State Department Mission to U.S.S.R > U.S.S.R. Trip
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. The others in his group were Roy Harris, Peter Mennin, and Roger Sessions. In a letter to Kay, President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote that Kay and his fellow composers "represent us all in bringing assurance to the people you meet that the United States is a friendly nation and one dedicated to the search for world peace and to the promotion of the well-being and security of the community of nations."
During the month-long trip, Kay kept a diary of daily events, as the group visited Moscow, Leningrad, Tbilis, and Kiev, as listed here in his general diary, kept from 1949-1990. Their time was taken up with meeting Soviet composers, listening to their works, attending schools, sight-seeing, and being "wined and dined."
Kay, realizing that there was great interest in jazz among Russian composers, brought with him recordings of the music of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, and Johnny Richards, among others. After one jazz discussion session, a young classical composer began playing "A-Train" on the piano. When Kay asked him where he had learned it, he replied, "Oh, we hear a lot of good jazz -- two hours a day on the Voice of America!"
On October 15th, the Moscow State Radio Orchestra presented a sold-out concert of music by the visiting American composers in Tchaikovsky Hall. On the program were Peter Mennin's "Sixth Symphony," Roy Harris's "Fifth Symphony," Roger Session's Suite from "Black Maskers," and Kay's "Of New Horizons." Roy Harris conducted his own work, but the rest of the program was conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, then a young conductor of the Bolshoi Theater.
Upon his return, Hi-Fi Review published Kay's account of the trip entitled "Thirty Days in Musical Russia."