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Composing a Career

—By Kim Mizar

Jay Wadley

From critically acclaimed documentaries to Super Bowl commercials, New York-based composer Jay Wadley (BM ’05) has created scores heard by millions. Upon graduation from OCU, Wadley attended the Yale School of Music and graduated with his MM and Artist Diploma.

He has won two Charles Ives awards from the Academy of Arts and Letters as well as an ASCAP/SCI Student Composer Award for his concert music. He’s been commissioned by Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW, the Yale Band, Williams College and the Nouveau Classical Project and invited as a guest lecturer on composition at Yale, The Peabody institute, NYU, OCU, and Kennesaw State University. His arrangements and orchestrations for Rufus Wainwright, Mark Ronson, and Calexico have been performed by the San Francisco Symphony, New York City Opera, the Royal Ballet, and the Louisville Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Put in the work, put in the effort, develop relationships, and do good work.


“Jay Wadley entered OCU overflowing with talent,” said Dr. Edward Knight, professor of music/composer in residence at OCU. “He began as a double major in Music Theater and Composition, so he could sing, dance, act, play numerous instruments, and compose. He represents the quintessential composer at OCU, one who can do it all.”

Jay is a former president of Project 21: Music of the 21st Century, which Knight founded in 1997. The group was and still is committed to bringing original musical works to life as they strive to gain insight into the working knowledge of music. “They each draw from their cultural and musical backgrounds to enrich the program,” said Knight. “Project 21 composers learn through experience, developing compositional techniques that allow them to express their authentic selves.”

Wadley’s time at OCU was his introduction into the world of composition. “Studying under Dr. Knight was an incredible experience. He was instrumental in my success; he laid the groundwork that helped me to develop my voice as a composer,” said Wadley.

Wadley’s first professional score was for the television program “Lie To Me” on Fox as the additional composer, where he learned the fast-paced schedule of television.

He founded his company, Found Objects, with Trevor Gureckis. They have eight full-time staff and 15 to 20 advertising projects going at any given time and have recently moved into a 4,300-square-foot studio in Brooklyn. Wadley’s experience working with composer Philip Glass greatly influenced his business style.

“Through Philip, I learned about scoring for advertising. I restructured my company to reflect Philip’s infrastructure, making a living doing ad work while also developing contacts and moving into films,” he said.

Wadley’s first film score, James Schamus’ “Indignation,” premiered at Sundance in 2016 to rave reviews, opening new doors and affording him new opportunities. He credits much of his success to his time at OCU and the professors who prepared him.

“To have a professor who cares as much as Ed does about his students’ success is incredible. I owe so much to Ed. He instilled a work ethic in me as a young composer. I was given the foundation that allows me to compete in a very competitive industry,” he said.

Wadley’s upcoming releases include Charles Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” an untitled documentary series from Roger Ross Williams (“Life Animated,” “Apollo”), and the Sundance NEXT Audience and Innovation award-winning “I Carry You With Me,” directed by Heidi Ewing (“Jesus Camp,” “Detropia”).

“Being contacted by Charles Kaufman was the most exciting and most terrifying phone call of my life, but this project allows me to incorporate skills I’ve been able to acquire over the years,” he said.

Wadley has received awards and accolades for his work, including his score for James Schamus’ “Indignation” (Lionsgate), which was featured in Indie Wire’s “10 Best Scores of 2016” and received a Billboard premiere and a concert performance by the Winnipeg Symphony for “Soundtracks Live.” His recent projects include “Tales of the City” (Netflix/Universal) starring Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, and Ellen Page; Emmy-nominated “Raised in the System”; “VICE” season 6 premier (HBO), Rhys Ernst’s (“Transparent”) directorial debut “Adam”; Andrew Ahn’s (“Spa Night”) “The OA” (Netflix/Plan-B); Anu Valia’s Sundance-winning short “Lucia, Before & After”; and Jacob La Mendola’s Emmy-nominated “Long Shot” (Netflix). His films have played at Sundance, Telluride, SXSW, Berlin, Rotterdam, Tribeca, BFI London, LA Film Festival, Montreal, and others.

“My advice to future composers is that there’s not one path or one way,” he said. “Put in the work, put in the effort, develop relationships, and do good work; things will happen.”

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