Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Will G. Bottje

June 30, 1925 - January 7, 2018
Grand Rapids, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Will Gay Bottje was born June 30th, 1925 to Clifford and Ann Pratt Bottje in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduating from the East Grand Rapids High School, he studied Flute and Composition at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City with Georges Barrere and Arthur Lora earning Bachelors and Masters Degrees of Science in Music in 1946 and 1947.

He met Joyce Thompson while studying at the Juilliard and they were married in 1948. He was awarded a Fulbright Grant for a year of study in the Netherlands where he studied with the Dutch Composer, Henk Badings, and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

After returning to the US, he began studies at the Eastman School of Music toward a doctorate with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. He earned the first Doctor of Music Arts degree at Eastman in 1955.

Will’s first University position was at the University of Mississippi (‘Ole Miss’) in Oxford, MS, where he taught Music Theory and Music Composition. In 1958, he and his family moved to Carbondale, IL to join the faculty of Music at Southern Illinois University and continued teaching Theory and Composition. While at SIU, he wrote his song cycle “What is a Man” based on poetry by Walt Whitman (poem – Leaves of Grass).

In 1962, he took a second sabbatical to study electronic music in the Netherlands with Henk Badings at the University of Utrecht. He became a leader in the field of electronic music and obtained the second Moog synthesizer in the United States. He was commissioned to compose an Opera for the sesquicentennial of Illinois and the 100th Anniversary of SIU. He also wrote numerous chamber music and symphonic works. He retired from SIU in 1980 and moved to Grand Haven Michigan. He was commissioned by the West Shore Symphony to write an orchestral piece ‘Sounds of the West Shore’ depicting the changing seasons on Lake Michigan and the Lake Michigan woods.

Will is survived by his wife (Joyce) of 69 years, son Gerrit (wife Helen), son Walter (wife Sari), and daughter Marian (husband Thomas), seven grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. Will’s music lives on. A service to celebrate Will's life will be announced in June. Check back here for details. To sign Will’s guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com