- 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, and 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 the “Excellence in Teaching” award at Oberlin.
McDonald’s recordings are heard on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, Decca, Gasparo, Smithsonian, and Telarc labels.