Imbrie was born in New York on April 6, 1921, and began his musical training as a pianist when he was 4. In 1937, he went to Paris to study briefly with Nadia Boulanger. He returned to the United States the next year to attend Princeton University where he studied with Roger Sessions, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1942. His senior thesis there, a string quartet, was recorded by the Juilliard Quartet. He then went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he received an M.A. in Music in 1947; there he continued to study with Sessions, who had taken a position at Berkeley. Imbrie taught composition, theory, and analysis at Berkeley from 1949 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to his principal teaching job at Berkeley, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Brandeis University, Northwestern University, New York University, the University of Alabama, and Harvard University, and had a regular teaching post at the San Francisco Conservatory. He died at his home in Berkeley, California at the age of 86. His notable students include Larry Austin, Richard Festinger, Alden Jenks, Frank La Rocca, Neil Rolnick, Allen Shearer, Tamar Diesendruck, Laura Schwendinger, Kurt Rohde, Hi Kyung Kim and Leslie Wildman.
Imbrie's style was influenced early by Béla Bartók, and then by Roger Sessions, his teacher both at Princeton and at Berkeley. Imbrie prefers harmonies that are non-triadic, or if triadic, non-functional, and he wrote a tightly organized, often atonal contrapuntal texture with attention to careful motivic development; he avoided the serial techniques which dominated art music composition after the Second World War. Imbrie was also attentive to melodic line and shape, as one of the ways to make a free atonal language accessible.
Imbrie’s compositions make up a body of work that spans many genres. These compositions are cited as his chief works:
- Three Against Christmas (1960 opera)
- Angle of Repose (1976 opera)
- Dandelion Wine (1961 for chamber ensemble)
- To a Traveler (1971 for chamber ensemble)
- Sextet for Six Friends (2007 for chamber ensemble)
- Drumtaps for chorus with orchestra(text by Whitman)
- Prometheus Bound for chorus with orchestra (text by Green after Aeschylus)
- Adam for chorus with orchestra (text from medieval and Civil War sources)
- Requiem (1984, chorus with orchestra)
- Three symphonies
- Eight concertos
- Songs for voice
- Sonatas for various instruments
- Chamber works for diverse instrumental ensembles
- Works for choral ensembles
- Five string quartets
"First Recordings of two Naumburg Award Compositions". Columbia Records, AMS 6597
- Violin Concerto
"Andrew Imbrie". New York: Composers Recordings Inc., 1973. Rereleased, New World Records, 2007.
- Symphony No. 3
- Serenade for flute, viola and piano
- Sonata for cello and piano
"New Music for Virtuosos". New York: New World Records, 1977.
- Three Sketches
"New Music Series Vol. 3". Neuma Records, 1993
- Short Story
"Collage New Music". Boston: GM Recordings, 1989.
"Andrew Imbrie". Boston: GM Recordings, 1993.
- String Quartets 4 & 5
- Impromptu for Violin and Piano
"Music of Andrew Imbrie". New York: CRI, 1994.
- Symphony No. 3
- Serenade for Flute, Viola and Piano
- Sonata for Cello and Piano
"Dream Sequence - Chamber Music of Andrew Imbrie". New York: New World Records, 1995.
- Dream Sequence
- Roethke Songs
- Three Piece Suite
- Campion Songs
- To a Traveler
"Andrew Imbrie, Requiem". New Rochelle, NY: Bridge Records, 2000.
- Piano Concerto No. 3
"Andrew Imbrie". Albany, NY: Albany Records, 2002.
- Spring Fever
- Chicago Bells
- Songs of Then and Now
- http://www.sfcv.org/2007/12/04/in-memoriam-andrew-imbrie/ San Francisco Classical Voice: In memoriam Andrew Imbrie
- New World Records: Album Details
- Ann P. Basart, Martin Brody: "Andrew Imbrie", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed July 21, 2006), (subscription access)
- Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
- Kozinn, Alan: "Andrew Imbrie, 86, Composer and Teacher, Is Dead" The New York Times (December 9, 2007) 
- Imbrie's San Francisco Conservatory Of Music faculty page
- Collage page about Andrew Imbrie and his music
- Art of the States: Andrew Imbrie three works by the composer
- Andrew Imbrie interview by Bruce Duffie, April 26, 1986