John Mackey (composer)

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John Mackey
Born (1973-10-01) October 1, 1973 (age 46)
New Philadelphia, Ohio
GenresContemporary, classical, dance, ballet

John Mackey (born October 1, 1973) is an American composer of contemporary classical music, with an emphasis on music for wind band, as well as orchestra. For several years, he focused on music for modern dance and ballet.


John Mackey was born in New Philadelphia, Ohio and grew up in Westerville, Ohio, where he attended Westerville South High School. Though musicians themselves, Mackey's parents did not provide him with music lessons, and he never formally studied an instrument. His grandfather, however, taught him to read music and introduced him to digital music notation. Through experimentation with programs intended for entertainment rather than education, Mackey began to compose his own music.[1] He wrote his first piece, Lacrimosa, at age 11, after being inspired by the film Amadeus. As a young composer, he took some lessons from one of his mother's friends, who had a Ph.D. in music.[2]

Mackey received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995 from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Donald Erb. Mackey received a Master of Music degree from Juilliard in 1997, having studied with John Corigliano.[3][4] Mackey has stated his support for these institutions' policies of not requiring composers to perform an audition as many composers, like himself, do not play instruments. On this subject, Mackey has said, "There are obviously ways to compose music without playing a formal instrument."[1]

Mackey lived in New York City from 1995–2005, where he collaborated frequently with choreographers such as David Parsons, Robert Battle, and Igal Perry.[5] Mackey moved to Los Angeles in 2005. In April 2008, he announced on his blog his intention to move to Austin, Texas, citing that much of his income is a result of commissions and other appearances in the Texas area.[6] Then in March 2011, Mackey posted a blog to announce his move to Cambridge, Massachusetts in order for his wife to attend graduate school.[7] In 2019, he moved with his wife to San Francisco, California, where he currently resides.

Concert Band[edit]

Mackey's first professional work was writing for dance companies. However, after attending the College Band Directors National Association conference in Minneapolis, he received a commission to reorchestrate his 2003 orchestral work "Redline Tango" for concert band. After reluctantly accepting, he completed the concert band version in 2005, and it became a great success.[2] Today, Mackey is world-renowned as a concert band composer, and most of his works from the past decade have been for concert band.[8] He regularly receives commissions from high school bands, college bands, and professional wind bands in the United States and Asia.[5]


Mackey maintains an archive of his now largely silent blog at his website, where he chronicled his travels across the world and frequently offered advice to young composers. He also has a keen interest in photography, and most of his posts have at least two photos to accompany them.



  • Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (1993)
  • Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (2000)
  • Redline Tango (2003)
  • Antiphonal Dances (2003)
  • Under the Rug (2004)
  • Aurora Awakes (2019)
  • Places We Can No Longer Go (2020) - for Soprano and Orchestra [9]

Wind Ensemble[edit]

  • Redline Tango[10] (2005) – won the ABA Ostwald Award
  • Sasparilla (2005)
  • Turbine (2006)
  • Strange Humors[11] (2006)
  • Turning (2006)
  • Kingfishers Catch Fire (2007)
  • Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble (2007) – a piano reduction is available as of 2013.
  • Clocking (2007)
  • Undertow (2008)
  • Asphalt Cocktail (2009)
  • Aurora Awakes (2009) – won the ABA Ostwald Award and NBA William D. Revelli Memorial Composition Contest
  • Harvest: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra-without-strings (2009)
  • Xerxes (2010)
  • Hymn to a Blue Hour (2010)
  • Foundry (2011)
  • Drum Music: Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble (2011)
  • Sheltering Sky (2012)
  • High Wire (2012)
  • The Frozen Cathedral (2013)
  • The Soul Has Many Motions (2013)
  • Night on Fire (2013), movement II of "The Soul Has Many Motions", available separately.
  • (Redacted) (2013)
  • Wine-Dark Sea: Symphony for Band (2014)
  • Lightning Field[12] (2015)
  • Fanfare for Full Fathom Five (2015), for brass and percussion ensemble (and optional organ)
  • Liminal (2016)
  • This Cruel Moon[13] (2017)
  • Antique Violences: Concerto for Trumpet (2017)
  • The Night Garden (2017)
  • Snarl (2018)
  • The Rumor of a Secret King (2018), transcription of choral work for wind ensemble
  • Until the Scars[14] (2019)
  • Places we can no longer go (2019), for wind ensemble and soprano
  • Sacred Spaces (2019)

Chamber ensemble[edit]

  • Elegy and Fantasie (1989, 1991), for violin and piano
  • Mood Indigo (1996), for piano and drum set
  • Strange Humors (1998), for string quartet and djembe
  • Damn (1998), for amplified clarinet and four percussionists
  • Voices and Echoes (1999), for string quartet
  • Rush Hour (1999, revised 2000), for clarinet, electric string quartet, and drum set
  • Breakdown Tango[15] (2000), for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
  • Juba (2003), for electric string quartet and percussion
  • Wrong-Mountain Stomp (2004), for violin, viola, and cello
  • Mass (2004), for percussion ensemble
  • Strange Humors[16] (2008), for saxophone quartet and djembe
  • Sultana (2009), for saxophone and piano
  • Strange Humors[16] (2012), for clarinet quartet and djembe
  • Unquiet Spirits (2012), for saxophone quartet
  • Hymn to a Blue Hour (2012), transcription of concert band work for trombone ensemble

Music for theater[edit]

  • Score and songs for Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," Dallas Theater Center (2001)

Vocal Music[edit]

  • Songs from the End of the World[17] (2015), for Soprano and mixed chamber ensemble;[18] text by A. E. Jaques
  • The Rumor of a Secret King (2017), for SATB choir; text by A. E. Jaques


  1. ^ a b John Mackey: The Composer... Archived 2010-07-14 at the Wayback Machine pp. 21–23
  2. ^ a b "John Mackey's Unusual Path to Composing Success | Cued In". Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  3. ^ John Mackey: The Composer... Archived 2010-07-14 at the Wayback Machine p. 28
  4. ^ .profile_pic img { width:auto; height:70px; }. "Meet the Composer..." Retrieved 2014-01-09.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b John Mackey: The Composer... Archived 2010-07-14 at the Wayback Machine pp. 12–13
  6. ^ "Austin 78704". Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  7. ^ "NSFW Workspace". Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  8. ^ "USM Concert Band and Casco Bay Wind Symphony Perform With John Mackey | School of Music | University of Southern Maine". Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  9. ^ Durham Medical Orchestra: The Art of Memory[1]
  10. ^ Transcription of orchestra version. Transcription by the composer.
  11. ^ Transcription of chamber version. Transcription by the composer.
  12. ^ Based on "The Attention of Souls," the third movement of Mackey's "Wine-Dark Sea: Symphony for Band. Arrangement by the composer.
  13. ^ Based on "Immortal Thread, so Weak," the second movement of Mackey's "Wine-Dark Sea: Symphony for Band." Arrangement by the composer.
  14. ^ Based on "Hubris," the first movement of Mackey's "Wine-Dark Sea: Symphony for Band." Arrangement by the composer.
  15. ^ "Includes an audio performance". Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  16. ^ a b Transcription of string quartet version. Transcription by the composer.
  17. ^ Third movement, "At Sea," is a transcription of "Immortal Thread, So Weak," the second movement of Mackey's "Wine-Dark Sea: Symphony for Band." Transcription by the composer.
  18. ^ Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn, 2 Clarinets in Bb, 2 Bass Clarinets, Contrabass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Double Bass, Harp, Piano, 3 percussionists (marimba, vibraphone, bass drum, and suspended cymbal)


External links[edit]