Ketil Vea (1932-2015) has been called a "composer from the borderland". The description is fitting in more ways than one. Geographically, Vea has done most of his work in northern Norway, and while it may be an exaggeration to call this part of the country a "borderland", musically and culturally it is not that incorrect. The northernmost parts of Norway are as far from its cultural capitals as is the south of Europe, and this has resulted in this part of Norway having found a cultural identity of its own. There has also been an increase in collaboration across borders with Sweden, Finland and the Soviet Union. For the Lappish population this has always been natural, given their migratory travel, but in recent years phenomena such as the "Nordkalotten Symphony Orchestra" have been established as a collaborative effort involving all of these Nordic countries. A central figure in this process has been Ketil Vea. As a cultural organizer, performing musician, and composer, he has greatly influenced the development of music life in northern Norway which today includes professional ensembles, a music conservatory and a multitude of non-professional initiatives.
As a composer from northern Norway he has also had an affinity with the Lappish cultural inheritance. Several titles from his works suggest this, f. ex. "Stallogargo" and Jiedna. In Concert for flute, recitation and orchestra he utilizes inspiration from yet another indigent people: The text comes from Indian Chief Sealth's letter to president Franklin Pierce in 1855.
This "borderland" has yet another dimension. Ketil Vea's compositional point of departure is in his own environment. The environment in northern Norway consists mainly of a large group of non-professional musicians and a number of professional soloists and chamber ensembles. Because of this many of his works are written for non-professionals, as well as for professional participation. He has written several concerts for professional soloists accompanied by a non-professional orchestra.
Ketil Vea also played an important role in Norwegian music education. He has taught on all levels, but perhaps has been particularly effective in the education of Norwegian teachers and at the music conservatories. He has, among other activities, been the principal at the Music Conservatory of Northern Norway in Tromsø. His many textbooks are being used in Norwegian music education, and in 1983 he received the Lindeman Prize for his pedagogical achievements. The same year he received the County of Nordland Cultural Prize and the Petter Dass Prize, both for his organizing and compositional achievements for Northern Norway. In 1992, he was Festival Composer at the Festival of Northern Norway.