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Steven Mackey


About this Artist

STEVEN MACKEY was born in 1956 to American parents stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. His first musical passion was playing electric guitar in rock bands based in northern California. He later discovered concert music, and has since composed for orchestras, chamber ensembles, dance, and opera. 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.

Highlights of the 2010/11 season and beyond include composing a piano concerto for Orli Shaham, co-commissioned by the LA Phil and the St. Louis and New Jersey symphonies (to be premiered in the 2011/12 season), and an orchestral work for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. He will also be performing in a variety of contexts, including his role as guitarist and narrator in his music theater piece SLIDE with eighth blackbird and Rinde Eckert.

As a composer, Mackey has been honored by numerous awards and has been the composer-in-residence at major music festivals, including Tanglewood, Aspen, and the Holland Festival. Among his commissions are works for the Chicago, St. Louis, New World, San Francisco, and Dutch Radio symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Brentano String Quartet, the Borromeo String Quartet, Fred Sherry, Dawn Upshaw, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and many others.

As a guitarist, Mackey has performed his chamber music with the Kronos Quartet, the Arditti Quartet, the London Sinfonietta, the Nexttime Ensemble (Parma), Psappha (Manchester), and Joey Baron. As a concerto soloist he has performed with many conductors, including David Robertson, Michael Tilson Thomas, Peter Eötvös, Dennis Russell Davies, and many others.

His 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.”

Recent CD releases include Steven Mackey: Dreamhouse, an hour-long oratorio for amplified vocal ensemble, electric guitar quartet, and orchestra conducted by Gil Rose on the BMOP sound label. Dreamhouse was nominated for 4 Grammys, including Best Classical Album of 2010. Also newly released is Busted Micro Shorts, three chamber works featuring percussionist Tim Williams and the Psappha Ensemble. Other available discs of Mackey’s work include Lost and Found: Electric Guitar Music by Steve Mackey, released by Bridge Records; Tuck and Roll: Michael Tilson Thomas conducting orchestral music by Mackey, released by BMG-RCA Red Seal; String Theory: the Brentano String Quartet playing string quartets and string quartets with the addition of other instruments, released on Albany Records; Heavy Light: Mosaic playing mixed chamber ensemble music, released by New World Records; Interior Design: featuring music for violin with Curtis Macomber on Bride Records; and Speak Like the People, Write Like the King: string quartets and octets for the Borromeo and Brentano Quartets also on Bridge Records. Tuck and Roll and Lost and Found both made the New York Times year-end top-10 list, along with similar lists in several other publications. Individual works by Mackey are included on numerous collections on Nonesuch, BMG/Catalyst, CRI, Newport Classics, and many other labels.

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, 20th-century music, improvisation, and a variety of special topics. He regularly coaches and conducts new works 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 web site is His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey with his wife, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, and their son Jasper.