Payton MacDonald

Payton MacDonald, Co-Artistic Director

Payton MacDonald is a composer, improviser, percussionist, and singer. He has created a unique body of work that draws upon his extensive experience with East Indian tabla drumming and Dhrupad singing, American military rudimental drumming, Jazz, European classical music, and the American experimental tradition. He works across multiple musical genres, often at the same time.

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, and Dhrupad vocal with Ramakant Gundecha. MacDonald has performed numerous times as a tabla soloist and accompanist and recently as a Dhrupad singer.

As a composer MacDonald has written music for Alarm Will Sound, JACK Quartet, Eliot Fisk, Mak Grgic, Shawn Mativetsky, and many others.  His works have been performed throughout the world, including major venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  As a performer MacDonald was a founding member of Alarm Will Sound and toured with the group from 2001 to 2014.  He also performed with the Verederos flute and percussion duo for 10 years, and has traveled and performed extensively as a marimba and percussion soloist, including two appearances at Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and in various engagements across Europe, America, and Canada.

The New York Times described him as an “energetic soloist” and The Los Angeles Times described him as an “. . . inventive, stylistically omnivorous composer and gifted performer . . .” MacDonald is a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellow, where he spent nine months in 2013-2014 in Bhopal, India, studying Dhrupad with the Gundecha Brothers. He  has also won awards and residencies from AMC, ASCAP, Yaddo, and American Institute of Indian Studies.  MacDonald is a Full Professor of Music at William Paterson University.

For more information on his work, please visit