Born in England in 1934, Rands emigrated to the United States in 1975 becoming an American Citizen in 1983. He has been honoured by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Barlow, Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, among many others; he was elected and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004.
Rands' works are widely performed and frequently commercially recorded. Canti D'Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy Award in 2000. 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 B.B.C Symphony, London; the National Symphony Orchestra; the Internationale Bach Akademie, Stuttgart; the Eastman Wind Ensemble and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Many chamber works have resulted from commissions from major ensembles and festivals around the world.
His chamber opera Belladonna was commissioned and premiered by the Aspen Festival for its fiftieth anniversary in 1999; in 2003 the first act was performed as part of VOX 2003 of the New York City Opera. Rands continues his long term project of composing a full scale opera, entitled Vincent, based on the life and work of Van Gogh.
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 of Music at Harvard University where he teaches with distinction.