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Jack Van Zandt Biography

Jack Van Zandt (b. 1954, Honolulu) is a Los Angeles and Ireland-based composer of music for concerts, public spaces, gallery installations, television, film, and advertising. He studied composition at Cambridge University with Alexander Goehr; the Dartington Summer School of Music with Peter Maxwell Davies; and at University of California Santa Barbara with Thea Musgrave, Peter Racine Fricker, and electronic music with Emma Lou Diemer. He was Alexander Goehr’s teaching, personal and musical assistant from 1978-1984. He has composed more than 300 works. His concert music has been performed in the USA, Canada, Asia and Europe, and his commercial music is regularly heard on broadcast, internet, and cable TV. He has scored documentary and silent films, and his electronic music has been used for installations, multimedia presentations, TV, and meditation videos and workshops. He is a co-Grammy winner in the Best Classical Compendium category for his piece “Sí an Bhrú” for solo piano and electronics on pianist Nadia Shpachenko’s CD “Poetry of Places.” 


Van Zandt is also a writer, publisher, teacher, music education program designer, concert producer, and frequent university guest lecturer on various musical subjects.  He is a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Composers Forum, of which he was president 2014-17, and was Visiting Artist at Cal Arts in 2017. He was a member of the Thea Musgrave International 90th Birthday Celebration Committee (2019), and travelled to various universities and other venues presenting live conversations with Thea Musgrave about her life and work and their friendship. He is currently on the music faculty of the Visual and Performing Arts department at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, teaching virtually from his studio in Los Angeles while Covid sheltering.

His concert music has recently been performed at Symphony Space, Barge Music and Queen’s College in New York; the San Francisco Center for Contemporary Music; Orgelpark, Amsterdam; new music festivals in Krakow, Philadelphia, Seattle and Montreal; Birmingham University UK; The Florida Toy Piano Festival; Wende Museum Music Series Los Angeles; Hear Now Festivals in Los Angeles and Paris; Unsung Festival Los Angeles; Pianospheres LA; Boston Court Pasadena; Tuesdays @ Monk Space Series LA; People Inside Electronics LA; Ussachevsky Festival at Pomoina College; Cal Arts; Universities of California at San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Riverside; California State Universities at Los Angeles, Fullerton, San Bernardino, and Cal Poly Pomona; Bridges Hall and Drinkwater Hall, Claremont, California;  Salmon Hall, Chapman University, Orange, California; and many other North American theaters, colleges and universities. 


Van Zandt’s orchestral score for a segment of the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu” was premiered live in 2018 with film projection at the Forest Lawn Crucifixion-Resurrection Hall in Glendale, California. His music composed for TV has appeared on broadcast, cable and internet networks all over the world, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, HBO, AMC, the BBC, E Channel, Discovery, USA Network, Oxygen, Bravo, and Viceland; and dozens of internationally popular programs including Bosch (Amazon), Desperate Housewives (ABC), Modern Family (NBC), and Weird Loners (Fox). He co-composed the score for a 2018 Canadian documentary on homeopathic medicines, “Magic Pills.”


Van Zandt has recently received concert music commissions from the Copland House Foundation New York, Grammy-winning pianist Nadia Shpachenko, soprano Stacey Fraser, the Cal Poly Pomona Piano Ensemble, soprano Kirsten Wiest, cellist Maksim Velichkin, Celliola, LA Harptette, bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, soprano Stacey Fraser, Hear Now LA Music Festival, the LA Music Theater Ensemble, and the Villiers Quartet (UK). His “Sí an Bhrú” for solo piano and electronics, recorded at Skywalker Ranch, appears on Nadia Shpachenko’s 2020 Grammy-winning CD “The Poetry of Places.” His song cycle with librettist Jill Freeman, “Apples and Time Crack in October,” appears on the recently released CD “Luminous” from soprano Kirsten Ashley Wiest and pianist Siu Hei Lee.


His current projects in progress include the jazz-inspired monodramedy “The New Frontier,” with librettist Jill Freeman, and a dramatic madrigal with dance, “On the Shores of Eternity,” with texts by R. Tagore for soprano, dancer, electronics, flute, harp, cello and electric bass, both with soprano Stacey Fraser; a set of Irish traditional music inspired pieces with flutist/co-composer Jane Rigler and various Irish traditional singers, artists and filmmakers; pieces for solo viola, electronics and video with UK violist Carmen Flores and filmmaker Tim Bassford. In addition, Van Zandt is writing a book with British composer Alexander Goehr, “Composing a Life: Teachers, Mentors and Models” to be published in 2023.


Jack Van Zandt divides his time between his homes in Los Angeles and West Cork Ireland. The composer and his publishing company, Roaring Water Music, are BMI affiliates. His concert music is published by Composers Edition in Oxford, UK.

With Alexander "Sandy" Goehr in Cambridge, 1978.

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Photo by Elisa Ferrari

2015 Hear Now Festival with (from left) Sarah Thornblade, Alma Fernandez, Alyssa Park, Shalini Vijayan and Nadia Shpachenko, five of the best musicians on planet Earth.

Giving the keynote speech at the UC Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies graduation ceremony, June 7, 2015.

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