Steven Mackey was born in 1956 to American parents stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. He is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar, in rock bands based in northern California. He blazed a trail in the 1980s and ‘90s by including the electric guitar and vernacular music influence in his concert music. He regularly performs his own work, including two electric guitar concertos and numerous solo and chamber works. He is also active as an improvising musician and performs with his band Big Farm.
Mackey's orchestral music has been performed by major orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco and Chicago Symphonies, BBC Philharmonic, Concertgebouw orchestra, Austrian Radio Symphony, Sydney Symphony, and Tokyo Philharmonic. As a guitarist, Mackey has performed his chamber music with the Kronos Quartet, Arditti Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Nexttime Ensemble (Parma), Psappha (Manchester), and Joey Baron.
Recent premiere highlights include One Red Rose (2013) for the Brentano String Quartet, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Nasher Sculpture Center and Yellow Barn for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK; Mnemosyne’s Pool (2015), commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kennedy Center, Sydney Symphony, and New World Symphony; Triceros (2015), a trumpet concerto commissioned by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra for virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger; Blue Notes and Other Clashes (2016) for PRISM Quartet and So Percussion, premiered at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; and Orpheus Unsung (2016), his electric guitar opera staged this year at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Mackey has been honored by numerous awards including a Grammy, several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Friedheim award and many others. He has been the composer-in-residence at major music festivals, including Tanglewood, Aspen and the Holland Festival.
His opera/monodrama Ravenshead for tenor/actor (Rinde Eckert) and electro-acoustic band/ensemble (the Paul Dresher Ensemble), has been performed nearly 100 times and is available on a MINMAX CD. In a year-end review of cultural events, USA Today crowned the work the Best New Opera of 1998.
There are a dozen CDs of Mackey's music and many other CD's that contain individual works. Dreamhouse (2010) and Lonely Motel: Music from Slide (2011) were each nominated for 4 Grammy awards. Mackey won a Grammy for Best Small Ensemble Performance for Lonely Motel.
Mackey is currently Professor of Music and chair of the Department of Music at Princeton University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1985. Helping to shape the next generation of composers and musicians, he teaches composition, theory, twentieth century music, improvisation, and a variety of special topics. He regularly coaches and conducts new work by student composers, as well as 20th-century classics. He was the recipient of Princeton University’s first Distinguished Teaching Award in 1991.
Mackey’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. He lives in Princeton New Jersey with his wife, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, and their son Jasper and daughter Dylan. www.stevenmackey.com
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.