HPO 20-21 Composer Fellow Arie Verheul van de Ven went through a self-described “instrumental identity crisis” in his youth. He started playing the violin as a young child, learning through the Suzuki method, before hopping between the bass and the bassoon in his teen years and eventually landing on the viola. Now in his 20s, Arie is actively pursuing a career as a composer and professional violist, with a focus on the proprioceptive relationship between musicians and their instruments.  

“The high-pressure world of classical string playing, and the nature of the viola being prone to causing injuries has left a certain mark on me and the way I think about my music,” says Arie. “I would say it helps me remember that when I’m composing, I’m writing for people, and not for instruments.” He characterizes the sound world he tends to explore in his work as “string player carpentry.” 

During his time as one of the HPO’s two 20-21 Composer Fellows, Arie completed his latest composition Lithification, inspired by the geological history of the Niagara Escarpment. This piece has its premiere performance by the HPO at our January concert, Postcards from Buenos Aires

“After taking more than a few hikes along it, I was struck by the strangeness of knowing how the geology of this place is constantly changing and in flux – almost like a liquid that flows at timescales of millions of years rather than seconds,” he says of his inspiration for the piece.  

Based in Toronto, Arie is currently a Composer-in-Residence with the Gather Round Singers, an inclusive community choir that has been regularly meeting virtually throughout the pandemic. As a violist Arie regularly performs with the free improv ensemble HARP+ with harpist Grace Scheele and synthesist Dave Klassen. Arie is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Netherlands’ Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. 

Arie captured this photo at a planning session for the piece “In This Moment” with the Gather Round Singers before the pandemic started.
Artists Sam Rowlandson-O’Hara painted this “imaginary zoom room” based on observations choir members made of sounds and objects during rehearsal sessions on zoom.

Q&A with Arie Verheul van de Ven 

HPO: Your mother, Michele Verheul, has played clarinet with the HPO since 1999! What is it like having professional musicians as parents? Did you have a relationship with the HPO prior to becoming Composer Fellow?

Arie: My parents have both always been unbelievably supportive of what is a bit of a strange career path even in the music world. I think their experience as freelance musicians has meant I’ve never had to have that challenge I know a lot of my friends and colleagues have of trying to explain what it is to be a professional composer to family living outside of the musician bubble. I went to many HPO concerts as a kid, and it’s quite amazing to have the opportunity to write both for my Mom, and for many musicians who I’ve known growing up. I always love to write music for people I know in person, so I’m grateful to have that opportunity while writing for the HPO as well.

HPO: What style of music has impacted your work the most?  

Arie: Any kind of music-making where it’s fundamentally a cooperative and communal activity. I’ve always felt very connected to styles of music-making that involve sitting around in a circle and making sounds together. 

HPO: What advice would you give to an individual who is eager to embark on a journey to compose and learn an instrument, but may be intimated by the process?  

Arie: A little bit every day is all you need. Consistency is more important than the number of total hours you put in. Trust in your ears. 

HPO: How do you destress from all your projects and musical commitments? 

Arie: Figuring out how to do this is still an ongoing project for me. I go on lots of walks. 

HPO: What is the thing you enjoy most about being a musician and composer?  

Arie: Ultimately, what I enjoy most is being able to make things with people, and reflect on the world around me. It’s a huge privilege that I am very grateful for. 

HPO: What music have you been listening to lately? 

Arie: The two artists I’ve been listening to a lot lately are Hildegard Westerkamp and Bill Wurtz. – I’ve also been spending a lot of time listening to my bandmate Grace Scheele‘s Twitch stream where she improvises with Harp & Electronics. 


The 20-21 HPO Composer Fellowship was presented in collaboration with the Ontario Region of the Canadian Music Centre.

Meet our 21-22 Composer Fellows here.