Isabella Kelly Rocks Claremont


Claremont McKenna College grabs many prospective students’ attention because of its pervasive “learning to do” mantra. This ethos is perhaps embodied most clearly in one of the school’s current seniors, Isabella Kelly ‘18, who is a Literature and Legal Studies major. Kelly has had a tremendous impact on the school’s on-campus and off-campus life during her time at CMC. The list of events she has contributed to is expansive. Kelly and Brendan Busch ’17 started Alternatives Anonymous during their freshman year, a club committed to bringing live bands to campus. Kelly publicized, booked the talent, and reserved the venue for the off-campus event Meltdown this semester with Elaine Sohng ‘17. She also organized McKenna Palooza this semester, which brought Nafets and Pell to campus on April 1st. Finally, she booked Noname for Nochella Saturday April 8th. I got to sit down with Issy and talk to her about her relationship with music and booking.

We started our conversation talking about the event she organized off-campus, Meltdown. I asked her how she got the idea to throw the party. She told me that she threw a similar live EDM warehouse party in the fall in LA. “All these Claremont friends were really supportive and came all the way to LA Chinatown to go to this party. So why not bring it to them?” She realized that there was demand for electronic live music, demonstrated by the adoration of White Party, a party that was discontinued in 2013 that played live EDM music. It was an extremely popular party; admissions even hung up pictures in their main office. She decided to bring the party here with the inception of Meltdown. When the sheriff came to inquire about Meltdown, she and Elaine went out and talked to him. “When it’s your event you have to know that you’re accountable.” She describes to me.

I wanted to find out if she was somehow rebelling from the organized school events by putting on her own. Instead, she assured me that the college has been extremely supportive with all of her music ventures. In fact, it was the school that got her started booking talent. When she was a freshmen she noticed that no one was bringing live music to the campus. To satisfy this void, she started Alternatives Anonymous with Busch. She said, “ our student initiative was to bring concerts to campus and have it be free and prevent people from having to drive to LA. I learned a lot from doing that for the school.” She told me that each year the club has grown in membership and funding.

The school also sponsored her to go to a conference in Nashville in the beginning of her sophomore year. It was called the Curb Creative Connection. Issy remarked,“It focused more on the economic rather than the creative side of music. It made me think music was something I could do as a career.” After that conference, she brought her excitement about music onto a professional platform. She has worked both in the summer and during the school year at Insomniac Records, Agency for the Performing Arts, Vicious Buzz Music, and Warner Brothers Records. This summer she will be working for Insomniac Records and Red Light Managing.

After Kelly graduates in the fall, she plans on taking the skills she’s gained working in her internships and with the school to create an events company with a friend: LLC, or Limited Liability Company. Her friend comes from a festival marketing background and has contacts with talent and venues in the LA area. During our conversation, she continuously thanked DOS for being so supportive of student initiatives and stressed that there is a big movement to expand the arts here, especially in areas like career services. Entertainment work, like nonprofit work, is unpaid, but students aren’t eligible for funding. “It might be time to take another look and see where student interest lies,” she remarked.

When describing the CMC student body, Kelly elaborates that everyone has something that’s his or her own. She tells me, “Sometimes the worries I have throughout the day are things that other people don’t really think about.” She goes on to describe her thoughts, “We have to raise our offer $500” or “the production cost is this.” Her passion happens to rely on making others have a good time. Join me in celebrating one of our amazing students, and in wishing her luck in the adventures that come.