Jean-Luc Darbellay graduated at the Berne Conservatory and studied clarinet and composition with Cristóbal Halffter and Dimitri Terzakis. He then attended masterclasses at the IMF Lucerne with Heinz Holliger, Klaus Huber and, as his assistant, with Edison Denisov. Furthermore, he attended the seminars of Pierre Boulez in Paris and conducting classes with Franco Ferrara.
His worldwide spread activities include concerts in Switzerland (intense collaboration with Swiss Radios and TV lead to the commission for Oyama, a piece created by l’orchestre de la Suisse Romande with maestro Fabio Luisi; the German creation took place in the Gewandhaus Leipzig), Paris (2 commissions by Radio France, Festival Présences, also the premiere of Incident Room based on a text by Ken Edwards in the Théâtre Molière by Noëlle-Anne Darbellay, violin and voice), Russia (Festivals in St. Petersburg and Moscow), Zagreb (Biennale), Prague Premieres, Vienna (Wien modern), Salzburg (Festival Aspekte), and in Leipzig (commissions and productions for the MDR and MDR-Sommer, leading to the world premiere of his Requiem in the Gewandhaus with soloists, choir and orchestra). Several times pieces of J-L. Darbellay were included in the program of the ISCM World Music Days (Bucarest, Luxemburg, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Slowenia, Switzerland, Sweden and Croatia).
Olivier Darbellay premiered Mégalithe - Lutèce for horn and ensemble in Paris, Cité de la Musique, with the Tokyo Sinfonietta at the Festival Présences under the direction of Yasuaki Itakura. The Swiss premiere of Requiem with the conductor Emilio Pomàrico took place in the frame of the Lucerne Festival, Dernière lettre à Théo (text: Metin Arditi) was premiered by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in the Victoria Hall in Geneva with the soloist Rudolf Rosen (baritone). 2011/12 he was composer in residence with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. Cosmos for percussion and orchestra with Evelyn Glennie and Pascal Rophé was premiered in this frame. 2012 he was also composer in residence in Gstaad (Les sommets musicaux).
He wrote 7 pieces for Siegfried Palm. 1992 collaboration with John Cage in Perugia during his last festival in Europe and world premiere of Lebenslauf by György Kurtág with Elsbeth Darbellay (both bassethorn) at the WDR Festival in Witten.
Concerts and recordings took place with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, the MDR-Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Sinfonietta, Romanian National Orchestra, Ucraine National Orchestra, The String Orchestra of New York, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Chamber Orchestra Basel, Camerata Berne, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Bienna Symphony Orchestra and Berne Symphony Orchestra.
Jean-Luc Darbellay was the founder and the first president of the Swiss ISCM Section (1995-2007) and board member of the ISCM (2003-2007). He organized the successful World New Music Festival in Switzerland 2004.
In 2003 he founded the concert row and festival l’art pour l’Aar with some Swiss composer collegues.
He won the jubilee-prize of the Berne Symphony Orchestra 2002 with his piece Ondes.
In 2005 he was honoured by the French State as “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”.
All his works (with a few exeptions) are published by Ricordi Munich. Claves realized 2009 a portrait-CD in co-production with the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Musiques Suisses – Grammont Portrait published 2011 a CD with essentially chamber music.