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University Community Mourns Passing of Dr. J.D. Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Music


Dr. J. D. Kelly, 1932-2021

JONESBORO – The Arkansas State University community expresses sympathy to the family, former colleagues, and friends of Dr. J. D. Kelly, emeritus professor of music, who died Thursday night.

Kelly served on the A-State faculty for 23 years, from 1975 until his retirement in 1998.  He remained highly active in piano performance instruction and guidance for countless young people in the Northeast Arkansas region.

Recognized for his lifetime of achievement, he recently was honored by induction into the Steinway Educator Hall of Fame in New York.

Kelly was a Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow and past president of the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association, and was active nationally as a sought-after adjudicator for piano competitions and festivals.

With his generous support, the university in 2015 acquired a Steinway D nine-foot grand piano for use in Fowler Center’s Riceland Hall.

For many years the Department of Music has hosted in his honor an annual competition, the J. D. Kelly Competition for Piano and Strings. Just last month, this competition brought 47 young musicians to campus for two days of beautiful music-making, including master classes with Dr. Kelly.

Visitation will be 1-2 p.m. followed by the funeral service at 2 p.m., Monday, Dec. 20, at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro.

Arkansas State University will light the clock tower of the Dean B. Ellis Library scarlet Monday evening in recognition of Dr. Kelly's contributions to music education and A-State.

His complete obituary is online.

Those wishing to leave a lasting tribute may send a donation to the Arkansas State University System Foundation, P.O. Box 1990, State University, AR 72467, with the gift designated for the Dr. J. D. Kelly Piano Scholarship Endowment. One may also make a memorial gift online.

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