Ulysses Kay: Twentieth Century Composer

Biography and Kay Family > Diaries

Ulysses Kay's music composition diary shown here, kept from 1949 to 1990, gives a wealth of details about his work as a composer, including premier performances, recordings made, and his very extensive travels for speaking engagements.

In 1958, Kay was a member of the first delegation of composers sent to the Soviet Union, a part of the U.S. State Department’s Cultural, Educational and Technical Exchange Agreement. As Kay recorded here, the group visited Moscow, Leningrad, Tbilis, and Kiev. Their time was taken up with meeting Soviet composers, listening to their works, attending schools, sight-seeing, and being "wined and dined."


In his entries for 1967 and 1968, at the bottom of the two pages shown here, Kay noted the teaching offers that he had received from nine colleges and universities, including U.C.L.A. and Hunter College in the Bronx (Herbert H. Lehman College). He would accept Lehman College's offer later in 1968.

At the bottom of the right-hand page he noted the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King on 4/4/68.


In these two pages, Kay kept track of the progress of "Jubliee," his first three-act opera, based on a novel by Margaret Walker, with a libretto by Donald Dorr. It was premiered by Opera/South on November 19, 1977, Paul Freeman conducting.


In this notebook, Kay kept track of the progress made on his last major work, the three-act opera "Frederick Douglass," also with a libretto by Donald Dorr. It was premiered by the New Jersey State Opera on April 14, 1991, with Kevin Maynor in the role of Frederick Douglass, and Alfredo Silipigni conducting.


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