John Mackay wrote his first song at 3 years old, and began piano studies at age 6. He began his professional career at age 18, playing the Hammond B-3 organ in a number of venues, including television and radio. He studied composition and arranging throughout the 70's with various well-known teachers in Toronto, (where he grew up), but fundamentally considers himself a self-taught musician, through years of listening and playing experience. He has worked with some of Canada's finest jazz musicians, including Peter Appleyard, Don Thompson, Marty Morell, Michael Stuart and many others, while simultaneously working some "commercial gigs" with various artists, including Roger Whittaker and Jim Carrey. John moved to the U.S. in the 80's and spent a couple of years gigging around New York, before settling in Boston for a number of years. While there, he worked with, amongst others, Cab Calloway and William Thomas McKinley.
John now divides his time between the US, Canada and New Zealand, leading an active musical life, performing, recording, composing and teaching. He has released a number of recordings in the past few years, mostly original compositions, including jazz, pop, sacred vocal music, contemporary classical and celtic.
John's two most recent piano trio recordings have garnered rave reviews and feature him as both a composer and a fine interpreter of other works. “Peaced Heart and Often Grin” is mostly original compositions with a few standards thrown in for good measure. “For Wayne and Herbie” is a dedication to two of the finest jazz musicians of this (or any) generation and features the music of Mr. Shorter and Mr. Hancock.
Another recent release, “Organoptics”, features him on the Hammond B-3, which was one of his first loves when he began to play jazz as a teenager. This recording has been released on the new record label “Chickencoop”, which is affiliated with Summit Records.
Twenty-four Forays into Classijazz features John as solo pianist playing twenty-four original compositions—one in each of the 24 keys—(in honor of J.S. Bach). John coined the term “classijazz” as a way of trying to describe the kind of music. It celebrates his early study of classical music combined with his love of jazz. These “forays” have received a number of awards in composition contests over the past few years.
John's most recent commercial recording is "Back to Bach", featuring the pianist exploring and improvising on a number of Bach preludes from the WTC book 1, in a piano trio format.
As a composer John is active in a number of different fields, including jazz, contemporary classical, theater and pop. His theatrical song-cycle entitled "War is an Avalanche", based on Anzac letters from the First World War, received its world premier in Apr. of 2015, receiving rave reviews. He is presently working on another theatrical, multi-media song-cycle based on Puccini and his numerous love interests. John also writes music for television and video, and has a movie score commission on tap for 2017.
John’s music has won awards in contemporary classical, solo piano, choral, children's music and jazz genres.
In addition to music John is active as a playwright, poet and story-writer. One of his plays, "The Song" received a number of performances in 2014 and is being featured in the Manila (Philippines) Short and Sweet Festival in Sept. 2015, using an indigenous cast and director. He has recently co-written a new play with Mano Pratt, a Maori-New Zealander, entitled "The Other Flag", about the misunderstanding around the Treaty of Waitangi. It had its premier performance in Oct. of 2015 on the island of Waiheke.