The New York Times‘ head critic Anthony Tommasini raved about Keith Lay as “a composer to watch for,” and Gramophone magazine has described his music as “unapologetically emotional.” Lay explains, “My life’s goal is to share my reverent wonder about sound and the connections to our nature made available through listening. Every new piece is a joyful opportunity to construct a fresh musical method, technique, or invention.”
Lay (b. 1958) benefited from northern Ohio’s public school band and jazz programs on saxophone. His growth as a composer did not emerge from performance but from listening to LP cut-outs of contemporary classical music and big-band jazz that showed up in his small-town five and dime. Experiencing the power of music by Ives, Stravinsky, Copland, Debussy, Stan Kenton, and Miles Davis inspired him to create it.
By age 18, Lay had completed works for wind ensemble, big band, choir, piano, and various small ensembles. Over the next 10 years, he acquired a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Theory and Composition from the University of Akron College of Music under David S. Bernstein while developing a career in commercial music, eventually becoming a full-time producer using the Synclavier digital music system: the most advanced music technology of that era. That prompted Full Sail University to invite him to join its faculty and move to Orlando in 1990.
Recognitions include winning the International Riverside Symphony Competitions, The American Prize, performances and guest appearances across the United States and Europe, National Gold Tellys, Silver Reels, and three Top Gun awards for education excellence. Meanwhile, Lay earned a second Master’s degree in Education Design from Full Sail, a certificate in Deep Listening® from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with composer Pauline Oliveros, and co-founded the National Young Composers Challenge with Central Florida composers Steve Goldman and Stella Sung.
Lay continues working toward his goal. Current projects include what he calls “Distance Music:” an outdoor concert form of location-based minimalism exploiting the natural time delays between radio-controlled train horns and musician groups — each geometrically located over tens of acres. He is also researching the musical connections to the autonomic nervous system with area neuroscientists and psychologists.