A native of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, Lt. Kelly Cartwright enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1998 as an oboist and served at Navy Band Southwest, San Diego, California; U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Commander, Naval Forces Europe Band, Naples, Italy. During her tenure in Italy, she led units throughout the European and African theaters of operations and was promoted to chief petty officer.

Commissioned in 2009, she reported to the U.S. Fleet Forces Band in Norfolk, Virginia as the assistant director. She also served as the band detachment officer-in-charge during the humanitarian assistance mission Continuing Promise 2011, on board USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). In January 2012, she assumed the position as the final director of Navy Band Mid-South in Millington, Tennessee, which was disestablished in October 2014. She was subsequently assigned as the asset department head at the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee.

Prior to her assignment as fleet bandmaster, U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, she received a Master of Music in Wind Band Conducting at the University of Illinois as part of the Naval Postgraduate School Civilian Institutions Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Music Education from West Virginia University and a Master of Education from the University of Hawaii. She is a graduate of the Navy’s basic, unit leader, and senior musician courses.

Her personal awards include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (six awards).