Malcolm Forsyth

Born December 8, 1936 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Died July 5, 2011 in Edmonton, Canada


Born South African, Immigrated to Canada


Modern 1920-Present


Atayoskewin Suite for Orchestra, Electra Rising, Cello Concerto

Malcolm Forsyth


Malcolm Forsyth was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 1936. As a child, he studied pianotrombone, and flute. He attended Cape Town University, first majoring in trombone in 1963, and then getting his masters degree in conducting and composing in 1966. In 1972, Forsyth received his Doctorate of Music, also from Cape Town University. For eight years, Forsyth played trombone in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, where he was once conducted by Igor Stravinsky!

In 1968, Forsyth immigrated to Canada and joined the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, where he would play trombone for eleven years—three years as bass trombone and eight as principal. He also became a faculty member at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he taught theory, composition, conducting, and trombone. Eventually, he became the conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra and held the composer-in-residence position.

While conducting, teaching, and playing trombone, Forsyth also found time to compose over one-hundred-forty pieces! Forsyth writes primarily for orchestras and brass ensembles, but has also written music for strings, woodwinds, and choirs. His music is unique because it expressively blends the folk music from his South African heritage with music from his adopted home in Canada. His most famous piece, Atayoskewin Suite, depicts the free spirit of North America. During a radio interview, Forsyth told listeners how important it is to him for the audience to enjoy and understand his music. “I always have had a sense of responsibility to the audience… I am myself a dedicated audience member, dedicated to the idea of concert music that does sweep people away. I’m never more happy than when I can be transported by a performer or a performance”.

Forsyth’s music has gained him attention in Canada and around the world! He has been nominated six times for JUNO awards, the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys. Atayoskewin Suite won the first JUNO ever in the category “best classical composition” (1987), and Forsyth has won two more times since then! In 1989, he was honored as the “Canadian Composer of the year”. More recently, in 2003 Forsyth was made a member of the order of Canada, a great honor given by the Queen! Forsyth is best known as a modern Canadian composer who wrote beautiful, accessible music that displays both his South African and Canadian heritage.