2005: Redline Tango
2009: Aurora Awakes

John Mackey (b. 1973) holds degrees from the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with John Corigliano and Donald Erb, respectively. He has received commissions from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Parsons Dance Company, the New York Youth Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the Dallas Theater Center, New York City Ballet, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the American Bandmasters Association, and many universities, high schools, middle schools, and military bands. His trombone concerto, Harvest, composed for New York Philharmonic principal trombonist Joseph Alessi, has received dozens of performances worldwide and been commercially recorded three times. Mackey has served as composer-in-residence at the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival, the Vail Valley Music Festival, and with youth orchestras in Minneapolis and Seattle.

A two-time winner of the Sousa/ABA/Ostwald Award, Mackey was inducted into the American Bandmasters Association in 2013.

John Mackey


Mackey won the 2004 Walter Beeler Memorial Composition Prize and the 2005 ABA/Ostwald Award for Redline Tango, an arrangement for wind ensemble of a work originally commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic. In his program notes to the piece, Mackey writes,

Redline Tango takes its title from two sources. The first is the common term of "redlining an engine," or, pushing it to the limit. In the case of this score, "redline" also refers to the "red line," or the IRT subway line (2 & 3 trains) of the New York subway system, which is the train that goes between my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and BAM, where this work was premiered.

The work is in three sections. The first section is the initial virtuosic "redlining" section, with constantly-driving 16th-notes and a gradual increase in intensity. After the peak comes the second section, the "tango," which is rather light but demented, and even a bit sleazy. The material for the tango is derived directly from the first section of the work. A transition leads us back to an even "redder" version of the first section, with one final pop at the end.

Mackey received the ABA Ostwald Award again in 2009 for Aurora Awakes, which also received the NBA/Revelli Prize. The middle section of the piece is inspired by the guitar riff from U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."