Two and one-half linear feet of papers, 1889-1995, letters, concert programs, playbills, legal documents, photographs, and news clippings, document the career of musician Kay Holley (1917-1994), who once described herself as being born clutching a piano instead of a silver spoon.
Born in Aiken, S.C., as Sarah Catherine Entzminger, the young prodigy began studying piano at the age of three and gave public concerts at the age of four. Between the ages of four and eight she was a student of Henry Bellamann in Columbia, S.C. She won a scholarship to the Julliard Fellowship School, where she studied until she was sixteen and eventually began her career as a free-lance vocal accompanist, working with such performers as Estelle Liebling. Some time after her move to New York she adopted for professional reasons the name “Kay Holley,” which was created from a combination of her own middle name and her mother’s maiden name. At the age of twenty-seven she was appointed Director of the Radio City Music Hall Glee Club, where she stayed for seven years. She then found employ¬ment as a freelance conductor, vocal accompanist, vocal coach, arranger, and choral director, and concertized in New York and throughout the country until 1960.
During her career she coached or accompanied such celebrities as Edie Adams, Ernie Kovacks, Maxine Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, Robert Weede, Eileen Farrell, Robert Merrill, Eleanor Steber, and Beverly Sills.
Miss Holley moved to Columbia, S.C., in 1960 and joined the advertising firm of Bradley, Graham, and Hamby, where she worked as a copywriter for radio and television. She also served as an accompanist, choreographer, and music director for Workshop Theatre; accompanist for the Town Theatre; and associate director for Lyric Theatre. She appeared on numerous radio programs and on educational television. Known especially for her ability to transpose on sight and to read orchestral scores with ease, Holley was often sought out as a vocal coach but did not want to be confused with a singing teacher. Rather she worked on style, languages, and stage presence and put together programs for both concert artists and entertainers in the popular field. She coached numerous beauty pageant contestants, notably Kimberly Aiken (Miss South Carolina, 1993, and Miss America, 1994).
Newspaper clippings provide an interesting picture of the musical life in Columbia, 1960-ca. 1990, and provide a record from her first childhood performances until the end of her career. The collection of photographs dates from 1889 to 1994 and includes signed photographs of Alexander Smallens, Erno Rapee, Wilhelm Bachaus, Bert Parks, Eileen Farrell, Edie Adams, Ernie Kovacks, Kimberly Aiken, and Donald Russell. There are cards and letters signed by Strom Thurmond, John West, Robert McNair, and Max Liebman. Included in the collection are drafts of original songs and audio cassettes of Miss Holley performing.