1857–1944

Introduction

Born: Ap­ril 14, 1857, Spar­ta, Wis­con­sin.

Died: No­vem­ber 12, 1944, Ox­ford, Ohio.

Buried: Ox­ford Ce­me­te­ry, Ox­ford, Ohio.

portrait

Biography

Kelley’s an­ces­tors em­i­grat­ed to Am­er­i­ca from Eng­land be­fore 1650. His mo­ther was from a mu­sic­al fa­mi­ly, and her­self was skilled in mu­sic; she was his first teach­er.

Edgar’s col­lege ca­reer was in­ter­rupt­ed by bouts of poor health. He was a tal­ent­ed ar­tist and writ­er, but de­cide­d to de­vote his life to mu­sic af­ter a per­form­ance of Fe­lix Men­dels­sohn’s mu­sic for A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

Consequently, he tra­veled to Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois, at age 17, to stu­dy with Clar­ence Ed­dy and Na­po­le­on Le­do­chow­ski.

Two years lat­er he went to Stutt­gart, Ger­ma­ny, where he stu­died or­gan, pi­a­no, and com­po­si­tion un­der Fred­er­ich Finck, Wil­helm Krü­ger, Wil­helm Spei­del, and Max Sei­friz. His friend­ship with Ed­ward Mac­Dow­ell began in Stutt­gart, and lat­er Kell­ey worked at the Mac­Dow­ell Co­lo­ny.

Edgar gra­du­at­ed from the Stuttgart con­ser­va­to­ry in 1880, and per­formed around Eur­ope for a time with a num­ber of or­ches­tras. Up­on his re­turn to the Unit­ed States, he went to San Fran­cis­co, Ca­li­for­nia, where he worked as a church or­gan­ist and was a mu­sic critic for the San Fran­cis­co Ex­am­in­er.

He al­so be­came ac­tive as a com­pos­er, writ­ing in­ci­dent­al mu­sic for a pro­duct­ion of Mac­beth that gar­nered him much at­ten­tion.

An in­ter­est in the­a­ter drew him to New York Ci­ty in 1886, and there he mar­ried Jes­sie Gregg in 1891. The two then re­turned to Ca­li­for­nia for four more years, dur­ing which time Kell­ey com­posed, con­duct­ed, lec­tured, and taught.

In 1896 the cou­ple re­turned to New York, where Ed­gar was hired to con­duct an op­er­et­ta com­pa­ny. He al­so taught at the New York Col­lege of Mu­sic and New York Un­i­ver­si­ty. In 1901, he re­placed Ho­ra­tio Park­er for a year at Yale Un­i­ver­si­ty when the lat­ter went on sab­ba­ti­cal.

The fol­low­ing year the Kell­eys moved to Ber­lin, Ger­ma­ny, and for eight years they lived and worked in Europe, lec­tur­ing, teach­ing, con­duct­ing, and per­form­ing in an at­tempt to ex­pand Eur­o­pean in­ter­est in Am­er­i­can mu­sic.

Kelley, though, wished to spend more time com­pos­ing, and in 1910 took a post at the West­ern Col­lege for Wo­men in Ox­ford, Ohio, where he would re­main un­til his death.

The Kelleys di­vid­ed their time be­tween the West­ern Col­lege and the Cin­cin­na­ti Con­ser­va­to­ry of Mu­sic. Ed­gar taught com­po­si­tion there, and lat­er served as dean of the De­part­ment of Com­po­si­tion and Or­ches­tra­tion. Among his pu­pils was C. Hugo Grimm, who would him­self lat­er lead the de­part­ment. Jes­sie lec­tured there as well.

The cou­ple re­tired in 1934, but con­tin­ued to tra­vel while main­tain­ing a house in Ox­ford.

Sources

Music