Through a catalog of more than a hundred published works and many recordings, Bernard Rands is established as a major figure in contemporary music. His work Canti del Sole, premiered by Paul Sperry, Zubin Mehta, and the New York Philharmonic, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music. His large orchestral suites Le Tambourin, won the 1986 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. His work Canti d'Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy award in 2000.

Born in Sheffield, England in 1934 his 80th birthday has been marked internationally by upward of one hundred concert performances, radio and television broadcasts of his music. Rands emigrated to the United States in 1975, becoming an American citizen in 1983. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004 and into the Illinois Lincoln Academy in 2014.

Conductors including Barenboim, Boulez, Berio, Davis, Eschenbach, Maazel, Marriner, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Rilling, Salonen, Sawallisch, Schiff, Schuller, Schwarz, Silverstein, Slatkin, Spano, von Dohnanyi, and Zinman, among many others, have programmed his music. Rands served as Composer in Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra for seven years. Through this residency, Rands, working with Riccardo Muti, made a wonderful and dedicated contribution to the music of our time.

Recent commissions have come from the Suntory Concert Hall in Tokyo, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Internationale Bach Akademie, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. Many chamber works have resulted from commissions from major ensembles and festivals from around the world. His chamber opera was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival and School for its fiftieth anniversary in 1999. His full-scale opera Vincent, with libretto by J.D. McClatchy, was commissioned by Indiana University Opera School and produced there, to critical acclaim, in 2012.

Rands' most recent large-scale work, Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the composer's 80th birthday, received its premiere performances in Boston in April 2014 with Jonathan Biss soloist, conducted by Robert Spano. The European premiere performances were in May 2014, in Leipzig by the Gewandhausorchester — also Biss — conducted by Sir Andrew Davis followed by a performance at the BBC Proms, London in August 2014 with the BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Markus Stenz.

In June, 2014, the BBC's three-day FOCUS festival was entirely dedicated to Rands' music with many orchestra and chamber concerts live and broadcast throughout the European Union. Since the Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, Rands has composed Folk Songs, which was commissioned by the Tanglewood Festival where it received its premiere in July, 2014.

Bridge Records released, in December 2013, a cd of fifty years of Rands' piano music: "Bernard Rands – Piano Music 1960 – 2010," performed by Ursula Oppens and Robert Levin.

A dedicated and passionate teacher, Rands has been guest composer at many international festivals and Composer in Residence at the Aspen and Tanglewood festivals. Rands is the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor Emeritus Harvard. He has received honorary degrees from several American and European universities.

Rands lives in Chicago with his wife, composer Augusta Read Thomas