Michael Gandolfi

Class of
Composer; Educator

Michael Gandolfi combines a deep understanding of classical music with an equally rich background in rock, blues, and jazz to create his stunning compositions. His distinctively contemporary music distills all of his experiences to produce works that have been performed and recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, and many more.

Gandolfi, who grew up in a musical family north of Boston and taught himself to play the guitar at age 8, turned to improvisational music and composing in his teens. He attended Berklee from 1974 until 1976 before going on to the New England Conservatory of Music to attain bachelor's and master's degrees. Some of his most famous works (“Ascending Light” for organ and orchestra, “Night Train to Perugia,” “The Nature of Light,” and “Plain Song, Fantastic Dances”) have been played widely by orchestras all over this country and the world. His “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” won a 2009 Grammy nomination.

Gandolfi has also composed work for children and young audiences. His “The Piper’s Tale” was premiered in 2005 by the Boston Musica Viva and Marimba Magic. Another work, “Gwendolyn Gets Her Wish,” was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and used in the curriculum of the Los Angeles Public Schools. He has received numerous awards, including grants from the Fromm Foundation, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Now a teacher at the New England Conservatory, Gandolfi has a clear view of what a composer should strive for. “A big part of composing is exploring what you have found that is uniquely yours,” he says. “Finding and developing your voice is the most important thing. The great composers of any age and music style all found their own angle.”