Martin Dalby was born in Aberdeen in 1942. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and in 1960 he won a Foundation Scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London where he studied composition with Herbert Howells and viola with Frederick Riddle. In 1963 the Octavia Prize and a Sir James Caird Travelling Scholarship enabled him to spend two years in Italy where besides composing he played the viola with a small Italian Chamber Orchestra. In 1965 he was appointed as a music producer to the BBC's newly formed Music Programme (later to be Radio 3.) In 1971 he became the Cramb Research Fellow in Composition at the University of Glasgow and in 1972 he returned to the BBC as Head of Music, Scotland. In 1991 he relinquished this post in order to pursue a more creative role. In 1993 he retired from the BBC and now composes full time.
He has written a large amount of music: for orchestra, for chorus, for brass bands and wind bands, for the church, for Radio and Television, many songs and song cycles, and chamber music ranging from duos and trios to octets and nonets. Most of it has been commissioned: from festivals such as Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Cardiff, Orkney and Peterborough, or from orchestras and ensembles. It has been performed widely throughout the world notably at such festivals as the Warsaw Autumn and the Henry Wood Proms in London for which more recently he wrote The Mary Bean for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Work for his home city has occupied him more recently, first The White Maa for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra ‹ music to celebrate 200 years of Union Street in Aberdeen ‹ and most recently a String Quartet to celebrate 500 years of Aberdeen University. He has just completed his third Piano Sonata for Peter Seivewright and is now working on a large piece for the RPO.
He has a profound interest in Scotland: he produced BBC Radio Scotland's massive radio history, Scotland's Music a few years ago and won a Sony gold award for it; he is a hill walker; he is interested in railways; he is a bird watcher and he also holds a Private Pilot's Licence.
Dalby is a founding director of the new UK composer organisation, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters and a director of British Music Rights.