Composer John Peel's earliest musical studies were on the clarinet and oboe. In his teenage years, Peel began the study of piano and composition. After completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Texas, Peel pursued graduate studies in music composition at Columbia University and Princeton University where his teachers included Milton Babbitt, Benjamin Boretz, J.K. Randall, Claudio Spies and Charles Wuorinen.
Peel's works range from solo and chamber pieces to symphonic and operatic compositions. Major ensembles that have commissioned and performed Peel's music include the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Riverside Symphony, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the American String Quartet, Collage, Music Today, the New Arts Trio, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and Parnassus.
Peel has been the recipient of awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, Meet-the-Composer and the American Music Center. Major performances include the opera-oratorio Voces Vergilianae, commissioned by Willamette University for the dedication of the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center, the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by the Riverside Symphony and premiered in New York's Lincoln Center with violinist Joseph Lin, Sinfonia Romanza, commissioned by James DePreist for the Oregon Symphony and Como un arco de viola for voice and string quartet, premiered with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano and soprano Janice Johnson. Recordings of Peel's music are available on the Vienna Modern Masters label (with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic), on Americus Records (with soprano Susan Narucki) and forthcoming on the Centaur label (with Cuarteto Latinoamericano) .
Since 1990 Peel has lived in Oregon where he is Composer-in-Residence, Irene Gerlinger Swindells Professor of Music at Willamette University. In this position he teaches music composition, music history and aesthetics and has created New Music at Willamette, a series of concerts, residencies and lectures dedicated to presenting the finest performers and composers of our time.