Vollenweider was born in 1953 and is the son of Hans Vollenweider (1918-1993), an organist and composer, while his mother was a painter. In 1971 he married Beata with whom he has two sons (Jonathan and Sebastian) and a daughter (Noëmi). In 1975, Vollenweider discovered the harp and, finding its traditional versions too limited for his own musical ideas, developed his own playing technique, tailoring the instrument according to his needs. He created the electro-acoustic harp. In 1975 he formed the trio ‘Poesie und Musik’ together with René Bardet (voice, guitar) and Orlando Valentini (bass), recording interpretations of the poetry of François Villon and Heinrich Heine which he left in 1978. During this period, Vollenweider also wrote music for films, mainly nature documentaries.
In 1979 he released his solo debut, “Eine Art Suite in XIII Teilen” in Switzerland. He subsequently began forming his ensemble “Andreas Vollenweider and Friends”, which included Walter Keiser (drums) Pedro Haldemann (percussion) Bobby Reveron (percussion) and Jon Otis (percussion). This five-piece debuted on July 11, 1981 at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Vollenweider was discovered by the German record-producer and manager Vera Brandes, who oversaw the release of “Behind the Gardens - Behind the Wall - Under the Tree…” through her label VeraBra Records. The album was distributed through CBS Records International and reached No. 32 in the German album charts in March 1982. The follow-up album “Caverna Magica” was recorded during the period May–November 1982 while Vollenweider and his band performed around Europe. Released in January 1983, the album managed to reach No. 11 in the German album charts. In 1983, he underlined his commitment to environmental issues with the EP &“Pace Verde” (“Peace Green”) in support for Greenpeace, which was accompanied by a video Vollenweider directed and produced himself. In October of that year he was awarded a Dutch Edison in the Instrumental category for “Caverna Magica”.
In 1984, the album “White Winds” entered the American billboard charts. Released through CBS Masterworks in North America, his records remained on catalogue, clocking up to six-figure sales. Vollenweider embarked on his first American tour in November of that year, making his debut at the Beacon Theatre, New York. It was presented by Carly Simon who had discovered his music a year earlier. She explained that “I knew I had discovered something that was going to change me in a wonderful way, I became so obsessed with his music that anyone who came to my house was introduced to it within the first 10 or 15 minutes”. Through CBS she contacted the artist and arranged for his American debut. As his instrumental tracks were generally deemed unsuitable for radio, he largely relied on word-of-mouth to gather a following.
In 1987, “Down To The Moon”, which had been originally recorded and released in 1984, received a Grammy Award. This was followed by tours in Canada, the United States, thirteen European countries, Japan and Australia. When he composed the music of, and recorded, the dynamic album “Dancing With The Lion” in 1988 and 1989, Vollenweider opened his project, for the first time in his career, to numerous guests from a wide range of musical genres. He directed and produced two award-winning videos, one of which was for the title selection; for both videos, he contributed to the storyline, the choreography, and set/costume designs.
Vollenweider's double album “The Trilogy” (1990), consisted of a selection of the first three albums (Behind The Gardens, Caverna Magica, and White Winds) and previously unreleased material. In 1991, he followed up with “Book of Roses”, which included symphonic orchestral elements for the first time. In 1992, he participated in a benefit show for Chernobyl's children on Moscow's Red Square. The same year, he won the World Music Award in Monaco. In 1993-94, he produced his first album including vocals. The 1993-94 album “Eolian Minstrel” featured contributions from American singers Carly Simon and Eliza Gilkyson. The release was followed by worldwide tours.
In 1994, he performed at the “Pavarotti and Friends” event in Modena, Italy, where he played duets with operatic lyric tenor Luciano Pavarotti (a native of Modena) and Canadian rock balladeer Bryan Adams. After conducting tours and open-air shows in Europe and the United States, in 1995 he played in Latin America for the first time. 1995-97 saw Vollenweider playing a series of concerts in remarkable locations: a tour of Polish castles, a performance with Italian singer/songwriter Zucchero at the mountain-location of Brunico (2500 m high - this at the cold temperature of -8 Celsius!) in the Southern Alps and in a giant volcanic cave at Lanzarote's Festival Musica Visual.
In 1998, Vollenweider began the recording of “Kryptos”, a work for symphonic orchestras and guest virtuosos from all over the world. He initiated a symphonic live project which he called “Wolkenstein”. Fall 1998: "The Naked Tour", very successful first ever solo tour through the United States, performing at venues like the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the first time Vollenweider presented a unique combination of both of his passions: music and storytelling. In 1999, he returned to free improvisation and intimate musical dialogues with his album “COSMOPOLY”. He invited friends from all over the globe to create “world music”, including American vocal acrobat Bobby McFerrin, Brazilian cult poet and singer Milton Nascimento, South-African ethno-jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, the 74-year old Armenian duduk legend Djivan Gasparyan, Galician bag-pipe and whistle virtuoso Carlos Nuñez, the American singer-songwriter Carly Simon and American blues-trombone master Ray Anderson.
All through the year 2000, as he travelled with his COSMOPOLY project through Europe, its almost daily changing configuration of musicians enabled Vollenweider to follow the open concept of the album. In New York City, he and his friends played two concerts for the release of COSMOPOLY in the United States. Carly Simon joined the group, as did Mind Jostyn, Carlos Nuñez, Djivan Gasparian, XiaoJing Wang and Walter Keiser. Concerts in Brazil with Milton Nascimento and composer/pianist Wagner Tiso followed. In 2001, Vollenweider performed in Bali (Indonesia) at the international conference “song of convergence” with Balinese musicians. He began writing the symphonic novel “Tales of Kira Kutan” which premiered at the Warsaw Film Music Festival 2001, this with the orchestra Sinfonia Varsowia (Yehudi Menuhin), conducted by co-orchestrator André Bellmont. Returning to his native Switzerland, Vollenweider premiered “Carte blanche” at the AVO Festival in Basel, where his guests, in addition to a mini orchestra, included Abdullah Ibrahim and David Lindley.
In 2002, he performed at the Budapest Spring Festival in Hungary. Performances of the symphonies “Tales of Kira Kutan” and “Wolkenstein” at the Festival “Live at Sunset” in Zurich with Sinfonia Varsovia. This was followed by an European summer tour with the newly formed AVAF-mini orchestra, which included a performance at the “Big Chill Festival” in England and continued that fall. It was around this time that he collaborated with German film composer Hans Zimmer in Los Angeles, this on the music score for the movie “Tears of the Sun”, which starred Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci. In 2003 he continued his work with Hans Zimmer. A performance followed, with his mini orchestra in Johannesburg and at the “North Sea Festival” in Cape Town.
In 2004 and 2005, AVAF continued to increase touring activities in Europe. At this time, Vollenweider's entire catalogue was re-mastered and re-released on new record labels worldwide (USA/Canada: www.kinkoumusic.com; international: www.edel.com). A compilation, The Best of “Magic Harp”, was released in the United States and Canada, and “The Storyteller” was released in Europe. A four-hour DVD was also produced. He played for HH, the Dalai Lama, when the latter paid a visit in Zurich. In 2005, he released the album VOX.
In the first three months of 2006, following extensive touring in Europe, Vollenweider conducted his first tour of the US in over ten years, touring from coast to coast. At that time, he also released his first DVD, The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider, which contained almost four hours of live concerts, documentaries, interviews. During the summer of that year, he recorded a new album, titled “Midnight Clear”, in which he again collaborated with Carly Simon (see above for his previous collaborations with her). The last three months of 2006 saw Vollenweider touring in Europe, in addition to his release of “Midnight Clear” on a worldwide basis and that of the DVD “The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider” in the rest of the world. 2007 saw Vollenweider draw his third nomination for a Grammy Award for the soundtrack album of the current DVD release “The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider”. Concerts in Europe and the United States followed, as did in September of that year, the release of the two-CD double album “Andreas Vollenweider & Friends - 25 Years Live”, which covered the period from 1982 to 2007.
In 2008, during his period of composing and the recording of the music for the album “A I R”, Vollenweider was a guest performer at the celebration concert for the 80th birthday of Armenian duduk legend Jivan Gasparyan.
In 2010, Vollenweider gave concerts in Eastern and Western Europe. In June, he undertook a special concert project, which he titled “The Watercourse Way”, which was performed at the Shanghai Centre in Shanghai, China, this as part of EXPO 2010. A “Dream Concert” of the extended AVAF followed in August, as did the “Dancing With The Lion Orchestra” concert in a huge tent on the shore of the Lake of Zurich; it featured an impressive “family gathering” of friends of Vollenweider’s music from all corners of the world. In 2011, three decades after AVAF's very first concert in the same place, he accepted the invitation of Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs to perform an exclusive jubilee concert on 7th July at the 45th Montreux Festival, titled “30 Years Andreas Vollenweider & Friends”. Special guests were bassist/vocalist Richard Bona and guitarist/vocalist Raul Midon. In 2012, AVAF played at the farewell concert in Montreux for Claude Nobs, who had died in January of that year.
2012 The SWISS MUSIC AWARD grant Andreas Vollenweider an "Outstanding Achievement Award" for his continuing life's work.
During prime time on Christmas Eve, Swiss Television broadcasts the first major documentary devoted to Vollenweider, in which filmmaker Cristina Karrer shows impressing and touching sequences recorded in October 2010 in South Africa.
In May of 2012 Andreas Vollenweider lends his name to a campaign by ROKPA, a charity he has been working with for decades. Children who had once lived on the streets in Kathmandu, Nepal, visit eight Swiss cities to tell their moving stories using theatre, dance and music, with a changing roster of Swiss musical guests and an equally celebrated line-up of moderators (www.rokpa.ch).
2015, Geneva, Switzerland: Premature babies are far more at risk than infants born at term of developing brain damage resulting in neurodevelopmental delay that may persist throughout their entire lives (difficulties in cognitive and emotional development). These babies, some of them already born after only 24 weeks of pregnancy, are confronted with enormously invasive and dominant stress.
A team of specialists in infant brain imaging from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG) has approached Vollenweider, to develop a specific music, which would provide a calming acoustic environment to these babies (positive emotional experiences) but at the same time would stimulate the brain activity (development of the brain). Since the beginning of the study, many children and parents have already experienced the positive effect, this particular music seems to have.
Since the beginning of the project, numerous children and parents have already benefited from this study. Using the double-blind method it could be proven that Vollenweider's "Soundtrack" apparently shows the hoped-for effect and enables significant improvements in brain development. This can counteract the otherwise widespread cognitive, emotional and social deficits.
The study was published by the National Academy of Science of the United States and the scientific publisher Elsevier. The National Geographic Magazine declared the project one of "12 innovations that will revolutionize the future of medicine".
2013-2019, Andreas ist working on new music. He also has expanded the field of his creative work. The results are expected to become public in the coming year.