Ulysses Kay was the nephew of jazz trumpeter Joe “King” Oliver. Ulysses played jazz saxophone as a boy and later turned to piano, violin and composing. He served as musician during World War II, playing saxophone, piano, flute and piccolo in the US Navy Band.
While studying at the University of Arizona, Kay was encouraged by William Grant Still. He also studied with Paul Hindemith at Yale University. He composed symphonic and choral works, film and television scores, and music for chamber ensemble.
Kay was s distinguished professor music at Lehman College of the City University of New York for twenty years – 1968-1988.