Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk was born in Amsterdam in 1955 to a Dutch-Indonesian family. He began to improvise music at a young age, and only later began to write down his musical thoughts. After theatrical projects with pop musicians (such as Debris, soli for singers, electric guitars, wind, brass and percussion, and the dance opera First Things First, for trios of dancers, singers, guitarists, and percussionists) he began more frequently to choose existing music as a point of departure in instrumental works for ensembles such as La Fontegara Amsterdam and Camerata Trajectina. This led to pieces for classical ensembles based on historical music, such as the piano quintet Tandernaken, the guitar quintet Over the Water (with Indonesian kroncong music), the piano trio De tout mon coeur (on Psalm 9 and old Dutch melodies), the violin sonata Deep River, based on the spiritual of that name, and the string quartet Moravian Souls which uses historic hymns of the Moravian Brothers (the Hernhutters). In doing so he strives for no other originality than that of a personal view of traditions. He deliberately avoids the most recent trends in modern classical music. For him the classical music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is a model of the combination of all available styles that spark recognition among players and listeners. In the twentieth century that means primarily styles from jazz, popular music and folk music from Africa and South America. As a musicologist he specializes in the music of the twentieth century and teaches 20th and 21st century music at the Amsterdam Conservatory.