ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Keely Mackey is a teacher, music instructor, and musician. But most of all, she prefers to see her music as an instrument of healing.

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Growing up on the border of Canada and New York gave Mackey a well-rounded perspective on music, from classical to more contemporary sounds. She picked up her cello at nine years old and practiced every single day. In college, she studied music on her own, which led to her experimenting with performance art.

Mackey came to New Mexico to study at the University of New Mexico at a graduate level. She played in various groups as well as the university orchestra. It wasn’t until she began amplifying her cello that she found her own sound. She plays with a switchboard that allows her to loop what she plays and add effects. “All this music that I’ve been playing and experimenting across multiple genres over the years, it’s allowed me to find my own voice. So now when I sit down with my cello, I just start improvising and these songs just kind of come out of me, and then I structure them, record them, memorize them and perform them,” Mackey said.

One of her latest songs, titled “Out at Sea” recently won a New Mexico Music Award in the Ambient/Instrumental category. Mackey found that after her performances, many of those listening said they felt healing from various ailments they suffered from while she played.

“People have told me it helps them relax, sometimes people that I know have chronic pain, they feel like their pain is taken away for a while, and just allowing people to tap into things that maybe words can’t address,” Mackey said. “That’s why I don’t sing even though I can sing, I don’t sing. I want my music to be able to touch people no matter what language they speak and to be able to bring their own stories because there are no words, they can attach their own meaning to it as well.”

Mackey’s music, most of which falls under her solo performer name Celloquacious, embraces nature and the four elements, which is why she believes people find it to be healing. She’s performed at a number of major events like weddings and major celebrations, but she’s also been called to play for families of those who are passing away. “I’ve been told it does help comfort them so that they’re not agitated and they can have a peaceful transition,” Mackey said. “I feel humbled that I’m called there and also that it can also end that transition. To be able to potentially comfort somebody during that transition and also their loved ones, it feels powerful.”

In her experience, she sees many people struggling with the transition of losing their loved ones, and sees music as a way to bridge that gap. “I think that in our culture, people have a hard time processing death. People, also I don’t think have enough time to grieve in our culture,” Mackey said. “Music is part of life, it’s not just entertainment. I think we’ve all felt that over the pandemic with live music having to go away, that we’ve craved it, this is something that we need to help feed our spirit. Now that people have had to pause because of the pandemic, and now that live music is starting to come back, I hope it’s healing for people.”