Dr. Kelly Burns

Assistant Professor
NDSU Opera

Office: 223 Music Education Building
Phone: (701) 231-7094


  • D.M.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • M.M., The University of Mississippi
  • B.M., The University of Mississippi

Tenor Kelly W. Burns (he/him) is an active performer of opera, concert works, musical theater, and recital throughout North America in vocal repertoire spanning from Claudio Monteverdi to living composers. Among his stage credits are leading and supporting roles in Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Elisir d’amore, Rigoletto, Hansel and Gretel, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Carousel as well as tenor solos in Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s B Minor Mass and Magnificat, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. He has performed for organizations such as the Chautauqua Opera, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Roanoke, Memphis Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Little Orchestra Society of New York, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Chamber Opera, Opera Project Columbus, LancasterChorale and the Oxford Shakespeare Festival.

Art song recitals and chamber music balance Kelly’s stage and concert performances. In addition to traditional art songs by North American and European composers, Kelly also has a strong interest in new songs and chamber music. He is founder of the Unity Series at NDSU which promotes the performance of and education about music written by women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC composers and regularly programs these works alongside traditional Western composers.

As music director and conductor, Kelly’s repertoire includes the operas and musicals Le nozze di Figaro, Dido and Aeneas, The Pirates of Penzance, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, Man of La Mancha, A Year with Frog and Toad, and The Sound of Music. He has prepared choruses and/or scenes from The Magic Flute, Sweeney Todd, Don Giovanni, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Louise, and Maria Stuarda.

Kelly joined the voice faculty at North Dakota State University Challey School of Music in 2019. He teaches voice lessons and diction and is Director of NDSU Opera. Several of Kelly’s voice students enjoy success in national voice competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, NATS student auditions (national, regional, and chapter levels), and the Orpheus Vocal Competition. They work professionally in opera and musical theater in North America and Europe, serve on voice faculties at colleges and universities, own successful private studios, participate in young and emerging artist programs, and are admitted to prestigious music and theater programs in the United States.

Kelly holds degrees in music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Mississippi. Learn more at www.houseburns.com.