He attended the Pine Cobble School (?—1945), Williston Academy (Class of 1948), Hobart College (1948/49), the New England Conservatory (Class of 1954) where he studied with Francis Cooke. Further studies were with Darius Milhaud and Leon Kirchner at Mills College where he earned the degree of Master of Arts (1961), and with Roger Sessions. Edward Cone and Milton Babbitt at Princeton University (1958/59).
In 1963-64 he worked in the Electronic Music Studio in Milan as guest of The Italian Government. His compositions include solo, chamber, and orchestral music as well as music for tape alone and tape with instruments. His ballet “Beyond the Ghost Spectrum”, with choreography by James Waring commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation, was performed at Tanglewood in August, 1969, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. His opera” Automobile Graveyard”, after a play by Fernando Arrabal, was presented at the New England Conservatory in 1995.
He received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ditson Fund, the Manon Jarrof dancers, the Massachusetts Arts Council, the Fromm Music Foundation, and others. In 1995 he was a recipient of an outstanding alumni award from the New England Conservatory. His music has been performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe and China. Robert Ceely taught at the Naval School of Music, The Lawrenceville School, Robert College in Istanbul, Emmanuel College, and for thirty-eight years at the New England Conservatory where he established and directed the Electronic Music Studio and taught composition. In 2003 he retired from teaching to devote all his time and energy to composition.
Robert Ceely died in the evening of January 28, 2015 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Brighton MA. He had been admitted earlier the same day, and even though he suffered from congestive heart disease, his death from a catastrophic cardiac arrest was unexpected.
A service of remembrance was held February 6, 2015 at the Lucy Stone Chapel, Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston MA, followed by cremation and interment of his ashes at Forest Hills. Speakers at the service remembered Robert Ceely as a family member, a fellow student, a friend, a teacher, and a musician. He is survived by his wife, Jonatha K. Ceely, his brother, John Paige, nieces and nephews, and by his many students.
Further information on the life and music of Robert Ceely is available at the website http://www.ceelymusic.com/.