PROFESSIONAL BIO (long) (short professional bio and personal bio below)
Payton MacDonald (b. 1974, Idaho Falls, Idaho) is a composer, improviser, percussionist, singer, and educator. He has created a unique body of work that draws upon his extensive experience with East Indian tabla drumming and Dhrupad singing, Jazz, European classical music, and the American experimental tradition. He works across multiple musical genres, often at the same time. Several recordings of MacDonald's music exist, including the critically acclaimed Payton MacDonald: Works for Tabla on the ATMA label.
The New York Times described him as an "energetic soloist." The Los Angeles Times described him as an ". . . inventive, stylistically omnivorous composer and gifted performer . . ." His music has also been described as "hypnotically beautiful" (The New York Times and ". . . engaging and utterly beautiful." (Sequenza 21) MacDonald has been a featured performer of his own music on festivals in Montreal (Voyages) and Minneapolis (Electric Eyes).
As a composer numerous ensembles have performed his music around the world, including Alarm Will Sound, Los Angeles Philharmonic, JACK Quartet, So Percussion, To Hit Duo, Young Voices of Colorado, Quintet Mont Royal, Classical Jam, guitarists Mak Grgic and Eliot Fisk, and tabla soloist Shawn Mativetsky. He has received grants and awards from Fulbright Foundation, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, American Music Center, American Institute of Indian Studies, as well as fellowships from Yaddo and Ragdale. He has also composed music for the Silken Dance Company.
As an improviser MacDonald tours as a marimba soloist with Super Marimba. With Super Marimba MacDonald performs his own music using looping machines and delay pedals. He also performs with other collaborators, including Elliott Sharp, Aakash Mittal, Peter Evans, Tim Feeney, Todd Sickafoose, Theo Metz, and many others. MacDonald recently performed with the Aakash Mittal Quintet on the Kolkata Jazz Festival.
As a classical percussion performer he is a founding member of Alarm Will Sound, a new-music chamber orchestra. Alarm Will Sound is currently regarded as one of the foremost new music ensembles in the country and they have made five recordings, on the Nonesuch and Cantaloupe labels. The New York Times wrote that they are "the future of classical music." Alarm Will Sound has performed in the finest concert halls all over the world. MacDonald has commissioned many works from other composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Robert Morris, Caleb Burhans, Don Freund, Peter Jarvis, Elliott Sharp, David Saperstein, Michael Udow, and Stuart Saunders Smith. MacDonald has released five solo marimba recordings on a variety of labels. From 1994-2004 MacDonald performed with Verederos, a flute and percussion duo. Verederos recorded two CDs under the Equilibrium label. He has also appeared as a soloist in England and Croatia, performed with Present Music and the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, toured Japan with Keiko Abe and the Galaxy percussion group, and performed and recorded with acclaimed singer/songwriter Noe Venable.
MacDonald is also a singer and is currently studying Dhrupad vocal with the famous Gundecha Brothers. For more information about his singing career, please go HERE.
MacDonald's education included studies at the University of Michigan (BFA) and the Eastman School of Music (MM and DMA). His composition teachers include Sydney Hodkinson, Robert Morris, Dave Rivello, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas. His percussion teachers include John Beck and Michael Udow. Further studies include tabla with Bob Becker and Pandit Sharda Sahai and Dhrupad vocal with the Gundecha Brothers.
As an educator MacDonald serves as a Full Professor of Music at William Paterson University, where he teaches contemporary music, percussion, improvisation, and Hindustani music. He is also the Co-Artistic director of SHASTRA, an organization dedicated to bringing together the music of India and the West. When not creating music, MacDonald is an endurance athlete, competing in triathlons, Xterras, trail run races, and bikepacking adventures.
PROFESSIONAL BIO (short, approximately 200 words) (personal bio below)
Payton MacDonald (b. 1974, Idaho Falls, Idaho) is a composer/improviser/percussionist/singer/educator. MacDonald was a founding member of new-music chamber orchestra superstars Alarm Will Sound and has also toured internationally as a solo marimbist and a member of various chamber ensembles including Galaxy Percussion, NJPE, Present Music, and Verederos. He has commissioned many works from today's leading composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Don Freund, Elliott Sharp, and many others. And many of the world's best ensembles have performed MacDonald's music, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, JACK Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, et al. MacDonald has performed in the world's best venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Barbican, and many more. MacDonald studied music at the University of Michigan (B.F.A.) and the Eastman School of Music (M.M., D.M.A.). His composition teachers include Sydney Hodkinson, Robert Morris, Dave Rivello, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas. His percussion teachers include John Beck and Michael Udow, and tabla with Bob Becker and Pandit Sharda Sahai. Further studies include Dhrupad vocal with the Gundecha Brothers. MacDonald has been to India many times, including for nine months as a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellow. The Los Angeles Times described MacDonald as an ". . . inventive, stylistically omnivorous composer and gifted performer . . ." MacDonald serves as a Full Professor of Music at William Paterson University and he is a Co-Artistic Director of SHASTRA, an organization the brings together the great music of India and the West.
I've been playing music since I was nine years old, but my love of music goes back much further. In fact, my earliest memories are of standing up in my crib and rocking back and forth to music from the radio.
I was born and raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Although Idaho Falls is essentially a suburban town, my parents had a cabin up in the woods near the Idaho/Wyoming border and I spent most of my weekends there skiing, sledding, hiking, riding motorcycles, and just generally tramping around through the woods. It was a fabulous childhood. The deep rhythms of nature entered my spirit at a young age and have shaped my life ever since. I now live in West Orange, New Jersey, just 12 miles from New York City. It is one of the most densely populated parts of the world and it is noisy, energetic, and infinitely fascinating.
I'm a percussionist, a composer, singer, and improviser. I've spent over 25 years honing all of those areas and they are completely intertwined at this point. My creative work is deeply connected to my playing. My years at the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music were years of intense saturation, and at times I wasn't sure how everything would connect, but with time and much effort they did connect. Indian classical music has also had a profound influence on my creative work and I've made four trips to India to study tabla drumming and Dhrupad vocal, including an extended trip in 2013 on a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship to study Dhrupad vocal with the Gundecha Brothers.
When I'm not a musician I'm also an endurance athlete, competing in triathlons, Xterras, bikepacking adventures, and trail races. I've also been married for 16 years to Jessica Johnson, who now works in arts administration. We have two young daughters, Madeline and Maia.