Gwyneth Van Anden Walker, class of 1968


This interview comes from a career forum for music students held at the Orwig Music Building with Gwyneth Walker in Providence, Rhode Island on December 5, 1997. Walker speaks primarily of her life in Vermont, her successful career as a composer, and the challenges of the art form, but does reflect occasionally on her impactful time spent at Pembroke College. She notes that she initially entered Pembroke with the intention of studying physics and following in her physicist father’s footsteps, but then quickly changed to pursue her love of music. She recalls her experience playing tennis at Pembroke and her later work as a tennis coach at Oberlin College.

Transitioning to her current life, Walkerstates that she prefers to write choral music above all other forms, as she had significant training as a vocalist and was in the Chattertocks musical group during her time at Pembroke. She notes the apprehension she felt about writing her own music, advising young aspiring composers to overcome the fear of failure that is tied to the world of composition. Walker gives the advice to future composers to put whatever uniqueness or individuality they have into their music, rather than their purely their technical abilities from studying a style of music at university, as their originality is what will allow them to succeed. She notes admiration of poetry and the ways by which she deploys it in her music–borrowing from the some of the poems of Lucille Clifton, May Swenson, and E.E. Cummings, among others.

Walker goes on to tell of the tough decision she made to leave her job at Oberlin in order to find the time to write more music, the process of getting commissioned to write new musical pieces, her love of her home in Vermont, and her decision to move there and live on a dairy farm. She says that she primarily writes music for her community, with which she feels deeply engaged. She also explains that writing music in downtown Randolph, Vermont, still allows for it to travel to and be performed at Lincoln Center in New York, which is Walker’s ultimate goal.

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on December 5, 1997 in the Orwig Music Building, Brown University, Providence, RI

Suggested Chicago style citation: Walker, Gwyneth Van Anden. Interview. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. December 5, 1997.


Dr. Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She holds A.B., M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in music composition. A former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer. For nearly 30 years, she lived on a dairy farm in Braintree, Vermont. She now divides her time between her childhood hometown of New Canaan, Connecticut and the musical communities of Sarasota, Florida and Randolph, Vermont.

Walker has been a proud resident of Vermont for many years. She is the recipient of the Year 2000 “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Vermont Arts Council as well as the 2008 “Athenaeum Award for Achievement in the Arts and Humanities” from the St. Johnsbury (VT) Athenaeum. In 2012, she was elected as a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences. Walker’s catalog includes over 300 commissioned works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, chorus, and solo voice. A special interest has been dramatic works that combine music with readings, acting, and movement.