Keith grew up in Northeastern Ohio performing and conducting his compositions for symphonic band, piano, jazz orchestra and chamber ensembles. After receiving a Master of Music Composition from the University of Akron College of Music in 1988, his three-fold career focused on concert music composition, commercial music production and university teaching.
In concert music, Keith has won awards, commissions, honors, and performances. The New York Times’ chief classical music critic Antonio Tommasini hailed Keith as “a composer to watch for”. Gramophone magazine described his work, “Earth Caoine”, recorded by Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw National Philharmonic as “unapologetically emotional”. “…the work’s depth also makes the listener figuratively forget to breathe during the entire 8 minutes and 58 seconds”, claimed the magazine, The Clarinet. His violin concerto “Children on the Playground” was chosen as the Grand Prize winner of the Riverside Competition from over 500 international submissions over 11 previous years for a performance at Lincoln Center.
In commercial music Keith has won national awards for his work as both producer and composer for jingles, television music and library tracks since the 1980s. He has also produced, engineered or supplied liner notes for various classical and jazz recordings since the mid 90s and is a voting member of the Grammys.
Mr. Lay was key in helping Stephen Goldman and the Orlando Philharmonic launch the National Young Composers Challenge, now a major symphonic competition for composers aging 13 to18, and has served them as a teacher and judge each year. Recognized as a leader in education, Keith has been awarded Full Sail University’s top awards for excellence in teaching three times, and twice been awarded a United Arts of Central Florida grant, as well as a Florida Artist Fellowship, a Margaret Jory Fairbanks grant, and a certificate of appreciation from the National Recording Academy. He was key in designing Full Sail’s successful Music Composition online bachelor’s degree program where he serves as the Chair of Music Technology and teaches popular music composition. Mr. Lay is also a founding member of The Central Florida Composers Forum, launched in 2011.