Born and raised north of Chicago in Mundelein, Illinois, Billy Wolfe began playing piano at the age of 5 and saxophone at the age of 10. Billy earned a bachelor of music degree from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where he began his professional career playing with bands such as Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, the Dayton Jazz Orchestra, and the Brian Michael Smith-John Vermeulen Octet. In 2009, Billy decided to pursue a master of music degree from DePaul University. It was during this period that he first began exploring the creative possibilities of contemporary large ensemble music, an interest inspired by his studies with Tom Matta and experiences performing with several Chicago area new music groups.
After spending roughly a decade in the Washington DC metropolitan area, Billy recently returned to Columbus where he can be found freelancing with a wide array of Ohio musicians. He currently leads Billy Wolfe Octet and The Tristano School Project as well as co-leading the nine piece MW9 ensemble with Baltimore based trumpeter Leo Maxey and the New Orleans trad/funk inspired District Brass alongside David Agee. Billy is also is a member of the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, The Brad Linde Expanded Ensemble, Joe Duran's Projections, Third Rail, Will Strickler's Parallel Structures trio/quartet, and the avant-garde quartet/quintet, "Team Players".
Billy has had the pleasure of performing alongside many leading practitioners of his craft. Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Oliver Lake, Charles McPherson, Jon Irabagon, Steve Wilson, Jeff Lederer, Richie Cole, Caroline Davis, Greg Ward, Oran Etkin, Seneca Black, Marquis Hill, Jim Powell, Ryan Keberle, Tony Zilincik, Warren Wolf, Florian Weber, Cory Christiansen, Michael Formanek, Luke Stewart, Matt Ulery, Joe Chambers, Matt Wilson, and Jeff Hamilton are all musicians he has had the pleasure of creating music with. Being attracted to large scale projects, Billy has had the good fortune of having worked with several esteemed large ensemble composers. Brian Krock, Miho Hazama, Elliott Hughes, Sheryl Bailey, Frank Karlberg, Jihye Lee, Ryan Erik Adamsons, Ken Schaphorst, Nathan Parker Smith, Anna Webber and Angela Morris are some of the talented creators he's previously performed under. Billy has also had the opportunity to learn from many outstanding teachers along the way, including (but not limited to) Darcy James Argue, Gary Smulyan, Dick Oatts, Tom Matta, Michael Cox, Jay Miglia, Stan Smith, Lance Van Lenten, Lindsey Goodman and the late Mark Flugge, Mark Colby and Alan Porth.
Billy is also an educator in his own right, regularly maintaining a teaching studio the provides detailed instruction of saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe and piano. His pupils regularly earn area, district, and state recognition and have participated in the acclaimed Northern Virginia Youth Winds and the Northern Virginia Wind Academy. Moreover, several of his students having gone on to pursue professional careers by studying at fine institutions such as: Capital University, The Eastman School, Florida State University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, The Ohio State University, SUNY-Purchase, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Billy has worked as a clinician with several middle and high school ensembles as well as serving as a guest lecturer of jazz history and improvisation at institutions such as Utah State University and the University of Missouri. From 2019 to 2022 he had the pleasure of directing both the Fairfax High School (VA) Jazz Ensemble and associated Jazz Combo. Currently, Billy is a jazz combo instructor for Capital University's Conservatory of Music and leads weekly saxophone sectionals for the Pickerington High School North and Lakeview Junior High School band programs.