Born in 1925 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Will Gay Bottje (1925-2018) was a graduate of the Juilliard School (Bachelor of Music in flute performance and Master of Music in composition) where he studied composition with Vittorio Giannini. He went on to pursue studies at the Eastman School of Music where he was a pupil of Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. From Eastman he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition, the second such degree to be awarded to a student from any institution. He also studied composition privately with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and was a pupil of Henk Badings at the University of Utrecht's electronic music studio.
From 1957–1981 Bottje taught on the music faculty at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. There he founded and directed SIU's electronic music studio.