Michael Berkeley was born in 1948, the eldest son of the composer Sir Lennox Berkeley and a godson of Benjamin Britten. As a chorister at Westminster Cathedral, singing naturally played an important part in his early education.
He studied composition, singing, and piano at the Royal Academy of Music but it was not until his late twenties, when he went to study with Richard Rodney Bennett, that Berkeley began to concentrate exclusively on composing. In 1977 he was awarded the Guinness Prize for Composition; two years later he was appointed Associate Composer to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Since then Michael's music has been played all over the globe and by some of the world's finest musicians.
For ten years from 1995 Michael was artistic director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music, where he premiered over a hundred new works and initiated a policy of having a contemporary work in every programme. He built the music programme for the Sydney Festival in Australia for three years at the beginning of the Millenium and, with Judith Weir and Anthony Payne, jointly directed the Spitalfields Festival in the previous decade. Michael has, for several years, been the featured composer for the New York Philharmusica. He currently presents Radio 3's Private Passions, which won the Broadcasting Press Guild's Radio Programme of the Year Award in 1996, and for nine years was Chairman of the Governors of The Royal Ballet until 2012.
Private Passions, was published in 2005 by Faber & Faber.