Editor’s note: Our series, Working Our Way Back to You, profiles Ohio Valley natives who have left town but returned to the community that created them. In today’s story, writer Jessica Broverman introduces us to Chelsey Keding.
It can drive us to be the absolute best versions of ourselves and can push us to take a chance — big or small — each day.
Wheeling native Chelsey Keding lives her life by her passions — music and family. She made a choice to move to the Big Apple and, after years of living off the high energy of New York City, she came home to Wheeling.
Her decision to move away from her hometown was scary and so was the decision to leave the infamous concrete jungle, but without those big decisions, she wouldn’t be here with us in the Friendly City.
A PASSION FOR SINGING
Keding has had a passion for singing since she was a child. She admits that the absolute best time of her life was as a student at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy.
“At that time, they offered an arts concentration program, so I got to take classes throughout the year that really focused on what I loved,” said Keding.
“I had theater, acting, voice, choir, music history, composition, art, art history. It was a dream for my creative interests.”
Keding’s love for the arts led her to apply for colleges outside of the Wheeling area, and she soon began her studies at the Manhattan School of Music Conservatory as a vocal performance major.
Though she was living her dream of focusing all her energy on music, she says it was a harsh reality check being surrounded by people who were more educated in her field for the first time.
LITTLE FISH, BIG POND
“I found that I was all of a sudden a little fish in a big pond. Everyone had these amazingly beautiful voices and, up until that point, it had definitely been the other way around,” said Keding. “I had been the big fish in the little pond. It was a huge learning curve.”
Undoubtedly, Keding pushed through her discouragement by working with her voice teacher and learning that singing is more than just projecting a beautiful sound.
“Singing is so much more about feeling, physicality and sensations, than it is about the sound,” said Keding.
Since then, Keding perfected her craft performing with an Off-Broadway production and even going on tour.
In addition to all of these gifts life has given her, she was about to receive another one while on tour down south.
A NEW LITTLE FISH
“I was on tour with a show in Mexico, and my husband and I found out we were expecting,” Keding said with excitement.
“Life is funny that way, so I left the tour, and we actually lived in NYC with our daughter, Lyric, for the first two years of her life.”
Though Keding, her husband and their daughter enjoyed the city and all it had to offer, they eventually made the choice to return to her beloved hometown in an effort to give their daughter a better upbringing.
“After having a child in one of the most expensive cities in the country, without any family around for help, we realized why so many people move back home, and we followed suite,” said Keding.
“Here we have family around us for support, we can explore creative endeavors without breaking the bank, we can live a little bit slower pace of life and grow within a community.”
Keding believes that in Wheeling, she has the opportunity to fully explore all the things that she is passionate about, so much so, that she travels to different places each day to bring music to multiple areas of the Ohio Valley.
She teaches 45 students a week in St. Clairsville, in addition to teaching toddler music classes.
She is an adjunct professor twice a week at Marietta College, holds private classes for sound therapy, serves tables on occasion at Figaretti’s, and she and her husband recently started her own business providing a camper photo booth to patrons for special events.
“I also have a few other things in the works. I’m always looking ahead to the next goal,” said Keding.
“I love all the things I do and feel so grateful to get to live my life doing the things that fill my soul. At this point, I’m not sure that I would trade it to move back to NYC. I live a very fulfilled life here.”
A PROSPEROUS AND HAPPY LIFE
With a family, thriving business ventures and an abundance of people supporting her goals, Keding feels that Wheeling was the best option to live a prosperous and happy life.
Keding has a wonderful perception of what makes Wheeling particularly splendid. She also understands how some people may view moving back home as being a bad thing, whether it be to have a lower cost of living or even having “failed.”
She, however, believes your mindset is what can make you feel this way, not the city you live in or move to.
“There’s also an interesting stigma attached to moving back home and that you have somehow failed,” said Keding.
“But we can create our own happiness, and we create our own view of our life. Find what makes you feel alive, find what makes you shine.”
She knows that Wheeling has an abundance of opportunities to offer, whether your passion is art, starting a business or family.
“Wheeling has a whole lot of heart. It’s filled with people wanting to better the city and create new opportunities,” said Keding.
“It feels really good to be part of that and to give back to the place that shaped the person I am today. … When you do that, it’s never a failure; no matter where you are.”
And that’s how Chelsey worked her way back to you.
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.