John McDonald Mackenzie was born in Drumnadrochit village, by Loch Ness, but moved with his family to Inverness when he was seven. Both his parents were musical, in the Highland tradition: his mother came from a family of bagpipers and sang songs in the Gaelic, while his father played numerous instruments by ear, notably the violin, the piano-accordion and piano.
By the age of 13 John had played the harmonica in public, and two years later, was proficient enough to be an accordionist with local dance bands, having taught himself to read music in the process. After an indifferent scholastic career, John left school at 15 then successfully completed an apprenticeship as a cinema projectionist, only to abandon this in order to devote more time to playing, later composing dances for his band in the style of his hero and role model, Sir Jimmy Shand.
Moving eventually to the Midlands, John settled in Derby with his wife, Annèle, during the mid-Sixties. Throughout the earlier part of this period he played in Scottish bands, and was honorary piper the Derby Burns Society for 12 years; but he now devotes most of his spare time to musical composition, and in this respect too he is mainly self-taught.
For the future, John writes: "I intend to look for soloists to write for, perhaps also duets - flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, and strings etc. I am open to suggestions."
John´s latest project, however, is writing for the renowned trio Cuillin Sound [flute, clarinet & bassoon] in arrangements of old Scottish music.
A DERBY composer still has a thank-you letter he received [which he is pictured holding] from the late Neil Armstrong after he became the first man to walk on the moon.