Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway
I recently had the honor of interviewing Jay Chattaway, a longtime music composer for Star Trek from 1990 to 2005.
WarpFactorTrek: When did you know your path was that of music composition?
Jay Chattaway: I started writing in sixth grade and I guess I realized I had a special gift.
What’s the funniest story you feel comfortable sharing about your journey in music?
My first professional job was writing for Harold Betters and the Pittsburgh Steelers band. I drove off to the rehearsal with the music on top of my car! I got to the studio with no music. A friend found the music and drove to the studio.
What’s your earliest memory of Star Trek, and how did you end up composing for it?
The original series was on TV when I was a college student. My agent submitted a tape of my music to the Star Trek producers and they must have liked it as I continued for fifteen years!
Which of your compositions has the most meaning to you and why?
“The Inner Light”. The theme came to me instantly and it has lived on and has become quite popular.
How did the composition of “The Inner Light” take shape?
I read the script and was instantly inspired by the story. I wrote the theme in a very short time. I later developed it into an orchestral suite which i conducted with the London Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall. My wife, Terri Potts, a co-producer on Deep Space Nine, is finishing my biography — “Journey to the Inner Light”.
In addition to working on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, you also worked on Star Trek: Voyager, composing both the pilot episode (“Caretaker”) and series finale (“Endgame”) for that show. Of those two episodes, what was the more challenging task and why?
The “Caretaker” episode was the most challenging. It was the first of a new series. There was now a network UPN being established and Voyager was the flagship series. All new characters and the fact the show was designed to be much more action driven. Lots of changes during the production of this long episode, which shortened the time to compose and record a lot of music. I was honored to be chosen to compose the pilot. Also, my first assignment was to compose a lot of banjo music for the Caretaker prior to shooting the episode.
Outside Star Trek, what piece have you composed that you feel your fans should listen to?
“Sailabration”. I am an avid sailor and I composed this piece for wind symphony using parts of ships as percussion instruments.
What do you think of fans performing your music?
I love to have fans playing my music, especially young people. I have over 200 published compositions available for educational purposes.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming musicians or conductors?
Discipline! There is no easy path to success in this very competitive field. Practice all the time!
Who is your favourite composer or the composer whose work you most admire?
Which instrument is your favourite and why?
The French horn. It has a very large range and can sound heroic as well as mellow. I used six horns in Star Trek.
Would you ever consider composing for a fictional instrument like the Vulcan Lyre if a working one was available?
I have tried to imagine what those instruments might sound like and I have attempted to create Vulcan and other Star Trek Instruments electronically. It would be great if they did actually exist.
What’s your opinion of Star Trek nowadays? If they invited you back to work on Star Trek, would you accept the invite?
I am glad they are keeping the franchise alive. I might consider a guest role composing.
Thanks for this interview.
Thank you for your interest in my music!
A Canadian musician and artist specializing in working with special/exceptional needs students, Eve Zellick plays multiple instruments, composes, and arranges music transcriptions through an online publishing house – including the amazing music of the Star Trek Universe. Eve loves cosplay and has been a fan of Star Trek since her early teens, watching episodes in syndication while completing homeschool and university studies. A crush on a certain Ensign inspired her to pick up clarinet. Eve’s favourite characters include Lwaxana Troi, Elim Garak, and Phillipa Georgiou, her favourite soundtrack is TNG’s “The Inner Light”, and her favourite series are DS9 and Lower Decks. Eve’s other hobbies include Legend of Zelda games, exploring the outdoors with her dog Mushu, and finding herself in random situations and adventures.