An Associate Professor of Music at Austin College in Sherman TX, composer/pianist John McGinn received an undergraduate music degree from Harvard University in 1986 and his D.M.A. in Composition from Stanford University in 1999. Among his mentors are such noted composers as Jonathan Harvey, Leon Kirchner, and John Adams. His own works have received several honors and been performed at colleges and festivals worldwide.
An avid devotee of improvisation since the mid-1980s, McGinn has long been fascinated by the question of what may be gained – or lost – from the application of rigorous compositional techniques (judgment, development, revision, and so on) to the bright, unpredictable flames of spontaneous creation. Several recent works for solo piano straddle this fine line, including Without a Net (2020) premiered by the composer at CMS Southern and Southwestern conferences, Preludes IV-VI (2019) performed by Max Lifchitz at the National Opera Center in NYC, and Preludes I-III (2015), first presented by James Knight at Society of Composers, Inc. at an SCI Region VI conference. Featured on this recording, Capriciously Strung (2006) was McGinn’s very first work to incorporate a segment of transcribed free improvisation (no hints!) within an otherwise meticulously through-composed frame.
Other recent works include Autumn Leaves (2016) premiered by Young-Hyun Cho at an SCI conference, Trio (2013) for clarinet, violin and piano (likewise), a vocal setting of Yolanda Lockett’s It’s a Letter (2011) in A River of Words Song Cycle, a collaborative cycle commissioned by baritone Bruce Cain and guitarist David Asbury and performed at more than a dozen venues in the United States and Europe, and Score for Score (2009) for 20 players performed by the Inscape Chamber Orchestra of Bethesda MD. As an arranger, McGinn has created piano reductions of several large-scale works including John Adams’ Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, Violin Concerto, Gnarly Buttons and I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky, as well as Christopher Rouse’s Trombone Concerto, all for publication by Boosey & Hawkes.
As a pianist and keyboardist, McGinn has performed throughout the United States and Europe, appearing on nearly two dozen commercial recordings, including a critically acclaimed solo album The 20th Century Piano (AmCam Recordings) and recent albums THE FAIR OPHELIA and ORPHEUS WITH HIS LUTE MADE TREES (Navona) with The Shakespeare Concerts of MA, for whom he served as music director from 2003-08.