Music Scholarship Fund Founder, Ellis Kell, Receives Final Jefferson Award Nomination

There’s something about music – how it moves some people by the beat and through the heart.

There's something about music - how it moves some people by the beat and through the heart.

"I always say life without music would just be a cruel joke," said Ellis Kell. "I think it's the greatest gift we were ever given."

It was certainly a gift given to Ellis, as well as his daughter - Karli.

"She loved anything about music," he said. "She played around a little bit on piano. She was a very good singer who had just realized the full potential of her voice probably six months before she died."

In 2002, Karli was killed in a car accident. She was just 17 years old.

"Somebody told me at Karli's funeral that you're not supposed to bury your kids, your kids are supposed to bury you," recalled Ellis. "That's kind of short, kind of blunt, but it's the truth. It's out of sequence."

More than 10 years later, Ellis and his wife, Kristi, have turned that tragedy into charity. About a month after Karli passed, they started a music scholarship in her name.

"In October of 2002, we weren't in any shape to put anything together," said Ellis. "We were trying to put our lives back together and a bunch of our friends - our musical friends - had put together a concert at the RiverCenter on our behalf. They raised some money and said - whatever you would like to do with it in her honor, do it."

"The Karli Rose Music Scholarship Fund has enabled me to give back as a musician to kids and especially kids that probably couldn't do it if they didn't have some financial help," said Ellis.

Nathan Coudron's son is one of those kids.

"At the time, I was laid off and we applied for the scholarship," Coudron said. "It enabled him to pursue his dreams in music and he continues to play the trumpet today."

It's the dozens - if not hundreds - of stories like this one that makes Ellis a Jefferson Award Nominee, on behalf of WQAD and Genesis Health System.

"My son loves music and I thank Ellis for giving us the opportunity for him to pursue that," added Coudron, who nominated Ellis for the Jefferson Award. "Ellis is a great guy and great for the community. Just to watch him perform and everything he does brings joy to anybody that is anybody."

"For them to be able to come here and say - I got to to go Rock Camp because of that or I got to take lessons because of this fund means the world to us," added Ali Caves, Ellis' Daughter. "Not just my dad, not just me, but my family as a whole."

The Karlie Rose Music Scholarship Fund has raised more than $70,000 to date. That - paired with the programs offered by the River Music Experience - is helping young stars hone in on their skills and see where those skills can take them.

"There are so many kids out there that can't afford lessons or instruments and it's just a shame to think the next person that might be a really accomplished musician might not be able to do it just because they can't afford the price of admission," said Ellis.

"Most people couldn't deal with the passing of a child, but Ellis embraced it and let it thrive," said Coudron.

It's a musical mission that deserves recognition... and possibly a chance to go to Washington, D.C.

"I would have never imagined it," added Ellis. "I would have never put myself in those ranks."

"It's a huge honor to even be considered for the Jefferson Award."

WQAD has been introducing you to a new Jefferson Award nominee every month. On Thursday, March 5th, we will announce who is going to represent our area at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious celebration of public service. Past winners include Chad Pregracke, Walter Cronkite, Steve Jobs, Paul Newman, and Michael Bloomberg.