World-renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator and educator Makanda Ken McIntyre was a tireless musical innovator for nearly half a century, with 12 albums and more than 600 compositions and arrangements to his credit. His works include compositions for woodwind quartets, chamber ensembles, jazz bands, and full orchestra, as well as hundreds of lead sheets. He composed ballads, calypsos, bebop, avant-garde and the blues.
Makanda was known primarily for leading his own ensembles — performing on alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet, oboe and bassoon — and being proficient on more than 16 instruments, including bass, drums and piano. His playing on all these instruments projected a highly energetic, celebratory life force.
Makanda, whose given name was Kenneth Arthur McIntyre, was born on September 7, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, who were from Jamaica, raised him in the South End, a largely West Indian area. He picked up his first saxophone at the late age of 19 after being inspired by Charlie Parker. He made up for lost time through tireless practice and discipline.
After serving two years in the Army, Makanda earned his bachelors in Music Composition from the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1958, with a certificate in flute performance; a Masters in Music Composition from the Boston Conservatory in 1959. He took an Ed.D. in Curriculum Design from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975.