For Jacob MacKay '16, cello hit the right note at Brandeis

MacKay performed in Jerusalem and the West Bank last year, and has ambitions to play his cello around the world

Jacob MacKay '16 only ever felt like a rock star was when he played his cello in the West Bank.

"They are so receptive because they're closed off to a lot of the west," MacKay said. "It was a wild experience. I never thought I would be part of something like that."

MacKay, a cello performance and environmental studies double major who started playing the cello when he was 4 years old, arranged to join musicians who’d previously toured in the Middle East on a trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank last December. He performed in four concerts in Jerusalem and four in the West Bank for the Palestine Sacred Music Festival. He was met by audiences that were warm and attentive.  After workshops with young students, children poured out of the school after him and the other musicians. 

He is a member of the Leonard Bernstein Music Fellowship, and is the principal cellist of the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra.  He's classically trained on the cello, and previously viewed Western Classical as the highest standard of music, until he took a world music course with Professor of the Practice of Music Judith Eissenberg that broadened his horizons, he said. He's since experimented in a range of world music styles and interacted with musicians from different countries and backgrounds.

"It's really eye-opening to learn what else is out there," MacKay said. "There's so much more than the Western Classical tradition. It's opened up a whole other sector of the music scene for me."

His recent trip to Israel won't be his last: He's already planning another next year, and hopes to go for years to come -- and to take his cello to other corners of the world. 

"If you give me the plane ticket, I'll go anywhere," he said.

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