Wendell Kelly was born on July 27th 1963 at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange California.
At that time his family lived on the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro CA while his father was in the Marines. In 1965 they moved to Santa Ana CA.
While living in Santa Ana Wendell attended Council of Affiliated Negro Organizations also known as CANO head start preschool program. He then attended Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. He started his interest in music when his brothers formed their own garage bands. Wendell used to sit around listen and occasionally try to play the instruments. His first instrument of study was guitar studying with Mrs. Sabine at Santiago Elementary in Santa Ana which he later transfered to. During this time he also started studying piano with church friends of the family at Johnson Chapel A.M.E., Mrs. Vivian Gordon, Mr. Russell, and Mr. Arthur Bufford.
After attending Santiago Elementary he attended Spurgeon Intermediate School also in Santa Ana. While attending Spurgeon he kept studying piano and guitar with Gail Lehman. Wendell playing different community and church functions throughout his attendance at Spurgeon, including as a special guest at the 8th grade graduation. playing and singing "Do You Know Where You're Going To", as a send off to his classmates.
In 1976 his family moved to Anaheim Hills where Wendell attended El Rancho Jr. H.S.. At El Rancho he found out that there were no groups that supported his guitar playing. there was only a Marching Band and a Concert Band. He was determined to keep playing music so he joined the Concert Band playing the bassoon under the direction of Mr. Tom Schenck. The concert season was fine for his bassoon playing in which he reached the goal of playing in the Orange County Unified School District Honor Concert Band under the direction of Mr. Don Gunderson. When marching season rolled around he could not play bassoon in the Marching band so he picked up the glockenspiel. With his keyboard skills he managed to play it for one season, but he was not satisfied with the glockenspiel. So he asked the teacher about playing a brass instrument. The only horn left was the baritone horn. so away he went playing the baritone horn in Marching Band.
There was still a void in his musical tastes. He wanted to start a Jazz Band at the Junior High. He asked the director if this was possible. Mr. Schenck said sure let's start one. Wendell knew that Canyon High School had a Jazz Band under the direction of Tom Ridley, and asked if they could come to the school and play for them. that's all it took to get him inspired. The only problem was he played baritone horn, and that was the wrong instrument to play in a Jazz Band.
A friend of the director named Mr. Randy Coleman who at the time was the Band Director at Villa Park High School. He was a trombone player and came to El Rancho for a visit. He saw that Wendell was playing a baritone horn and said "What are you doing playing that instrument in a jazz band?"
Mr. Coleman went into the instrument closet and pulled out a trombone. From that day on he played trombone in the jazz band. He never gave up the baritone horn because the parts were better in Concert Band and Marching Band.
A classmate of Wendell's named Steve Sala was one day telling him about a group of musicians that were the better player form many schools all around Southern California. That band was called the Santa Ana Winds. The Santa Ana Winds are the official Music Ambassadors of Orange County. After joining in 1978 this became quite an eye and ear opening experience for him to be in with players from Jr. High to College. This era of the Winds became the first to defeat the Long Beach Junior Concert Band which had reigned Sweepstakes in parade competitions over every group for 20 years. The Winds did concerts in parks for community service as well as march in the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and a 3 week tour of Europe in 1979 traveling to England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland & Germany. This gave Wendell a wide variety of experience. Wendell became the brass section leader in 2 years and remained in the Winds until 1982.
In 1981 after graduating from Canyon High School Anaheim he began his formal musical education attending Fullerton College, California State University Long Beach & University Of Southern California. Home Short Bio