Ulysses Kay: Twentieth Century Composer

Prix de Rome and Other Honors > Prix de Rome


Many honors and scholarships followed, including a Fulbright Scholarship, grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship. From 1946 to 1952, Kay received two "Prix de Rome" awards that allowed him to travel and study in Italy. The first African-American to receive the prize, it gave him residence in the American Academy in Rome.

For his second "Prix de Rome" in 1949, he took along his new bride, Barbara Harrison of Chicago, whom he had married on August 20, 1949. Compositions from this period include: a piano quintet, a string quartet, a brass quartet, "Sinfonia in E" for orchestra, and "Song of Ahab," a cantata for baritone and ten instruments.





The Academy was created in 1894 by Charles Follen McKim and financed by J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and William Vanderbilt, as a "place for select U.S. scholars and artists to gather in Rome to commune, exchange ideas, think, create and generally be exposed to the great cultural repository that is Rome and its history-steeped surrounding countryside."



While in Italy, they traveled outside Rome to Perugia, Naples, Genoa, Torino, Florence, Arezzo, and Assisi pursuing Kay's interest in liturgical music. He was to memorialize his love of Italy in a later composition, "Umbrian Scene," commissioned by the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony in 1963.


Kay's "Partita in A" received its premier at the American Academy in Rome on April 15, 1952, with Vittorio Emanuele, violin and Renato Josi, piano.


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