The Kennedy Center

Hershy Kay


Hershy Kay, the American composer, orchestrator and arranger, was born in Philadelphia in 1919. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1936-1940, where his classes included composition taught by Randall Thompson. Self-taught as an orchestrator, he went to New York and had a successful career orchestrating Broadway musicals and ballets.
In 1940 his first professional project was to orchestrate several songs for Brazilian soprano Elsie Houston’s show at the Rainbow Room. When Leonard Bernstein commissioned Kay to do the orchestration for his musical comedy On the Town in 1944, Kay became one of the most sought after orchestrators on Broadway. Later collaborations with Berstein include Peter Pan (1957) and Candide (1956). Other collaborators were Marc Blitzstein, Harvey Schmidt, Cy Coleman and Andrew Lloyd Weber.
In 1954, George Balanchine commissioned Kay to compose the score for his ballet Western Symphony, a toe-tapping take on the American West. He later also wrote the score for Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, based on Sousa’s music. Kay created ballet scores for several companies: New York City Ballet; Joffrey Ballet; Royal Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet. Kay’s reconstruction of Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle for piano and orchestra, later choreographed by Balanchine as Tarantella, led to a renewed interest in Gottschalk’s music.
Hershy Kay


  • Western Paradise