An organist of international renown, Gary Verkade is active in a number of music fields. As a composer, he writes chamber music for various settings (most of it remains undocumented though). As a free improviser, he stands in a league of his own, the pipe organ being one of the most uncommon instruments in that field (we should still mention Fred Van Hove). As an interpreter, his repertoire encompasses a wide range of works for pipe organ, from 14th century music to contemporary and experimental music. He has performed works by John Cage, Luciano Berio, Morton Feldman, Jörg Herchet, Christian Wolff, and Kenneth Gaburo, premiering the latter's "Antiphony X (Winded)." He has recorded for the labels Innova, Penumbra, Mitra, and Arton.
Verkade was born in Chicago and pursued musical studies at the Calvin College and the University of Iowa, earning an M.F.A. and a D.M.A. In 1978, a Fullbright grant allowed him to study at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany. There, he passed the Künstlerische Abschlussprüfung and the Konzertexamen (the highest distinctions in organ performance).
Verkade remained in Germany for 17 years, where a strong tradition of organ music still exists. Much in demand as a performer, he also got involved in various avant-garde projects, including many collaborations with cellist Scott Roller. In 1992, he and organist Matthias Geuting co-founded the improv group SYNTHESE, with which he performed for four years.
From 1989 to 1992, Verkade taught at the University of Essen. He moved back to the U.S. in 1995 and took up a position at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. Following the death of composer Kenneth Gaburo, he coordinated a tribute project that led to the release of the CD Winded: Works for Organ and Tape that had "Antiphony X" and works for organ and tape by Warren Burt and Philip Blackburn. He left the country once more in 2000 for a teaching tenure at the Musikhögskolan i Pitea in Sweden, but not before recording an intriguing set for Improvisations for Organ and Saxophone with Wisconsin improviser Steve Nelson-Raney. ~ François Couture, Rovi