Artist Profile: Ewan Mackay


Next up in our series of Artist Profiles is Ewan Mackay, one of our 2018 Emergent commission winners.

We spoke to Ewan about his biggest triumph and why he dreams of one day working with Yo-Yo Ma.

Meet the Musician

Name: Ewan Mackay
Musical style(s): Neo-Impressionist, Classical.

Ewan is pictured in black and white in an autumnal woodland scene, wrapped up warm in a double-breasted coat

Where did it all begin for you in making music?

I was never a child who enjoyed sports at School due to the nature of my condition – Cerebral Palsy. My journey in music began at the age of 8, I began Cello lessons under Bill Linklater. I then began my compositional journey at the age of 12. I first studied at Peterhead Academy for 6 years. Whilst there I studied with Elaine Waters and Diane Pert.

While at Peterhead, I worked on creating my own unique sound, writing a number of experimental pieces. Then, in 2012, I composed a small piece called ‘Goodnight Moon’ – for string ensemble.

Other major moments have included the performance of my work with the Grampian concert orchestra in 2015 and the premiere of ‘Soliloquy’ – for Solo Flute, composed for my friend and colleague Jillian Hunter, which was performed during her Honours recital at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Stornoway earlier this year.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge so far would be my Bachelors’ studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands. The nature of the degree – being mainly distance learning – meant that there was a huge amount of isolated and independent study, work and reflection.

Throughout the degree, I reevaluated what it meant to be a composer in my native Scotland and have become greatly inspired by the landscape surrounding me in the North East of the country, and I have strived to find a unique synthesis of the landscape and music, which comes together in a Neo-Impressionist soundworld.

And your greatest triumph?

My greatest triumph has nothing to do with music, but has had a marked impact on all aspects of my life – including my work as a composer.

In 2013, I summitted Ben Nevis – the UK’s tallest mountain – realising a 10-year dream in the process. I first saw the mountain at the age of 8 and dreamt of climbing it ever since. After years of dreaming, I summitted the mountain with 25 others who supported me during the training, ascent and descent.

While training for the climb, I raised £7,766 for the Aberdeen Neo Natal ward where I spent the first four months of my life. The entire journey taught me that there is more than one way of achieving ones goals and reminded me that, while anything is possible, nothing comes without a great deal of work, and determination.

What would your dream collaboration be? 

My dream collaboration would be to have my work performed by the Cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Being a Cellist myself, I have always admired his skill and the beauty of not only his playing, but also the spirit with which he views music education and the wider arts in general. To have the opportunity to have music performed by him one day would be a dream come true.

What’s coming up for you next?

I am currently working on my Masters’ studies in Music in the Environment with Mark Sheridan and I am hopeful that I might work in music education alongside my composition work.

I am planning to perform and release an album of my Solo Cello music alongside working with local music initiatives to bring my work to new audiences.

Now for the really important question… If you were a biscuit, what would you be and why?

A TimeOut… I probably eat far too many!