere.

    “I was surrounded by musicians who all had the same schedules and lifestyles as I had. I honestly enjoyed the fact that I was always playing music,” she said.

    After spending two years at UMKC, Kellenberger made the hard decision to leave her performance-centered lifestyle to transfer to Missouri Southern to complete her general education classes. Not only was Southern cheaper, but it was agreeable with her personal values.

    Living in southwest Missouri had rooted deep traditional values as a conservative Republican that she held too tightly, and choosing a school that wouldn’t work silently against those values was important to her.

    “While UMKC was great, the academic atmosphere was not very serious along with being an incredibly liberal school,” Kellenberger said.

    She said she valued the difference when she took a class in US government this semester at Southern. The course offered neutral viewpoints instead of the strictly liberal approach she’d seen at UMKC.

    Simply by looking at her, you wouldn’t know how bold she is when it comes to her political views. Although small in stature, she takes a firm stance on leaders of this country. Even though violin remains one of her top priorities, Kellenberger found time last summer to travel on the road as a student representative with the Ted Cruz presidential campaign.

    She also gets to spend more time with family and friends. Even though she came home as frequently as she could and her family and friends came to see her on occasion, they still missed her while she was away.

    “We’ve been best friends since junior year,” says Ruth Loy, a tall brunette with striking turquoise eyes. “Both of us being homeschooled together and having extremely small classes, we grew very close. So when either of us got the chance to see each other, we were always there.”

    Out from under the stressful schedule of the conservatory, Kellenberger was able to keep up with her passion for the violin. She enjoys the Southern community orchestra program and currently leads the second violin section. Many orchestra students at Southern have been playing their instruments for many years, but not many come with an exceptionally experienced background such as Kellenberger has.

    Dr. Jeffrey Macomber, professor of music at Southern for the past 14 years, noted that she stand out in her performance, “bringing leadership and demonstrable skill” to the program.

    For Kellenberger, transferring to Missouri Southern hasn’t meant a closed door to the music conservatory, but rather an open door to the limitless possibilities of her future.