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Scott Macmillan: Biography

Scott Macmillan
1955 -
Region: Atlantic

Scott Macmillan

Scott Macmillan, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1955, is recognized as one of Canada's leading musicians, and as playing an integral role in widening the audience for the music of Atlantic Canada both nationally and internationally.  Equally at home on the podium, in the studio or behind a guitar, Mr. Macmillan is in great demand as a music director, performer/conductor, arranger and producer.  He completed a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at Dalhousie University, where he also took courses in music, and continued his musical training at Humber College in Toronto. During his school years he worked as a guitar player and subsequently spent five years touring as part of Rita MacNeil's band.  His Scott Macmillan Sextet was a winner in the Atlantic region for his original compositions in the Alcan Montreal Jazz Festival in 1987.

Mr. Macmillan's interest in composing and conducting deepened following master classes with Victor Yampolsky and participation in a CBC National Arrangers Workshop with Eric Knight and Paul Hoffert. His  expertise in and understanding of regional folk and Celtic music led him to compose in this idiom, initially for his celtic-crossover group The Octet.  This in turn led to the first of many commissions, The Celtic Mass for the Sea for CBC Maritimes, which he co-wrote with librettist Jennyfer Brickenden.  Since its premiere in 1991, the Mass has been performed annually throughout Canada, receiving its New York premiere in June of 2002 at Carnegie Hall.  This much-loved work continues to be a bestseller on the Marquis Classics label, and is featured on the United Nations 50th Anniversary celebration recording, Here and Now.

More recent commissions include an a cappella choral work for the Canadian Music Centre based on three poems from Sheree Fitch's If You Could Wear My Sneakers, a children's book based on the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child. Mr. Macmillan has also arranged Ms. Fitch's feminist rant, Lucy on Buts  for The Aeolian Singers and composed Fancy Nat  for the Musica Viva trio and Natalie MacMaster.  Mr. Macmillan was Composer-in-Residence for the 2000 Scotia Festival of Music, and premiered five new works for the Festival, including his String Quartet #1, Moods for Sixteen Strings.

Scott  Macmillan is well known for his work with Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS), with whom he has been Host Conductor of the Mostly Maritime Pops Series since 1995.  For SNS he has created shows with such top Atlantic Canadian artists as Natalie MacMaster, Rita MacNeil, Raylene Rankin, J. P. Cormier, among others, and his musical collaborations have contributed significantly to the exploding Atlantic pop music scene since the mid-l980's. This included a program of symphonic and vocal arrangements in tribute to the noted Canadian and Nova Scotian folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton, featuring singer Clary Croft. His work with Atlantic artists has led to conducting and programming engagements with other major orchestras, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony (with whom he has recorded with Rita MacNeil), the Calgary Philharmonic, the Winnipeg Symphony and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

In 2001 Mr. Macmillan created a new work for orchestra, bagpipes and tin whistles entitled MacKinnon's Brook Suite, capturing the immigrant story of Scottish settlers to Cape Breton.  Recorded with SNS and soloist Ian McKinnon, this work won the 2002 East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for Best Classical Recording, and will premiere as a television special on CBC's Opening Night in January of 2003.

An exceptional guitarist, Scott Macmillan has been nominated seven times for ECMA's, receiving the Instrumental Artist of the year Award in 1988 and Best Classical Recording for Bach Meets Cape Breton with Puirt a Baroque in 1995.  His other recordings include Songs of the Cape with The Octet, Guitar Souls with David MacIsaac, and Scott Macmillan Presents the Minnie Sessions volumes, 1, 2 and 3,  with guest musician friends.  In the spring of 2000, Mr. Macmillan and his Minnie Session concept were a weekly feature during a 13-week live to air CBC Radio national series, "The Nova Scotia Kitchen Party."  On this series Mr. Macmillan performed duets with Atlantic Canada's best including Buddy MacMaster, Lennie Gallant and Jimmy Rankin.

Scott Macmillan has composed for film,  television and radio, including work for the National Film Board of Canada, CBC Radio and television, Vision Television.  He has created commissioned works  for Mermaid Theatre, Symphony Nova Scotia and the St. Cecilia Concert Series.

Mr. Macmillan is a member of the Canadian League of Composers, an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, the Atlantic Canadian Composers Association, SOCAN, the Atlantic Federation of Musicians and the Guild of Canadian Film Composers. His contribution to the cultural life of Atlantic Canada was recognized by the University of College of Cape Breton, who awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 1997.  He has received numerous awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Nova Scotia Arts Council.  Currently, with the support of the Canada Council, he is creating his first symphony, a musical exploration of palindromes.  Mr. Macmillan divides his time between Halifax and Cape Breton, and is married to Jennyfer Brickenden, with whom he runs Scojen Music.  They have two sons, Duncan and Ian.

What They Say:

"Macmillan is a wonderful musical ambassador for every genre of music from this area and a joy to work with."  (Susan Mitton, Director of Radio, CBC Halifax)

"Ordinarily you would ask, why is a guitar player writing fiddle tunes? But there is nothing ordinary about Scott Macmillan." (Mail Star, 1996)

"Scott Macmillan has helped us define our culture." (The Coast, 1994)

"...a highly gifted musician." (the late Dr. Georg Tintner, Conductor Laureate, Symphony Nova Scotia)

"Celtic Mass for the Sea puts Scott Macmillan up with the Bill Whelan's and Shaun Davey's of the world... a Celtic classical composer par excellence,"  (John O'Regan, broadcaster, Limerick, Ireland, 1997)

"One of the most delightful evenings of music imaginable took place at Centre in the Square on Thursday night and much of the credit for the success lies in the incredible talent of guest conductor/arranger Scott Macmillan."  (Harry Currie, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 2000)

"...he has written an important chapter in the history of Nova Scotia and Canadian music." (Stephen Pedersen, the Halifax Herald, 2001)


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