Marilyn McDonald

  • Professor of Violin and Baroque Violin


  • BM with highest honors, Northwestern University, 1964 
  • MM with honors, Indiana University, 1965 
  • Performer’s Certificate, Indiana University
  • Studies with Angel Reyes and Josef Gingold


Marilyn McDonald, a founding member of the Smithson Quartet and the Castle Trio, currently plays in the Axelrod Quartet in residence at the Smithsonian Institution and so named in honor of the donor of the decorated Stradivarius instruments on which the quartet performs.

She has toured worldwide as a chamber musician in repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary, appearing at Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Gallery, the Caramoor, Utrecht and Mostly Mozart Festivals, Wigmore Hall, Disney Hall, Ravinia and the Concertgebouw, as well as appearing as soloist with the Milwaukee and Omaha symphonies. Concertmaster positions include Boston Baroque and the Peninsula Music Festival.

McDonald is well known for her interest in performing on historical instruments. Former students in this area occupy positions of importance worldwide.

Recent students occupy positions in the Boston and Houston symphonies, in several active string quartets, and have been international prize winners in the Locatelli, Berkeley Bach, Naumberg, Stulberg, and Fischoff competitions.

She has been artist in residence at Boston University and has held visiting professorships at the Eastman School of Music and at Indiana University. She teaches each summer at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and has been honored with Oberlin’s Excellence in Teaching award.

McDonald’s recordings are heard on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, Decca, Gasparo, Smithsonian, and Telarc labels.


Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute Awarded EMA's 2020 Goldberg Award

March 10, 2020

The Early Music America 2020 Laurette Goldberg Award, for achievement in early music outreach, has been awarded to the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute (BPI). The summer institute's faculty is led by Artistic Director Kenneth Slowik and four Oberlin Conservatory faculty members who make up the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble—Mark Edwards, Michael Lynn, Marilyn McDonald, Catharina Meints. 

Oberlin's BPI was created in 1972 by former Oberlin Conservatory oboe professor James Caldwell in order to bring famous Swiss musician, August Wenzinger, to the United States to perform, teach, and conduct. Catharina Meints, who was closely involved with the beginnings of BPI, continues to be the senior faculty member 48 years later.

On behalf of the faculty and participants of BPI, Catharine Meints said: “I can say that we are delighted to receive recognition from EMA for our work over the last 49 years. We are proud of what we have accomplished and are honored to be presented the Goldberg Award.”


Where Heart and Mind Meet

March 23, 2021

Annemarie Schubert ’21 chose Oberlin for violin and neuroscience. Then early music chose her.

Winter Term: Recording the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with Piano

September 10, 2020

Fourth-year violin major Peiwen Su took on the ambitious project to learn and record the entire Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D major. The project was both challenging and inspirational—and demonstrated to Su what is possible in this new reality.