Steven Mackey was born in 1956 to American parents stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. He is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar, in rock bands based in northern California. He blazed a trail in the 1980s and ‘90s by including the electric guitar and vernacular music influence in his concert music. 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.
Mackey's orchestral music has been performed by major orchestras around the world, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco and Chicago Symphonies, the BBC Philharmonic, Concertgebouw orchestra, and the Austrian Radio Symphony, to the Sydney Symphony and Tokyo Philharmonic. As a guitarist, Mackey has performed his chamber music with the Kronos Quartet, Arditti Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Nexttime Ensemble (Parma), Psappha (Manchester), and Joey Baron.
Mackey has been honored by numerous awards including a Grammy, several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Friedheim award and many others. He has been the composer-in-residence at major music festivals, including Tanglewood, Aspen and the Holland Festival.
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, twentieth century music, improvisation, and a variety of special topics. He regularly coaches and conducts new work by student composers, as well as 20th-century classics. He was the recipient of Princeton University’s first Distinguished Teaching Award in 1991. He lives in Princeton New Jersey with his wife, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, and their son Jasper and daughter Dylan.