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. 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. In 2012 MacDonald made his singing debut with Alarm Will Sound, singing John Cage's "Raga Music" at the River to River festival in New York City, the Musikgebouw in Holland, and the Cork Opera House in Cork, Ireland. In spring 2013 he was awarded a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship to spend the 2013-2014 academic year in India continuing his vocal studies with the Gundecha Brothers. He has performed many times as a classical Dhrupad singer, including his official debut at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, M.P., India with Dnyaneshwar Deshmukh accompanying him on pakhawaj. His performance was covered by many major news outlets, including The Hitaveda, who wrote "Dr. Payton MacDonald with his melodious voice spread the beauty of Dhrupad, its subtle finer points and the way he sang seemed to be spiritualistic. His solo Dhrupad performance was encouraging and not less than any young Indian Dhrupad singer." He has also performed with pakhawaj drummer Roman Das and tabla drummers Shawn Mativetsky and Todd Hammes.
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 works as an Associate Professor of Music at William Paterson University, where he teaches contemporary music, percussion, improvisation, and Hindustani music. When not creating music, MacDonald is an endurance athlete, competing in triathlons, Xterras, trail run races, and bikepacking adventures.
PROFESSIONAL BIO (short, approximately 150 words) (personal bio below)
Payton MacDonald (b. 1974, Idaho Falls, Idaho) is a composer/improviser/percussionist/singer/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. MacDonald studied music at the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. His composition teachers include Sydney Hodkinson, Robert Morris, Dave Rivello, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas. MacDonald has toured the world with Alarm Will Sound and performed many improvised concerts with artists such as Elliott Sharp, Aakash Mittal, Tim Feeney, and others. His percussion teachers include John Beck and Michael Udow. Further studies include tabla with Bob Becker and Pandit Sharda Sahai, and Dhrupad vocal with Ramakant Gundecha. The New York Times described him as an "energetic soloist" and The Los Angeles Times described him as an ". . . inventive, stylistically omnivorous composer and gifted performer . . ." MacDonald is an Associate Professor of Music at William Paterson University.
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 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.