Percussionist Biography

payton mallets

Payton MacDonald is a percussionist who works across a wide range of musical disciplines. He was a founding member of Alarm Will Sound, a new-music chamber orchestra. Alarm Will Sound is currently regarded as one of the foremost new music ensembles in the country, with multiple recordings and performances all over the globe. He was with Alarm Will Sound from 2001 to 2014, and during that time he made five recordings with them on the Nonesuch and Cantaloupe labels. He has also appeared as a soloist in many countries, performed with Present Music and  Verederos flute and percussion duo, and toured Japan with Keiko Abe and the Galaxy percussion group. He has appeared on two PASIC Showcase Concerts and has performed, composed for, and recorded with the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble.

Payton has dedicated much of his career to expanding the art of marimba playing. To that end he has commissioned many works from other composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Robert Morris, Akshaya Tucker, Caleb Burhans, Don Freund, Elliott Sharp, David Saperstein, Michael Udow, Stuart Saunders Smith, Gene Pritsker, and many others. Payton is also one of the few marimbists in the world who is a dedicated improviser. He frequently improvises entire performances, and works with other notable improvisers, including Billy Martin, Erin Rogers, Weasel Walter, Elliott Sharp, Aakash Mittal, Colin Stetson, Steven Crammer, Peter Evans, Tim Feeney, Todd Sickafoose, and many others. Since 2020 MacDonald has released a new marimba recording every week, including improvised music, his acclaimed Super Marimba project, and various collaborations.

Payton also completed his Sonic Divide project, a massive interdisciplinary project that brought together percussion, singing, filmmaking, and ultra-distance mountain biking. For that project he commissioned 30 composers, many of whom wrote pieces for percussion.

Payton studied percussion at the Eastman School of Music (DMA, MM, and Performer’s Certificate) with John Beck, and the University of Michigan (BFA) with Michael Udow. He also learned percussion from Pandit Sharda Sahai, Bob Becker, Julie Spencer, John Alfieri, and Richard Landauer. He is a Full Professor in the Music Department at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, USA. .