Since 1986, working and collaborating and performing with Gloria and Emilio Estefan has brought Producer/Keyboardist Clay Ostwald much success and recognition. From his Grammy Award Winning Productions and Nominations to the many multiple Platinum Albums and hit records produced with Emilio Estefan & Jorge Casas, Clay’s career sparkles with achievements and accomplishments. Ostwald spent the last 5 years working on the Broadway musical “On Your Feet” in New York City. He performed with the on-stage orchestra, and the show features 3 of his compositions as well as his orchestrations and arrangements. For the Broadway run, Clay was the Associate Conductor/MD, and took over the reigns as Conductor/MD for the US Tour and the London West End run in the summer of 2019.
Growing up in a musical family, Ostwald has always been immersed in music. After playing many instruments in his youth, he began to focus his attention on piano in his teens, enrolling in the renowned music school at the University of Miami. Upon graduating in 1983 with a Music degree in Studio Music & Jazz, Ostwald won the “Boulder Beer National Jazz Competition”, where McCoy Tyner was one of the judges, and continued to develop his career in Miami, performing locally with “The Company” from 1981-1986 in Miami area. The band also included Jorge Casas, Jon Secada, Joy Francis, Ed Calle, John DeFaria and Robert Rodriguez (all of whom eventually worked with Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, along with John Lovell (musical director for Jimmy Buffet), and drummer Jack Ciano.
In October of 1986, Clay met Gloria & Emilio Estefan while performing with “The Company” and was hired along with Jorge Casas and John DeFaria in December. Saxophonist Ed Calle had already been working with the band, and Robert Rodriguez joined the band on drums to complete the rhythm section. After a few months, Clay and Jorge were asked by Gloria & Emilio to do an arrangement of “Anything For You” for the “Let It Loose” album. “Anything For You” went on to become the band’s first #1 song. They were then asked to re-arrange and record “1,2,3” for release, and it rose to #5 on the pop charts with the help of a very popular video. The “Let It Loose” album was then re-packaged and re-released in Europe as “Anything For You” and, along with “Homecoming Concert” video release, brought the band’s tremendous popularity in Europe. Ostwald and Casas were then hired to produce the “Cuts Both Ways” Album which became Gloria and the band’s best selling album to date, and had the #1 hit single “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “Get on Your Feet” and “Oye Canto”, both co-written by Ostwald, Casas and Gloria. “Cuts Both Ways” not only established Casas and Ostwald as a solid Production and Songwriting team, but it also marked the beginning of Jon Secada’s work with the group as a background vocalist. During the final stages of the album, legendary Producer Phil Ramone also worked with Casas and Ostwald for the first time. Clay & Jorge credit Mr. Ramone with a great deal of inspiration as a Producer, and remained friends and colleagues until his passing in 2013.
In September of 1989, the “Get On Your Feet” tour began, but was cut short when Gloria’s bus was demolished in an accident and needed surgery to repair fractured vertebrae in her back. Although her recovery would take a full year, writing and arranging for a new album had begun by June of 1990. As soon as August, Gloria was able to return to the studio, and her first album as a ‘solo’ artist began to take shape. The first single, “Coming Out Of The Dark”, released in January of 1991, rose to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts, and the “Into The Light” World tour with Miami Sound Machine kicked off in March with a hometown concert.
After working for months on new material for Jon Secada, his debut album is released in 1992. Produced by Emilio, Jorge and Clay, the album’s first single “Just Another Day” rose to #5 in the fall and the album won Secada his first Grammy Award in February of 1993 for “Best Spanish Album” and a nomination for “Best New Artist”.
In the summer of 1992, Gloria Estefan’s Greatest Hits Album was released featuring four new tracks. He also performed with Gloria Estefan and the New World Symphony Orchestra directed by Micheal Tilson Thomas, and with Gloria Estefan, Paul Simon & Whoopi Goldberg as part of a Hurricane Relief Concert in Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium.
1993 brought Gloria’s first Grammy award winning ablum, “Mi Tierra”, produced by Emilio Estefan, Clay Ostwald and Jorge Casas featuring original music done in the spirit of the authentic Afto-Cuban tradition. The international appeal and critical acclaim that this album acheived in an industry of labels and stereotypes was unsurpassed.
In 1997, Gloria released her CD “Destiny”, which included “You’ll Be Mine (Party Time)”, co-written and co-produced by Clay. The song went on to be hit single with a very successful video. In 1999, Clay appeared Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder and Miami Sound Machine in the Super Bowl half-time show. In between occasional work and some smaller world tours in 2004 and 2007, Clay partnered with Dorian Reyes to build Red Rock Studios in Miami, which he made his home base for the next 15 years.
Gloria and Emilio embarked upon creating a Broadway show about their lives, titled “On Your Feet”, and asked Clay to be involved in overseeing the musical process as Associate Musical Director from the outset. He moved to New York City in 2015 to facilitate the work, and the show had a very successful run from 2015-2017. Then, in 2017-2019, he took the helm as Musical Director & Conductor for the US Tour of the show, and wrapped up his work on the show as Musical Supervisor, Director and Conductor for the London UK West End run in 2019.
Throughout his career with the Estefans, Clay has had the opportunity to produce and record with many wonderful artists. His work as a Musical Director, Producer, Performer and Songwriter is well-documented, but his attitude remains fresh and ambitious. “I’m very proud of my accomplishments, but it’s true that you’re only as good as your latest work, and I know that I have plenty of great musical experiences ahead of me.” Clay now resides in New York City.