Initially a self-taught guitarist, Gandolfi entered the Berklee College of Music before transferring to the New England Conservatory of Music(NEC) after one year. He went on to receive both his bachelors and masters degrees from NEC, where he is now the chair of the composition department. In 1986, he was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center; while there, he studied with Leonard Bernstein and Oliver Knussen. He has served on the faculty of Harvard University, Indiana University, and the Phillips Academy at Andover; since 1997 he has been the coordinator for the Tanglewood Music Center's composition department. He was previously a composer in residence with the New England Philharmonic. He has been championed by conductor Robert Spano as one of the "Atlanta School" of American composers, a group that also includes colleagues Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, and Christopher Theofanidis.
Gandolfi's music often contains rock and jazz elements. He often looks to the sciences for his subject matter, resulting in pieces such as The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (inspired by Charles Jencks' garden in Scotland that incorporates modern physics into its design, and nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition at the 2009 Grammy Awards) and Trivia, written for the Weilerstein Trio, which counts Richard Wolfson's book Simply Einstein as a source. He has also written a significant amount of children's music, including a setting of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio story.
He has had significant performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, The New World Symphony, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and many others.
Gandolfi currently resides in Cambridge, MA and is a member of ASCAP.
- Michael Gandolfi website
- Video: Interview between Robert Spano & Gandolfi about the Garden piece
- Interview with Atlanta's CreativeLoafing
- Interview about the premiere of "Plain Song, Fantastic Dances"
- 2005 Boston Globe profile by Geoff Edgers
- Berklee alumni profile
- Boston Modern Orchestra Project: Boston Connections concert program notes
- EarRelevant interview
- CNN.com: A rainy bus stop and, three years later, marriage