John-Edward Kelly

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John-Edward Kelly
Born (1958-10-07)October 7, 1958
Fairfield, California, USA
Died February 12, 2015(2015-02-12) (aged 56)
Vero Beach, Florida
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Conductor
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1981-2015
Associated acts Arcos Orchestra, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, Alloys Ensemble, The Kelly Quartet
Notable instruments

John-Edward Kelly (October 7, 1958[1] – February 12, 2015) was an American conductor of classical music and classical saxophonist. He has performed at major concert halls in most European countries, as well as many other parts of the world, and for many years was the only classical saxophone soloist to support himself entirely by performing. He has lectured extensively about aesthetics and contemporary music, and his series of lectures on "The Art of Listening" has been incorporated into a book of the same name (unpublished). Born in Fairfield, California,[2] he was a professor of chamber music at the Robert Schumann Academy of Music in Duesseldorf and a professor of saxophone and contemporary chamber music at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo.

After a 30-year international career as a classical saxophonist, he returned more to conducting in later years.[3][4]


In 1981, Sigurd Raschèr invited Kelly to take his place as the alto saxophonist in the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet. Kelly founded the Alloys Ensemble [1] (saxophone, cello, piano & percussion) in 1994 and The Kelly Quartet in 2004. The quartet consisted of Kelly and three former students. Kelly served as artistic director of the Arcos Chamber Orchestra [2] of New York, which he co-founded in 2005 with violinist Elissa Cassini.[citation needed]

Teaching positions[edit]

He was professor of contemporary chamber music at the Robert Schumann Academy of Music in Düsseldorf, Germany from 1996-2003.

He was professor of saxophone and contemporary chamber music at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Norway from 2000-2005.

He has lectured and served as a guest professor in London, The Hague, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Helsinki, Rochester, Stuttgart, Lyon, Oslo, York, and other cities, and has published articles concerning aesthetics, contemporary music and the saxophone.

Concert appearances[edit]

Kelly has concertized extensively throughout Europe, in North and South America and in the Middle East, and has appeared on radio and television hundreds of times.

Kelly has performed as a soloist with many leading orchestras including the Stockholm Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Berliner Staatskapelle, Deutsches Sinfonieorchester, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, Gewandhausorchester, Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Residentie Orkest, Polish Chamber Orchestra, Orchester der Beethoven-Halle Bonn and Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Holland).

Premieres of works for saxophone[edit]

J. E. Kelly (r.) with K. Meyer (l.) after the first performance of his concerto, January 1994

Kelly has given the first performances of more than 200 works for saxophone, including 30 concertos for saxophone and orchestra. His performing repertoire consists primarily of works written expressly for him.

In 1995 he played the world premiere of Dimitri Terzakis's saxophone concerto, which was broadcast live to 27 nations.

Composers who have written works for Kelly include: Samuel Adler, Kalevi Aho, Osvaldas Balakauskas, Jürg Baur, Erik Bergman, David Blake, John Boda, Thomas Böttger, Herbert Callhoff, Michael Denhoff, Violeta Dinescu, Brian Elias, Anders Eliasson, Werner Wolf Glaser, Sampo Haapamäki, Ingvar Karkoff, Maurice Karkoff, Tristan Keuris, Hans Kox, Nicola LeFanu, Otmar Mácha, Tera de Marez-Oyens, Miklós Maros, Gérard Masson, Roland Leistner-Mayer, Krzysztof Meyer, Gráinne Mulvey, Pehr-Henrik Nordgren, Enrique Raxach, Uros Rojko, Jan Sandström, Sven-David Sandström, Leif Segerstam, Manfred Stahnke, Dimitri Terzakis, Stefan Thomas, Friedrich Voss, and Iannis Xenakis.


Kelly is featured in 31 commercial recordings. His 1988 recording with the Dutch Pianist Bob Versteegh was possibly the first commercial CD of solo classical saxophone music ever released.

His recordings include:


Kelly was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1999.

He was a licensed commercial airplane pilot and flight instructor.

Kelly authored a pamphlet titled "The Acoustics of the Saxophone from a Phenomenological Perspective".


  1. ^ In Memory of JOHN-EDWARD KELLY: Strunk Funeral Home
  2. ^ In Memory of JOHN-EDWARD KELLY: Strunk Funeral Home
  3. ^ "PDF document on Arcos Chamber Orchestra web site" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  4. ^ Norman Lebrecht (February 17, 2015). "Death of a New York conductor, aged 56". Slipped Disk. 

External links[edit]