7 January 1917
Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, United States
20 May 1995 (aged 78)
Ulysses Simpson Kay (January 7, 1917, Tucson, Arizona–May 20, 1995, Englewood, New Jersey) was an African-American composer. His music is mostly neoclassical in style.
Ulysses Kay, the nephew of the classic jazz musician King Oliver, studied piano, violin and saxophone. Kay attended the University of Arizona where he was encouraged by the African-American composer William Grant Still. He went for graduate work to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and there worked under Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers.
Ulysses Kay met the eminent neoclassical composer Paul Hindemith in the summer of 1941 at the Berkshire Music Center and followed Hindemith to Yale for a formative year of study from 1941 to 1942.
After a stint as a musician in the Navy during the World War II, Ulysses Kay studied at Columbia University under Otto Luening with the assistance of a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. In addition to this prize, Kay received a series of five other significant awards in the year following his discharge from the Navy including the Alice M. Ditson Fellowship, a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award from the American Composers and American Broadcasting Company, a $500 award from the third annual George Gershwin Memorial Contest for "A Short Overture," and a $700 award from the American Composers Alliance for his "Suite for Orchestra."
Following this successful period, he lived and studied further in Rome from 1949 to 1953 thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, the Prix de Rome and a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship.
Kay worked for Broadcast Music, Inc., a performing arts organization, from 1953 to 1968. In 1968 he was appointed distinguished professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York. After two decades teaching there, he retired.
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