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 his own quartet. He then returned to Chicago and in 2011 obtained his 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.
Billy is currently based out of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area where he leads the Billy Wolfe Octet, Composers’ Tetradectet, and the Tristano School project. He co-leads the nine piece MW9 ensemble with Baltimore based trumpeter, Leo Maxey and is also is a member of the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, the Brad Linde Expanded Ensemble, The District Brass, Ishmael Ali Zghoul's "Zebec" 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, Jon Irabagon, Steve Wilson, Richie Cole, Caroline Davis, Oran Etkin, Seneca Black, Marquis Hill, Jim Powell, Ryan Keberle, Warren Wolf, Florian Weber, Cory Christiansen, Michael Formanek, Luke Stewart, Matt Ulery, 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. Miho Hazama, Elliot Hughes, Frank Karlberg, 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, Mark Colby, Tom Matta, Michael Cox, Jay Miglia, Stan Smith, and the late Mark Flugge and Alan Porth.
Billy is also an educator in his own right, specializing in instruction of saxophone, clarinet, flute, and oboe. His students regularly earn area, district, and state recognition with some of his pupils having gone on to pursue professional careers by studying at institutions such as: Capital University, The Eastman School, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, The Ohio State University, SUNY-Purchase, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, 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 Utah State University and the University of Missouri.