Thomas Forrest Kelly (born 1943) is an American musicologist, musician, and scholar. He is the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. His most recent books include: The Role of the Scroll (2019), Capturing Music: The Story of Notation (2014), and Music Then and Now (2012).
Thomas Forrest Kelly was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. He attended Groton School, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (A. B. 1964). Two years in France on a Fulbright grant allowed him to study organ with Jean Langlais privately and at the Schola Cantorum de Paris (diplôme de virtuosité 1966), and the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM 1964). His graduate study was at Harvard University (A. M. 1970, PhD 1973).
Kelly is Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University, where he served as Chair of the Music Department from 1999 to 2004. In 2005 he was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of his teaching of undergraduates. Before coming to Harvard he taught at Oberlin Conservatory (where he was the director of the program in Historical Performance and served as acting Dean of the Conservatory); he taught at the Five College Consortium in Massachusetts (Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts), where he was the founding director of the Five College Early Music Program. From 1972 to 1979 he taught at Wellesley College. He was a Visiting Scholar at King's College, Cambridge (1976-77) and a Professeur invité at the École pratique des hautes études, Paris (1998).
Kelly is a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic, 2010. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy in Rome, and the Medieval Academy of America. He has held awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies (twice). His book The Beneventan Chant (Cambridge, 1989) was awarded the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society for the most distinguished work of musicological scholarship of 1989. He received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. Kelly also is an honorary citizen of the city of Benevento (Italy).
In addition to the performance and conducting connected with his teaching, Kelly was the Artistic Director of the Castle Hill Festival (Massachusetts, 1973-1983); the Director of the International Early Dance and Music Institute (1982-1984), and the Music Director of the Cambridge Society for Early Music (1977-1978).
Kelly has two principal areas of interest: medieval music and culture, and the performance of music of the past (often called Early Music or Historical Performance). He is a frequent lecturer and broadcaster. He has given regular series of talks for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Philharmonic, the Smithsonian Institution, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others. He has had a regular radio show, and well as many guest appearances.
Kelly has also published more than 50 scholarly articles.