Born in 1959, MacMillan studied piano and trumpet, and began composing as a teenager. Following the successful premiere of Tryst in 1990, he was appointed composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Between 1992 and 2002, MacMillan served as artistic director of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series. He is active as a conductor all over the world. From the 2000–1 season up until the 2010-2011 MacMillan worked as both a composer and a conductor with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester. MacMillan was appointed permanent guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic in September 2010, which he remained until the orchestra was discontinued in 2013.
MacMillan brings together all the qualities of an internationally renowned conductor and composer. He is also one of the most frequently performed composers today. With The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, MacMillan acquired an international reputation in 1990. Ever since, his music has been performed by many of the world’s leading orchestras, conductors and soloists, including the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Slatkin, the Philadephia Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis, the Detroit Symphony under the direction of Neeme Järvi and the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Over the last few years, the ensembles of the Broadcasting Music Center have performed and recorded various works by him under his baton.