It's not easy to make traditional Irish-Scottish music sound sexy and yet still seem wholesome. But Natalie MacMaster manages this feat, drawing listeners in with her playful showmanship, and then holding them rapt with astounding technical flourishes.
The niece of renowned Canadian fiddler Buddy MacMaster, she's taken up the mantle as standard-bearer for Cape Breton fiddling, a method of Scottish-style violin-playing that's evolved over the last century on this island neighbor to Nova Scotia. The tradition was on the wane when, in 1972, a CBS documentary provocatively titled The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler jump-started preservation efforts in the fiddling community.
MacMaster's enthusiastic charm and extraordinary skill has landed her star billing on the international folk circuit and multiple Grammy nominations. She's released nine albums, including Yours Truly (2006), Natalie and Buddy MacMaster (2005) and My Roots Are Showing (1998). She's toured with countless performers, including the Chieftains, Faith Hill, Carlos Santana and Alison Krauss, and has been awarded two Juno Awards (Canada's equivalent to the Grammy).
Perhaps best known for blinding us with science, Thomas Dolby has always blurred the lines between composition and invention. As a London teenager, Tom Robertson was fascinated with the convergence of music and technology. His experiments with an assortment of keyboards, synthesizers and cassette players led his friends to dub him “Dolby.” That same fascination later drove him to become an electronic musician and multimedia artist whose groundbreaking work fused music with computer technology and video. Two decades, several film scores, five Grammy nominations and countless live-layered sound loops later, it's clear Dolby's innovations have changed the sound of popular music.
In the 1990s, Dolby re-created himself as a digital-musical entrepreneur, founding Beatnik, which developed the polyphonic ringtone software used in more than half a billion cell phones. From 2001 to 2012, Dolby served as TED's Music Director, programming great music for the TED stage, assembling a wide variety of house bands and collaborations to play between speakers. At TED2010, backed by the string quarter Ethel, he premiered the song "Love Is a Loaded Pistol," from his sweeping, A Map of the Floating City. The album marked his return to recording and touring after a 15-year hiatus, and used seriously retro technology -- '40s-era oscilloscopes and Royal Navy field-test equipment -- to control modern synthesizers, in shows at once nostalgic and cutting edge.
In 2014, Dolby took on a new name: professor. He was named the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University, teaching the course "Sound on Film."