Bruce Pennycook was born in Toronto, Canada in 1949. He studied composition at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto with Gustav Ciamaga, Lothar Klein and John Weinzweig graduating with a Master of Music in Theory and Composition in 1974. He was awarded the CAPAC Young Composer Prize in 1973. While still a student, Pennycook was an active performer, composer and arranger in Toronto recording studios and played regularly in the jazz clubs in the city. In 1976 he received a Canada Council Doctoral Fellowship for graduate work at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University where he studied with Leland Smith and John Chowning. While at Stanford he was the Director of the Stanford Jazz Ensemble and Assistant Conductor for the Stanford Wind Ensemble. He also performed regularly in the ALEA, the Stanford University new music ensemble.
In 1978 Pennycook became Assistant Professor of Music Composition at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a cross-appointment in the Department of Computing and Information Science. In 1987 he accepted the position of Associate Professor of Music at McGill University in Montreal where he developed the Music, Media and Technology degree programmes. He received numerous grants during this period for innovative research in new media including The Music Library of The Future project which was one of the first to utilize the WWW for audio and MIDI data. He was the recipient of numerous commissions for his interactive compositions from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and from Quebec organizations and these works have been performed internationally. In 1997 Pennycook was appointed the first Vice-Principal of Information Systems and Technology for McGill.
Pennycook relocated to Austin, Texas in 2002 and is a Professor of Music in the Department of Theory and Composition in the Butler School of Music. Pennycook was recently appointed as the first Director of the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies in the College of Fine Arts. He also serves as Faculty Panel Chair for the Digital Arts and Media Bridging Disciplines Program in the School of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
In 2017, Pennycook was appointed Chair of the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies in the School of Design and Creative Technologies, The College of Fine Arts at UT Austin.