Academy Award Winning Film composer and musician John McDowell is one of the leading pioneers of the world music scene who travels deeply into the realms of spirit and cultures and creates works of classic beauty.
McDowell achieved worldwide recognition with his soundtrack to the Academy Award winning documentary Born Into Brothels. Winner of Best Musical Score at the Bend Film Festival, the score blends Western and Indian music in a mesmerizing mix. Subsequent film scores by McDowell include Who Does She Think She Is?, Stolen, Orgasmic Birth, Sold, produced by Emma Thompson, Ganga (Holy Unholy River), and SALAM.
Known for much more than just his film scores, McDowell is also a highly gifted pianist, percussionist, producer, commissioned composer and conductor. His work over the past 25 years draws on classical, jazz, pop, and world music. McDowell served as founder, artistic director and leader of several musical projects including The Born Into Brothels Ensemble and the world music band Mamma Tongue. He has toured and recorded with Rusted Root and Krishna Das and has produced several albums including his solo CD Speaking the Mamma Tongue. He has also performed with Sting, Carlos Santana, Michael Wimberly. McDowell’s formal education and subsequent informal global training has made him a largely self-taught ethnomusicologist of widely-ranging scale.
After receiving music composition degrees from DePaul and Northwestern Universities, McDowell lived in Europe and Africa. His research took him to Senegal, Gambia, India, and to work with Native American drummers and singers from the Tuscarora and Oglala tribes. In Europe, his dance scores have been featured at the Brussels Dance Festival, the Holland Festival, and the Berlin-Amsterdam Festival. His compositions range from solo flute music to dance scores, a requiem, and works for a world music ensemble and orchestra. He has performed at major venues and festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Woodstock-99, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and the United Nations and throughout Europe. He is also a biodynamic farmer and has recently performed and toured in the U.S. and Canada as half of the piano/violin duo project Music for Farms with Canadian violinist, composer, and fellow farmer Emmanuel Vukovich.
John McDowell comes from a multi generational family of musicians. His father Austin McDowell was a clarinetist and head of the University of Illinois woodwind faculty and later head of the U of I Music School. Austin McDowell worked intimately with Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, and George Enescu on performing their compositions.
“John’s doing some quite brave things. It’s hard to mix cultural strains together and have continuity. He does that wonderfully.” - David Bowie