Department of Music

Payton MacDonald


Office: Shea Auditorium, Room 171
Phone: (973) 720-3667
Office Hours:

Position: Assistant Professor

Area Specialization


Payton MacDonald is a composer/improviser/interpreter. He has created a unique body of work that draws upon his extensive experience with East Indian tabla drumming, American military rudimental drumming, 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.

MacDonald recently performed his percussion concerto in Carnegie Hall with Alarm Will Sound and again at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. with the L.A. Philharmonic with John Adams conducting as part of the Green Umbrella series. 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 ". . . 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).

Numerous ensembles have performed his music around the world, including Alarm Will Sound, Los Angeles Philharmonic, So Percussion, Quintet Mont Royal, Classical Jam, and tabla soloist Shawn Mativetsky. He has received grants and awards from 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 a performer he is a founding member of Alarm Will Sound, a new-music group based in New York City. 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 also frequently appears as a marimba soloist with Super Marimba. With Super Marimba MacDonald performs his own music using looping machines and delay pedals. MacDonald expands that project with the Super Marimba Band, which includes drums, bass, and two bari saxophones. He also performs full-length concerts of freely improvised music.

As an interpreter he has commissioned works from other composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Robert Morris, Caleb Burhans, David Saperstein, 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, and toured Japan with Keiko Abe and the Galaxy percussion group.

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. His percussion teachers include John Beck and Michael Udow. Further studies include tabla with Bob Becker and Pandit Sharda Sahai. MacDonald is a disciple of Mr. Sahai.