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Kirkwood faculty member earns Nammy

By Christina Paul
On November 9, 2011

  • Kelly Montijo Fink (left), an adjunct instructor of Spanish at Kirkwood Community College, was part of the team that won a Native American Music Award last month for the “Best Compilation CD.” Fink and Sarah Blickens (right) were contributing artists on the CD, for which Donald Blackfox (center) was a co-producer.

A Spanish adjunct faculty member at Kirkwood Community College has gained national recognition for her musical talent.

Kelly Montijo Fink was one of the artists honored last month at the 2011 Native American Music Awards, or Nammys, for her contribution on the Compilation Album of the Year, "The Color of Hope."

On the album she sings "More," one of her compositions.  

Fink, who is of Apache, Mexican and Spanish heritage, was born and raised in California.  She said she grew up listening to a wide variety of music. Music by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Freddy Fender and traditional mariachi music filled her household.  

Since music was always an integral part of life within her family, she said, having a musical career was natural. "I have been singing all of my life," Fink said. "Family members, like my grandma, would tell me to get up and sing a song at family gatherings."

Fink's experience in music is diverse as well. She has performed opera, musical theater, madrigal , mariachi music, pop music and native drumming songs.

She has two albums to her credit, "Heartbeat of the Creator" and "Songs of War & Victory," in addition to "The Color of Hope."

This is not her first nomination for a Nammy.  Fink was also nominated in 2008 and in 2010 the categories of "Best Gospel / Inspirational" and "Best Female Artist."

Fink said friends, such as Jan Michael Looking Wolf,  have helped her over the years.    Looking Wolf  has 50 albums to his credit.  Fink said that after hearing Fink's debut album, "Heartbeat of the Creator," Looking Wolf offered any assistance that he could give musically and professionally.

She collaborated with other artists as well.  "Everyone was really very open and generous," she said.

Fink said she thinks of herself not just as a storyteller but rather as a story finder. When she does sit down to write her music, she said, she spends a lot of time listening, allowing the melodies to come to her.

"Native music is so diverse and so encompassing," she said. "You see young people finding out who they are through a wide range of music."

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