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John is a Sci-Fi Nerd and Classical Music Enthusiast who “dabbles” in composition. John began composing at age 12 because he came up with a theme for a Sci-Fi movie and no one would write it down for him. So he learned music theory and did it himself... and then refused to stop.

In college he majored in both Film Production and Music Composition but then landed a summer job as a 2D animator, which began a lengthy career as an Animation Director for American commercials (Cap’n Crunch) and TV shows (Animaniacs, Histeria, Farscape). But the music bug never left, and he continued playing piano and composing small pieces in the background during this time, even creating the score to one of his own animated short films “Defiant” (2000) and contributing to the score of “Lemmings” (2005). After briefly helming his own animation studio, Gold Skeleton Pictures, John entered the gaming industry as an Art Director for one of the world’s largest slot-machine companies. Even though music was always a passion, for many years it lay dormant as he achieved success in this new career.

But in 2016 John decided to re-start formal piano lessons and get serious about composing again, with an eye towards a possible second career in retirement. This began a very productive period of composing which saw the creation of 4 piano sonatas, a Violin Sonata, A string Quartet, a Cello Sonata, and various smaller piano pieces such as the Bagatelles, The Salzberg Variations, and a Caprice.

John is a passionate advocate for new music that employs traditionally Classical and Romantic forms, and has coined the term “RetroClassical” to describe these works. He is also a huge fan of movie soundtracks and considers John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith on equal footing with Debussy and Brahms and will challenge anyone who disputes that to a mean game of chess!

FUN FACT: John saw the original Star Wars 69 times in the theater and can quote the entire movie from memory.

Listen to John's music here:



What does music mean to you personally?

“Composing“ vs. “Performing“ vs. “Listening “ vs. “How music shaped my life“ – so many different answers. Composing music has been an obsession for me since childhood, though I only received proper training much later in life. Performing music, on the other hand, is nerve-wracking (although playing alone is pure joy, a meditation). Listening to music, actively listening, can be a glimpse into a composer’s soul – like listening to a conversation where you can’t understand the words but feel the emotion. But mainly my life and artistic career have been the direct result of two things: Star Wars and Beethoven. If I had not seen Star Wars or listened to the Eroica Symphony at the exact right time in my young life I might have gone to a very different place. Most teenagers had rock posters on their bedroom walls. I painted a giant portrait of Beethoven.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

No, it is not. Fight me!

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I am NOT a professional musician. I consider myself an amateur composer/pianist and classical music enthusiast. I AM a professional Art and Animation Director with a long career in TV and Entertainment. So, I would say that had I not become a professional animator I would have been a professional film composer. Or a storm chaser (I am fascinated by tornados).

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

Sort of, but not because the current generation is getting old. I am more worried about new generations being prejudiced against Classical music. Popular music today is a zillion dollar industry and it’s all about the flavor of the week. Music over 20 years old is seen as irredeemably out of fashion, and there is a whole media machine subtly reinforcing that notion for their own profit. And there is also the self-fulfilling prophesy that orchestras are afraid to program new classical music vs standard repertoire.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

The internet has played such a key role in creating more numerous and diverse music communities that I doubt the word is transformation but rather diversification. Sadly, I also think that within 20 years computerized or robotic musicians will become commonplace. It is happening with truck drivers and taxis right now. Content creation will be the last bastion of human contribution. I take no pleasure in writing that.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Yes, but not in the way you might be thinking. Music composition leverages all the technical advantages of the 21st century, from notation software on your phone to full digital orchestras. Yet performers still have not embraced technology in any game-changing way since the electric guitar and amp. As a result, technology companies are not incentivized to innovate on their behalf. Imagine a custom violin fitted with mechanical stops and a robotic bow, played using a VR glove connected to a custom interface that doesn’t force the hand into unnatural positions. We could do that right now, but folks who spent 30 years of their lives to become a master of traditional violin technique are not interested. An orchestra could be a room full of automated instruments played remotely by virtuosos in different countries. What is the role of creativity in MY musical process? I’ll talk about that a little farther down, read on, gentle reader…

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

ROBOT MUSICIANS, I already told you! Ha, just kidding. Seriously I don’t think that burden should be on musicians. It’s hard enough to earn a living in music without also doing the job of a producer or an advertising team. Connecting with an organization or venue that already has that as its mission and then supporting them is probably the best you can do.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

I used to improvise at the piano, but these days I use an iPad with Symphony Pro 6 as my notation software. For inspiration I have a treasure trove of themes and ideas I’ve collected over the years. The theme to my Bagatelle #1 for instance, was a rejected theme from a sonata movement. I let these roll around in my head and when I feel the inspiration, I start writing. I honestly just write down the first few measures and then imagine what my ear wants to hear next. Then I write that down. And so forth. After a while a basic outline starts to emerge. I am most comfortable working in classical forms. When I get to the end, then I go back and edit the hell out of it. Then I ask my wife to listen to it. That often leads to more changes, but always for the better. My favorite piece so far is my unfinished Sarabande from my third piano sonata. Maybe it’s my favorite because it’s unfinished. I’ve been stuck on it for over a year now, but I love it. It started as a theme for alto recorder I wrote in high school called “Mock Bach”. It’s in 7/8 time, which is unusual for me.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Yes, don’t force it. If you come across a piece of music that speaks to you, go online and learn one thing interesting about that composer. It may pique your interest. It may be years until you come back to it. But plant the seed and see if it takes root. No one was born drinking coffee. You had a sip of your parent’s coffee, spit it out, but then years later suddenly wanted to try it again. Now you have a Starbuck’s card.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Only in a vague sense. I am keenly aware that my music will not interest everyone. My motivations are simple: I listen to classical music and say to myself “I wish there were more music like that in the world.” So I just started doing it myself. And I am still learning. Always learning.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

My 4-movement “Alpine” Violin Sonata is being recorded in July 2021 along with my Cello Sonata called “Storms”. The Cello Sonata is a bit of an experiment for me and is very rhythmic, somewhere between jazz and film music. After that I’m taking a little bit of a break from composing to finish a short animated film in exchange for my piano teacher and her partner recording my Violin Sonata. The film is about an alien who crash lands in rural America in 1945 set to Morton Gould’s American Suite. After that, I will try to finish that damned Sarabande!