Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music



First Advisor

Scott Weiss


Ulysses S. Kay (1917–1995) was one of the most prolific African American composers in the twentieth century, with over forty orchestral works, five operas, over forty choral compositions, and seven original works for wind band. Notable conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Frederick Fennell, Thor Johnson, Zubin Mehta, and Leopold Stokowski performed his works. Kay earned several prestigious awards for his compositions in genres outside of wind band, including two Prix de Rome selections, a Guggenheim fellowship, and six honorary doctorates. Even with his numerous accolades and a compositional output totaling more than 135 works, Kay has become one of the forgotten composers of the twentieth century.

Kay composed seven original works for wind band: Evocation, Solemn Prelude, Short Suite for Band, Trigon, Forever Free, Concert Sketches, and Prologue and Parade. Both Evocation and Solemn Prelude appear to have been withdrawn and it is unknown if the composer wanted the pieces performed. Nevertheless, Kay’s wind works have been largely unknown and have received scant attention from scholars and ensembles. This document examines each of these works with emphasis on performance considerations for bands and wind band conductors.

The study commences with a biographical sketch of the composer, beginning with early musical influences and tracing his education and career until his death. Chapters 2 through 8 present an overview of one of Kay’s original wind band works, including a historical perspective of the piece, a description of the musical content of the work, and technical considerations for the performance of the piece. Chapter 9 concludes the study by summarizing the composer’s efforts in this genre. Appendices, excerpts from the works discussed in the study, along with items retrieved from the Ulysses Kay Archive at Columbia University, are included to help provide a broader context of Kay’s wind works.

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