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Susan Kelly


Sue Kelly attended University of California at Santa Barbara as a Music Ed major. That lasted one semester, then she switched to Applied Cello and never looked back. There were no well-known cello teachers at UCSB but she made up for it by attending summer studies at L’Ecole Americain for Music, Art and Architecture at the Palais de Fontainebleu, France, with French cellist Maurice Gendron and theory with Nadia Boulanger. Another year was Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA with Gabor Rejto, cellist extraordinaire, who also became her teacher at the University of Southern California for post-graduate work.

After college, and meeting her soon-to-be-husband, she joined United Air Lines as a flight attendant so she could fly to see him in Pittsburgh and fulfill the dream she had always had of “flying." After 2 years, based in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, she quit, and they were married in LA. She then worked in an investment firm, but soon started the stay-at-home-mom years with her (eventually) 3 kids.

A work-related appointment for her husband brought the family to DC for a year and they ended up staying. The children now live in LA, FL and VA with their own families. All three studied music, but only one is a practicing musician.They collectively have 5 children which are into all manner of sports and music.

Before and after college, Sue played in her conductor- father’s orchestra in the LA area, and summers in the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Conductor Workshops in Monterey CA. She didn’t start earning money from playing until husband and kids moved to DC where she began playing shows – Kennedy Center,  National Theatre, Baltimore theatres, Wolf Trap, and even a European tour with Westside Story –also symphony, ballet, opera and chamber music. During her 20 years with Fairfax Symphony she and a partner also presented musical puppet [Puppetell] children’s stories for all manner of audiences, with and without orchestra.  She constructed large puppets, her partner composed/arranged the music, and they both worked the puppets within a tent-like stage they built.

She worked as cellist, assistant orchestra contractor and librarian for many years for the Wolf Trap Orchestra, for opera, shows, and occasionally ballet. It was the same story for the annual DC TV show, Christmas in Washington, which played the week following the Kennedy Center Honors until its demise in 2014. Several other musical organizations in the DC-Baltimore area have been home for her services: Concert Artists of Baltimore, Post-Classical Ensemble, Alexandria Symphony. Her managerial skills were even put to use one year at University of Maryland School of Music as interim Director of Orchestral Studies. 

When the opportunity opened up in 2003 at the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra for  music librarian on a part-time basis she took it. Since the musicians in the orchestra had been colleagues and friends for many years it was a natural fit to work with them in a place and a field which were very enjoyable ---while still allowing outside playing and contracting. 

The job with the KCOHO is sometimes very demanding, requiring a high degree of organization, commitment and patience, often full-time, but it is well worth it to work for and with such wonderful musicians.