Jazz pianist, Menlo Park resident Kathryn Bailey dies


Longtime Menlo Park resident Kathryn Bailey, a pianist and composer with an impressive history of performances with singers such as Billie Holiday and Johnny Mathis, has died at the age of 86.

Born in Altadena, California, and raised in Bakersfield, Ms. Bailey moved to the Bay Area in the late 1940s. In 1979, she bought a home on Sharon Road in Menlo Park, where she lived until moving to a retirement community in Palo Alto a little over 10 years ago, according to her son, Don Zulaica.

She earned a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State in 1953, and took graduate-level courses in music composition at U.C. Berkeley. At San Francisco State, she wrote "La Bovine," a comic opera that was produced twice by Jules Irving, co-founder of the San Francisco Actor's Workshop.

A 36-year member of the Musicians Union-Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians, she performed frequently in the Bay Area, including with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra and the Four Freshmen, and for presidential rallies for both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

After a seven-week stint with Billie Holliday at the Fack's II nightclub in San Francisco, Ms. Bailey turned down the renowned singer's invitation to tour with her, Mr. Zulaica said.

But her own community also served as a stage for her talent, and her generosity, her son said. "When I was little, she was a 'special guest' assembly event" at Las Lomitas and La Entrada, where he attended school, Mr. Zulaica said. Also, he said, "She loved to mentor pianists in the Canada College workshop big band many years ago, and played gigs with friends for various things. Some of her favorites included playing at the Palo Alto VA (hospital, and) on the SS Jeremiah O'Brien during fleet week, as she always had a soft spot for the troops."

Ms. Bailey was married twice, and her second marriage, to pianist Al Zulaica, produced her only child. Don Zulaica caught the musician bug from his parents, taking up the drums and becoming a writer and editor for several music publications.

Ms. Bailey was a breast cancer survivor, and in lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to make memorial donations to a charity of choice related to breast cancer or dementia research, or toward music education at all levels of schooling.

No memorial service is scheduled at this time, her son said.

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