Meet a Musician: Mark Kelley

Meet a Musician: Mark Kelley

Member since: 1982
Position: Co-Principal Bassoon, currently Acting Principal Bassoon
Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
Education: University of Nebraska

I knew I’d make a career in music when:  
I knew I would not be big enough to play in the NFL.

How did you choose your instrument?
Just like the actor Rainn Wilson, I was told that you could pick up girls in school by playing the bassoon. And it worked! I met a cute girl in college who also happened to play the bassoon, and I have been married to Cheryl for almost 40 years.

If I weren’t a professional musician I’d be:
A billionaire tech inventor (just ask the rest of the bassoon section about my tech skills).

What has influenced you most?
My faith has influenced me through my playing career. I know that there is a reason why I am playing in a great orchestra.

What is one of your proudest moments as a musician?
That I am a member of a great bassoon section.

Minnesota Orchestra's Current Bassoon Section (Norbert Nielubowski, Mark Kelley and J. Christopher Marshall)

How do you explain the bassoon to someone who has never heard of it before?
Picture a large, tall bed post. And when you are watching a funny spot in a movie, the bassoon is usually playing! They call us the clown of the orchestra.

If you could play a different instrument in the orchestra, which would you choose and why?  
Viola! Because the viola section seems to have the most fun in the orchestra, and it is a very easy instrument to play (just kidding).

Which solo or moment in the bassoon’s orchestral repertoire is your favorite?
The Berceuse from Stravinsky’s Firebird suite.

What is your most memorable performance with the Orchestra? 
Most recently, our performances and master class in Cuba. Also, playing at the Musikverein in Vienna and at the Proms in London.

What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Sir Neville Marriner, the music director who hired you in 1982?
Mr. Marriner was a kind and gentle soul who I very much enjoyed making music with. He always had a smile on his face, and helped bring the Orchestra up to another level in the world of classical music.

When you’re not performing or practicing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with our family and seven grandchildren. Also boating, traveling, gardening, drinking coffee and painting, especially landscapes. Lately, I’ve been listening to Adele.


Bassoonist Mark Kelley, his wife Cheryl (also a bassoonist!), and their seven grandchildren (Photo courtesy of Mark Kelley)

Do you have any thoughts for audience members?
We appreciate each and every one of you, more than you know.

To read more about Mark Kelley, visit

Minnesota Orchestra Staff