Mary Oliver was born in La Jolla, California, and studied at San Francisco State University (Bachelor of Music), Mills College (Master of Fine Arts) and the University of California, San Diego where she received her Ph.D in 1993 for her research in the theory and practice of improvised music.
Her work as a soloist encompasses both composed and improvised contemporary music; she has premiered works by among others,Richard Barrett (air for solo violin 1994, Opening of the Mouth ensemble violin/viola/hardanger fiddle 1996; UnterWasser for ensemble and voice, violin 1997 and Trawl for ensemble, violin 1998) John Cage (Music for Four, viola, west coast premiere 1991), Chaya Czernowin (for arie solo violin and tape 1990;Pnima..ins Innere viola solo with ensemble 2000; Maim zarim, maim gnuvim viola solo with orchestra w.p.), Brian Ferneyhough (incipits for solo viola and ensemble, world premiere, 1996), Joëlle Léandre (Satiemental Journey, violin/viola w.p.1995) Liza Lim (Philtre solo for hardanger fiddle 1997),George E. Lewis (Voyager, 1991), Richard Teitelbaum (Golum, violin 1990) and Iannis Xenakis (Embelie for solo viola, US premiere 1988). Oliver has worked alongside improvising musicians such as Ab Baars, Han Bennink, Cor Fuhler, Tristan Honsinger, Joëlle Léandre, George E. Lewis, Misha Mengelberg and Rozemarie Heggen.
As a soloist and ensemble player she has performed in numerous international festivals including the Darmstädter Feriendurse für neue Musik (stipendiaten prize), Donaueschinger Muziektage 2002, October Meeting (Amsterdam), Jazz Marathon (Groningen), DuMaurier Vancouver and Toronto Jazz Festivals, Ars Electronica (Linz), Ars Musica (Brussels), June-in-Buffalo (New York), London Musicians Collective Festival, Copenhagen, European Cultural Festival, Angelica Festival (Bologna), Perth Festival, Brisbane Biennial, SpielArt (Munich), Münchener Biennale and Zürich Tage für Neue Musik, Salzburger Festspiele and Maertz Musik festspiel in Berlin.
For the past twelve years she has been based in Amsterdam where she has worked locally and internationally with various ensembles such as Instant Composer’s Pool, Magpie Music and Dance Company, Scapino Ballet, Nieuw Ensemble, Elision Ensemble (Australia), Ensemble Köln, MAE and Xenakis Ensemble. Currently she teaches at the Hogeschol voor Kunst, Utrecht and a member of Instant Composer’s Pool, Ammü (with Han Bennink,Johanna Varner, cello and Christofer Varner – trombone) and Magpie Music Dance Company. Current projects include a duo with contrabassist Rozemarie Heggen, the 6th Room with light designer Ellen Knops and dancer Michael Schumacher, Trio! With clarinetist François Houle and contrabassist Torsten Muller and a duo with Johanna Varner.
Discography (brief list): Witchfiddle improvised works for violin, viola and hardanger fiddle ICP038/BVHaast; Oh,My Dog! ICP040/BVHaast; Consensus Splinks Kontrans1545/BVHaast; Opening of the Mouth work for ensemble by Richard Barrett BBC Recordings; Changing with the Times George Lewis New World Records; Pes Henneman Strijkkwartet Wig 05/BVHaast; Iannis Xenakis various works, Sonor Ensemble Mode Records. DVD’s : Afijn ICP 044, Data Images 03, Pnima.. ins Innere Chaya Czernowin Mode 169, Instant Steps film by Jellie Dekker, Data Images 04, Weeris een dag voorbij, ICP Orchestra, icp 043.