The music of Janika Vandervelde grows out of a vigorous dialogue between instinct and form. Her subtle, assymetrical weave of pitches and rhythms has been described by musicologist Susan McClary (MacArthur Foundation fellow and author of Feminine Endings) as "endlessly fascinating — almost like facets of a crystal that seem to change with each turn . . . ordered, yet timeless." Her 'Genesis' series of compositions — seven works written between 1982 and 1989 for a range of small ensembles — is an extended exploration of life cycles and cycles of change, rooted in the contrapuntal flow of expanding palindromes and clockworks. The architecture of these acclaimed pieces derives from an early interest in the T’ai-chi diagram, which provided the composer with an alternative to western, linear compositional models. In the past decade, Ms. Vandervelde’s music has become more eclectic and elastic, integrating a more open, spontaneous, multi-dimensional sound-world into her earlier preoccupation with process, architecture, and purity of language.
A native of Wisconsin, Ms. Vandervelde has written more than 90 works for orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, soloists, and the stage, including the operas Hildegard (1989) and Seven Sevens (1993). She has twice been a Bush Artist Fellow and a McKnight Foundation Composer Fellow, has been honored with the Boulanger Award of the Women’s Philharmonic in San Francisco, and has received grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, ASCAP, and the American Composers Forum. She has been commissioned by such organizations as The Minnesota Orchestra, The Guthrie Theater, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Women’s Philharmonic, the Minnesota Chorale, the Dale Warland Singers, Chanticleer, the Oregon Repertory Singers, and Zeitgeist. She has been profiled in the New Grove Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.) and the International Who's Who of Classical Musicians.
During the period 1999-2002, Ms. Vandervelde served as Composer-in-Residence for three Twin Cities organizations — the Minnesota Chorale, the Minnesota Center for Arts Education, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom — under a New Residencies grant from New York City-based Meet the Composer, Inc. In this capacity, she acted as a musical ambassador to the wider community, offering presentations in neighborhood venues, pre-concert talks, and school residencies, organizing reading sessions, coaching local performers, and teaching classes for student composers and other young artists.
Since completing her three-year New Residencies grant, Ms. Vandervelde has worked on a steady stream of choral commissions for groups at all levels, from professionals to children. In 2006, she designed a composition curriculum using music technology—Music By Kids For Kids—available from the American Composers Forum. She currently serves on the faculty of the Perpich Center for Arts Education—a state-wide, innovative arts high school with a cutting-edge, composition-based music program.