John McDonald

John McDonald

Contact Info:
Department of Music
Granoff Music Center, M241
20 Talbot Avenue
Medford, MA 02155

Office: 617-627-5624
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Open Studio Hours:
Tue/Fri 1:00-4:00pm

Professor of Music, Director of Graduate Studies

D.M.A., Yale School of Music (1989), M.M.A. (1983), M.M. (1982)
B.A., Yale University (1981)

Recently described as "the New England master of the short piece," John McDonald is a composer who tries to play the piano and a pianist who tries to compose. He is Professor of Music at Tufts University, where he teaches composition, theory, and performance. His output concentrates on vocal, chamber, and solo instrumental works, and includes interdisciplinary experiments. Before coming to Tufts in 1990, he taught at Boston University, Longy School of Music, M.I.T., and the Rivers Conservatory. He was the Music Teachers National Association Composer of the Year in 2007, and served as the Valentine Visiting Professor of Music at Amherst College in 2016-2017.

Research Interests
Composition and new music pedagogy; intermedia collaboration involving composing and performing; solo and chamber music composition, performance and recording; writing new music for young and non-professional performers; music applications for visual art and science; advocacy of new and overlooked composers through research and performance

Recent Commissions; Performance Activities

  • 2017 Rivers Conservatory: Second Sonata for Solo Violin
  • 2016 Cello e Basso: Mediated, Monitored, for cello, contrabass, and piano
  • 2015 Master Singers of Lexington: Uprights, for chorus and contrabassĀ 

Recent Recordings and Film Projects

  • 2017 Reflections on Time and Mortality. Thomas Stumpf, piano. Featuring Works by Schubert, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, Rakhmaninov, Wyner, McDonald, Stumpf, Biggs. February 2017 Release on Albany Records (Troy 1959/60)
  • 2016 Dreamtime: Zodiac Trio "Across the Universe." Works by Danielpour, List, Mackey, and Twelve Short Pieces by Twelve Composers (including McDonald Hillside Humoresque [Scorpio]). January 2016 Release on Blue Griffin Recordings (BGR 391)
  • Music composed and performed for Films by Judith Wechsler, Erika Volchan O'Conor
    • 2017 Svetlana Boym: Exile and Imagination
    • 2016 Colorado Women Arts Pioneers
    • 2016 Metamorphosis and Memory (Film on Aby Warburg)
    • 2014 The Passages of Walter Benjamin


  • In Narratalogia: Co-Author with Jarmila Mildorf (University of Paderborn, Germany), Pictures into Sound: Aural World-Making in Art Gallery Audio Guides (April 2015; features McDonald concert work Courbet's Impromptu Farewells)
  • In NANO Today: Materials Scienceā€”Merging Proteins and Music (November 2012 online article; interdisciplinary collaboration with scientists, mathematicians, choreographer; Tufts, Boston University, Tufts; McDonald contribution: "Four Spinning Melodies" for solo flute, based on peptide sequence diagrams; second author)


  • Forthcoming, 2017 Borik Press: Stirring Up the Music: The Life, Works, and Influence of Composer T(homas) J(efferson) Anderson