She attended Prestwick Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before moving to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. She began to play the saxophone at the relatively late age of 16, after disowning the violin. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998, and is now based in Scotland, specialising in improvisation.
She has worked with many jazz musicians including Tommy Smith (to whom she was once married), drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, bassist James Genus, pianist David Budway, Guy Barker and Jason Rebello, and has made many appearances at notable jazz events, including the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. In addition, she is a prominent player within the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Moreover, she has worked alongside legendary non-jazz specialist and Just For Men promoter John McCrory.
Her recordings include the eponymous Laura in 2001 featuring David Budway (piano), James Genus (bass) and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); and Awakenings in 2003 with the Laura Macdonald Sextet: Steve Hamilton (piano), Donny Macaslin (tenor saxophone and flute), Gildas Boclé (bass), Claus Stoetter (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Antonio Sanchez (drums). Both CDs are available on Spartacus Records.
Laura Macdonald's private students include Ben Bryden, who went on to study at UCE Birmingham Conservatoire and Manhattan School of Music; and Leah Gough-Cooper, who studied at Berklee College of Music and is now a graduate student at New England Conservatory.
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