Presenter Testimonials

"A triumph! The effects of Daniel Kelly's Rakonto concert are still being felt throughout the community."

— Pam Weisberg, Director of Programming, Catskill Mountain Foundation-Doctorow Center for the Arts


“Working with Daniel Kelly remains one of my most treasured career experiences.”

— Amy Flack, Executive Director, Community Performance Series


“I think that everybody left the performance having the sense that they were much bigger than just themselves - that they were part of a community. It gave them the sense that they were neighbors.”

— Ellen Kodadek, Executive Director, Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts


“I remain convinced that Daniel Kelly is one of the most stunningly original talents both as an improviser and a leader that I have known in a long career of promoting this art form. His musical ideas spring naturally from a visionary imagination…. He is also a dream to work with.”

— Paul Pines, curator of the Lake George Jazz Weekend


About Shakespeare in Jazz: All the World’s a Song

The experience, and I mean experience, of The Daniel Kelly Quartet performing Shakespeare in Jazz unlocked the language of Shakespeare for me through the soulful and playful rhythms of jazz. I was captivated! This show is a rare and unforgettable gift.”

— April Rhodes, Teaching Artist / McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert, CA

"Daniel Kelly was an incredible professional and entertainer bringing Shakespeare to life in the Black Hills. I was truly moved by each performance he gave because he adjusted his style to connect to the diversity of each audience - from young students, the general public, and to adults with developmental disabilities, each performance was specially crafted for their needs. I would be honored to have Daniel and his band back at The Matthews." 

— Becky Naccarato Eastburn, Executive Director, The Matthews Opera House & Arts Center, Spearfish, South Dakota

“I didn’t even know I liked Shakespeare!”

— Audience member, Douglass Theatre, Macon, GA

“The Daniel Kelly Quartet's Shakespeare in Jazz is nothing short of transformative. What I have attempted to do with the heightened language of Shakespeare over the years for students, actors and audiences alike, Daniel Kelly and his team successfully accomplished with the genius of combining Shakespeare and jazz. Having been the co-Artistic Director of the Long Beach Shakespeare company, directed and performed in many professional Shakespearean productions around the country and being a teacher and advocate of Shakespeare's written text from kindergarten through Master of Fine Arts in performance levels of education, and now being a Teaching Artist at the McCallum Theatre--I would encourage any organization or festival to fully embrace the immense talent that is the Daniel Kelly Quartet's Shakespeare in Jazz.”

— Denis McCourt, MFA (McCallum Theatre Teaching Artist), Palm Desert, CA


About Rakonto: Voices of Coe (at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

“With deep compassionate listening, Daniel has created a work that expresses the passion, determination and dreams of our students. He really connected with the students and transformed their experiences into music. I think the students will remember this affirming experience for years to come.” 

— Steven Marc Weiss, Director, Marquis Series, Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)


About Rakonto: Voices from the Farm (at Community Performances Series/SUNY Potsdam)

 “Daniel is as sensitive and respectful a person as he is musically talented. I trusted that he would use this experience to create a work that truly honored the farming community.  The resulting concert was everything we hoped for and more.”

— Amy Flack, Executive Director, Community Performance Series


About Rakonto: Life After Hurricane Sandy (at The Long Island Children’s Museum)

“What was moving is that it was a first-person interpretation. The people who actually experienced Hurricane Sandy were the ones talking about it. Usually when you see a performance it’s someone interpreting someone else’s experience, but this was first-hand experience. And it was very heartfelt. There were points where it really moved you to tears.”

— Dawn Weiss, Docent, Long Island Children’s Museum


I loved it! It brought community into the discussion, family into the discussion. It was a shared experience by the citizens of this area. The fact that people could actually talk about and share their experience with Hurricane Sandy, a year after the fact, then hear it brought to life through music and their own words was very exciting”

— James Packard, Theater Manager, Long Island Children’s Museum


About Rakonto: Wave Hill (at Wave Hill Public Garden, Bronx, NY)

I can hear how much fun Daniel had creating this piece. It samples words, voices, the birds that you can hear here. He made several visits to Wave Hill Garden and met with our naturalists, our horticulturalists, and some really fabulous students. All of that - he wove into this piece!”

— Jennifer McGregor, Director of Arts, Wave Hill


About Rakonto: Melting Pot (at Flushing Town Hall, Flushing, NY)

“Rakonto.” In Esperanto it means “story.” In jazz pianist-composer Daniel Kelly’s masterful composition, it is a thrilling musical journey of immigrant voices as represented by recorded interviews intertwined with the virtuosic playing and singing of Kelly’s musicians, especially vocalist Yoon Sun Choi and pipa master Min Xiao-Fen. This multi-layered piece demands repeated listening, all to the delight of the audience.”

— Frank Juliano, Executive Director, Reeves-Reed Arboretum


“Daniel Kelly’s piece ‘Rakonto’ blew me away. It engaged me on every level. The melodies, the harmony, the words, the instrumentation, the whole idea! It was brilliantly conceived and executed. It was so moving it practically brought me to tears.”

— Joel Harrison, Guggenheim Award-winning composer, guitarist, educator, Director of the Alt Guitar Summit


About Rakonto: Voices of Campbell County (at CAM-Plex, Gillette, Wyoming)

“We had such a great time with the project and felt so good about how it turned out.  The audience loved it and we've heard lots of great feedback.  I've lived here most of my life and I learned some things about our county I never knew!  The time Daniel spent to really get to know our intentions with the project and eventually our community was truly astounding.  Thank you Daniel for shedding light on different aspects of our community in such a thoughtful way!”

—  Jaymi Gilmour, Theater Manager, Cam-Plex, Gillette, Wyoming


About Rakonto: Voices from the Valley (at Forbes Theater/James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA)

“We loved Rakonto and were thrilled that you featured students from Harrisonburg High School.  They have amazing stories to tell, and the event was a superb example of how the arts can be used to bring communities together in creative ways.  I am delighted to know that the show will appear on public TV, and we look forward to the opportunity to see it again.”

— Jon Alger, President, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia


“It was fascinating to see how Kelly conveyed the diversity in the community….wonderful to hear the voices of the community reflected through music.”

— Jon Alger, President, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia


“With everything that’s happening in the world today, it’s the right time for such a warm message. It just all came together really nicely with such labor and love. It was so real and heartfelt to have [the students] tell their own stories.”

— Regan Byrne, Executive Director, The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, Harrisonburg, Virginia


About Rakonto: The Gift That Keeps Giving (at Dolly Hand Theater, Belle Glade, Florida)

 “Daniel created an uplifting celebration of our community in music and song. The audience was amazed how he captured the spirit of our city.” 

— Leigh Woodham, Director, Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center (Belle Glade, Florida)


About Rakonto: Voices from Memphis (at Orpheum Theatre, Memphis, TN)

“…extraordinary, to say the least!  Memphians of Red Zone/Orange Mound and Knowledge Quest/South Memphis twinkled like stars through the amazing production. I wish the entire world could have witnessed this artistic show.”

— Jacquelyn Scruggs, Knowledge Quest, (Memphis, Tennessee)


About Rakonto: Voices of Clayton (at Clayton Opera House, Clayton, NY)

“People are still talking about your wonderful performance!”

 — Julie Garnsey, Executive Director, Clayton Opera House (Clayton, NY)

About School Performances & Residencies

“Daniel’s school time performance was fantastic! He had a group of about 350 pre-K through 3rd grade students laughing, singing, and dancing. The kids were focused for the full 40-minute performance. Because his show interspersed storytelling, music, and comedy, classroom teachers had ample opportunity and material to link components of the show to lessons in their classrooms.”

— Amy Flack, Executive Director, Community Performance Series


“Your visit to our campus was so inspiring to me and my students.  What you do in the world is so important and inspiring. Thank you for giving your time to my students and our community.  What a gift to have you here.”

— Ingrid De Sanctis, Professor, School of Theatre and Dance, James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)

“Thank you for showing me what an ideal residency looks like.”

— Kyler Flock, Community Engagement Manager, Matthews Opera House,  Spearfish, SD


"Daniel Kelly's performance at the Northern Hills Training Center was really moving. The whole group of developmentally disabled people was so excited to see Daniel's performance. What really stuck with me was this woman who looked to be in her 50's. She sat in her wheelchair and did not move. You could not tell if she was even awake. Daniel started playing a Latin song from Cuba on the piano and all of a sudden this woman just came to life. She was clapping her hands, shaking her legs and she had the biggest smile on her face. It was so amazing. I said to myself that THIS is the power of music. To animate life."

— Jack Hughes, Northern Hills Training Center, Spearfish, SD


"The Matthews Opera House came to Northern Hills Training Center on January 17th, 2019 with Daniel Kelly to perform in front of 35 residents. It was a wonderful experience and one that the individual’s we serve will never forget. Some of the individuals got the opportunity to go up and play the piano with Daniel Kelly. Having this opportunity for Daniel to come to Northern Hills Training Center and watch him perform is something many of the individuals we serve are unable to do. It truly impacted many and we are very thankful for this experience."

— Blythe Heinbaugh, Northern Hills Training Center, Spearfish, SD 

About Rakonto: Dreams and New Worlds – Voices of First-Generation Students
(at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, SUNY Purchase, NY)

“Daniel Kelly’s project gave us a unique opportunity to give voice to the voiceless, to give our stage over to community members who might otherwise have never found themselves up on any stage.  At a moment in time where the live arts must find new and unique ways to build community in order to thrive I have not experienced a better community building project than Daniel Kelly’s Rakonto.

— Seth Soloway, Director, The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College


Working with Daniel Kelly on Rakonto: Dreams and New Worlds was an absolute joy. This partnership enabled us to shed light on an important subject—the dream and achievement of first-generation college attendance—and the resulting creative work soared with beauty, uniting and inspiring our high school and college communities.

 Greg Taylor, Community Engagement Director, Performing Arts Center, SUNY Purchase College


The breadth of Daniel Kelly's musicality is only matched by the depth of his humanity.  For the nearly 20 years that I have collaborated with Daniel he has consistently demonstrated the highest level of creativity, professionalism, passion, and sheer joy in all he does.  Daniel knows kids, and has the skills to take them on musical journeys that engage and inspire.”

— David Gonzalez, professional storyteller, poet, playwright, musician, cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department & recipient of the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) “Lifetime Achievement Award for Sustained Excellence“