Sean Kelly


  • Instrument

    Guitar, Songwriter, Bass

  • Location

    Toronto, ON

  • Education

    Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University, Bachelor of Music from University of Toronto

Biography Sean Kelly

Arcadia Academy of Music is proud to present our artist spotlight on guitarist/songwriter, Sean Kelly. Enjoy!


Guitarist/Songwriter/Artist Coach/Music Director

“Sean Kelly is much more than just an incredibly talented guitarist. His focus, energy and work ethic is the definition of professionalism. Every musician can learn a thing or two from Sean.”
Dee Snider (Lead vocalist of Twisted Sister, solo artist, author, playwright)
“Sean Kelly is one of the most talented and professional musicians I have ever worked with.
He has mastered his craft, and in the music business this is priceless. In a live setting, in front of anywhere from five to five hundred thousand people, he delivers an equally fierce, confident and passionate performance. In the studio, Sean offers sage guitar input, with a quick musical capability that can be as soulfully broad or technically particular as is required. As a songwriter, he is intuitive and open. On top of all of this skill, he’s one of the nicest human beings I know with an incredible heart and genuine goodwill. ”
Nelly Furtado, (Multi-Platinum, Grammy award-winning artist)

In his 5 years as an Artist Coach with Canada’s Music Incubator, Sean Kelly has successfully helped a number of artists develop their individual musicianship, songwriting skills, and ensemble playing.

In his role as lead guitarist for Grammy award winning superstar Nelly Furtado, Sean has performed to millions of fans on some of the world’s biggest stages. Sean has worked with and learned his craft from a wide variety of other Platinum and Gold selling artists, including Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Lee Aaron, Honeymoon Suite, The Canadian Brass, Alan Frew (Glass Tiger), Helix, Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses), Howie D (Backstreet Boys), Rough Trade, Coney Hatch, Doc Walker, Carvin Winans and many more.

Sean has contributed as a songwriter to new albums by Honeymoon Suite, Lee Aaron, Helix , and Diemonds’ 2016 Juno-nominated Never Wanna Die.

Sean authored the book Metal On Ice : Tales from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes (Dundurn Press) and produced the accompanying Metal On Ice soundtrack album (Coalition Records/Warner Music Canada).

Having fronted his own band (Century Media recording artists Crash Kelly), and successful solo career as a classical guitarist (two US Billboard Top 10 classical albums, and sales of over 10,000 copies), Sean brings an understanding of the artists’ perspective to his work as a Music Director, Artist Coach, and Guitar Teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Education Degree from Nipissing University

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How did you first hear about Arcadia?

I was asked by my friend Steve “Skull” Saunders to do a guitar clinic for the students of Arcadia in 2014. This led to me being asked to adjudicate at the 2015 Arcadia MusicFest.

What can you tell us about your current projects, and are there any upcoming events?

I had a busy summer touring Canada with a number of acts…Honeymoon Suite (I subbed in for their amazing guitarist Derry Grehan for a few dates), Rough Trade, Lee Aaron (we also completed her new album which should be released in early 2016), and my new 80’s influenced hard rock band Trapper (we opened for Def Leppard on a few Canadian arena dates, which was a real thrill!). I have also been busy as a recording session guitarist, playing on various albums.

How has it been balancing your professional music career and your teaching career?

I view them as mutually beneficial endeavors, and I find that performing and recording enrich my teaching and vice versa. Balance comes by being organized and thoughtful of the people you work with. Communication and honesty help me keep things on track.

If you had to recommend to a student a great song by a rock band, what would it be and why?

There are so, so many examples to choose from , but right now my mind is racing towards Van Halen’s “Mean Street”…it’s a perfect storm of developed technique, impeccable groove and feeling, and reckless abandonment, all wrapped up in a great composition. Edward Van Halen represents a great balance of control and freedom. Also, check out House of Pain from the 1984 album!

What’s it like working as a session musician and what are some of the required skills needed to be a good session musician?

The 5 T’s…Time, Tone, Technique, Touch, and Tuning. Versatility is key, as is the ability to come up with great parts quickly, parts that enhance the material you are working with. Be on time, friendly, and it is always best (at least at first!) to keep your mouth closed and your ears open!

Do you have any songs, performances, or videos of your music anywhere online that you’d recommend?

Here are some live clips with Nelly Furtado.

And here is a live acoustic performance with Nelly Furtado…the solo at 2:50 is something I’m quite proud of, it was improvised and always brings back great memories of being “in the moment” with the great musicians I was playing with!

Here are some highlights of the “Metal On Ice” Concert Event @ Opera House, Toronto on May 10, 2014 — featuring Brian Vollmer (Helix), Nicholas Walsh (Slik Toxik / Famous Underground / Moxy), Darby Mills (Headpins), Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch), Lee Aaron + guest appearance by Drew Masters (M.E.A.T Magazine) & featuring guitarist Sean Kelly.

How was your experience working with Arcadia and more specifically what are your views on some of our programs such as the band program and Musicfest?

I have had wonderful experiences with both the staff and students at Arcadia…the joy and preparation inherent in the playing I have had the pleasure to adjudicate speaks to the high level of instruction Arcadia students are receiving! The spirit of collaboration and friendship is being fostered via programs like the band program and Musicfest, and that is what music is all about!

Do you teach? What Instruments?

I taught guitar privately for over 20 years (and still do occasionally). I was also a Vocal Music Teacher with the Toronto Catholic School Board for 15 years, and currently I work at Canada’s Music Incubator at Coalition Music, where I help develop and deliver curriculum for various programs that focus on professional development. I am also a teacher for the Music Business high school credit course, that is offered through TEMPO, a music based charity founded by Coalition Music.

Do you have a social media/webpage where our readers can go and listen to your music?

My Twitter handle is @seankellyguitar, and one recent recording that I had a blast playing guitar on was the Metal On Ice album (Coalition Records/Warner Music) that was released as an accompaniment to my book of the same name. This can be found on all the music streaming sites out there.

Nelly Furtado is such a huge name in the pop music industry. What was it like working with her?

Nelly is an incredible musician and artist, but more importantly, a wonderful human being…she has had a huge influence on my growth as a musician, and I am honoured to be able to make music with her. I recently played on her upcoming album, and it is sensational!

What advice would you give to young musicians who want to attend/audition at a college/university music program?

Preparation is your best friend, and the bas combatant to nerves. If all goes well, take full advantage of your time in these programs, and remember to jam as much as possible with other musicians. Music is about friendship, not competition, and we can all learn from each other. Some of the contacts you make at school may end up being valuable contacts down the road in your professional career.

Are you working on anything new? Any plans for travelling, education, album or recordings?

My next endeavor is a role in Dee Snider’s Rock N Roll Christmas Tale, which is playing at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto from November 17-January 3. I will not only be playing lots of 80’s style guitar, but also acting and singing. I am very excited for this new challenge, and honoured to have the chance to work with one of my childhood heroes. It is a really fun musical that is suitable for audiences from 8-80, a family affair that has all of the Twisted Sister hits in it, as well as rocked up versions of great Christmas carols.

Any last thoughts, comments, suggestions?

Music is about friendship…be kind, have fun, work hard because you love it. Music is a gift that can be enjoyed and deeply valuable on all kinds of levels.

Thank you, Sean!