Joseph N. Farrell.
With more than a quarter century of experience, Joe has pretty much seen and done it all in the field of journalism. Our only full-time columnist, Joe now concentrates on the sometimes heart-warming, sometimes heart-rending, sometime humorous elements of the human condition. His column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Woman marketing CD through greeting cards

Alanna Fusaro, 10, helps her mother, Kelli, produce greeting cards in their Bern Township home. The cards each will contain one of the songs from Kelli's new contemporary Christian compact disc.

Reading Eagle: Matthew J. Sroka

Before a certain Nashville recording executive refused to listen to Kelli Fusaro's professionally produced compact disc of original songs, he bluntly asked her age.

When the Bern Township woman, a wife and mother of two children ages 6 and 10 with an active life in music, was honest about her age, the exec told her she was too old.

“He said they were only signing acts between the ages of 13 and 18," Kelli says. “I could understand in pop music. But in Christian contemporary? I was shocked.”

Kelli, aided by her husband and family, had gone to some expense to professionally produce her CD in Nashville, enticing veteran producer Ron Cornelius to head the project and supervise three recording sessions in a state-of-the-art studio, with sidemen and backup singers whose night jobs are with some of Nashville's top acts.

“It was really something to see and hear,” Kelli says. “We were all in separate soundproof rooms so that they could track each of us individually.

“The instrumentalists were such pros they listened to the basic music, played through it once, and then recorded it, with each of them adding their own shadings and nuances.”

Though the music was Kelli's, she was hearing it in an entirely new light.

“As I listened, I could understand what they were trying to bring out," she says. “When it came time for me to sing, I blended my performance with theirs.”

The result, despite what the record executive had to say about her age, is all that Kelli could have hoped for, and then some.

And just because she didn't get a recording contract does not mean that her CD, “By My Voice,” won't be aired.

Drawing on her 10-year-old daughter Alanna's gift for art, Kelli is putting together a number of greeting cards featuring Alanna's watercolors, with each containing a disc of one of the songs from her CD in both vocal and instrumental versions, with lyrics in the card to encourage folks to sing for themselves.

She's test-marketed a prototype birthday card in a handful of local stores, and sales have been strong enough to encourage the QVC home shopping network to open discussions on producing a boxed set for sale sometime in January.

“We're down to negotiating price, which we should resolve soon,” Kelli says. She's already negotiating with commercial printers to produce the cards, and with friend Donna Luhrs, a computer wiz, is launching a Web site to sell the cards over the Internet after the first of the year.

At the same time, Kelli and friend Mary Jo Carabello, working with a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, are racing to put the finishing touches on “Possibilities,” their original musical about teenagers, which will be presented Nov. 15 and 16 at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Fleetwood.

Employing the Internet, mail order, and local stores, Kelli has not forgotten the CD, which contains several of the songs from “Possibilities.”

“Maybe someday there will be a recording contract,” Kelli says. “But for now, I'm glad there isn't. With friends and family I've found outlets for my music I never could have imagined. And I don't have to leave home.”

Web extra: Finding her true voice

Reading native Kelli Fusaro graduated from West Chester University with a degree in voice, piano and music education.

But she only discovered her ability to put words to music in 1995 when her grandmother died, and she found herself unable to express her feelings in words alone.

Kelli found a spiritual home for her music the next year, when she became the keyboard accompanist and a vocal soloist for the folk group at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Reading.

Prodded by her friend and fellow St. Joseph folk group member, Rosemarie Sullivan, Kelli began composing original music for weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and other special occasions.

Rosemarie's persuasiveness comes strictly in positive terms.

"She's remarkable," Kelli says. "Rosemarie gets you to believe in yourself because she believes in you. When she asks you to do something, she has you believing that you're only fulfilling your God-given talents.

"And she's the most organized person I know. When something has to be done, Rosemarie doesn't let anything stand in her way. She just goes ahead and gets it done."

Rosemarie's positive attitude currently is being put to the test, and so far is holding up. She is one of those career Agere employees who's already been informed her job is being eliminated. While she does not yet have anything lined up, she remains confident that she will land on her feet.

It was Rosemarie who encouraged Kelli to pursue her dream of having her voice and music professionally produced on a CD, and she was present in Nashville when Kelli was told she was too old to be signed for a record contract.

"When Rosemarie heard that, she reacted, 'Come on. We're out of here,'" Kelli relates. "The way she saw it, the record company lost a great opportunity, not us."

The idea to turn the songs on the CD into a series of greeting cards grew out of the fact that Kelli had written most in response to a specific event in life.

However, she'd written the songs to express an emotion that was more universal than a single episode, so each one, except "A Birthday Wish," could be broadly marketed to express feelings appropriate to different occasions.

For example, her first song, "A Mother's Hands," written in response to her grandmother's death, is listed in Kelli's on-line catalog as appropriate as an all-occasion gift for mothers and mothers to be, and "Prayer of the Children" is presented as appropriate for baptism, first communion, confirmation, or as a get-well greeting.

If this first set of cards is successful, Kelli intends to follow it with others containing new compositions.

Kelli has put off marketing this first set until after Christmas because she does not have any compositions appropriate for the season.

"So much beautiful music has been written for Christmas that it is hard to think of anything new," Kelli says.

"It's a real challenge. But I've promised myself that, by next year, I'll have something appropriate."

CD available in stores

Kelli Fusaro's compact disc, “By My Voice,” is available for $12.95 at Borders Books Music & Cafe, Wyomissing; Barnes & Noble, Broadcasting Square; JOY Book Store, South Heidelberg Township; and Cloud Nine Cafe, Spring Ridge. Also, a check or money order for $12.95 can be sent to Sound Expressions, P.O. Box 6037, Wyomissing, 19610.

Information on Kelli's greeting cards and CD can be found at  

Contact columnist Joseph N. Farrell at 610-371-5076 or


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