We had the good fortune of connecting with John McQuaig and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi John, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
While I have many interests outside of music, it’s the only thing I’ve ever considered with which to have a life and make a living. My parents were always so supportive of my musical development and passion, not to mention the many teachers I’ve had who have challenged and encouraged me. Though I had many passions as a kid (sports, art, theater), music was the one thing I never considered abandoning. It’s imprinted on my identity. Before I began working as a composer, I was a classical pianist, aiming to get a doctorate in the field. To me though, that world felt limited, and I always knew that if I wasn’t in music, I’d work in film… so why not combine the two! I felt unfulfilled, so the next step was for me to make that change for my life. Since I was little I’ve had a huge passion for film, TV, and video games, so I began experimenting with composing. I took a year off, built my portfolio and was accepted to NYU’s Graduate Screen Scoring program. It was the greatest risk and greatest payoff of my life. I have a greater sense of what my artistic identity is after finishing that program than I ever have. Everything I’m doing now artistically just feels right.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a composer, I’m most at ease, creatively speaking, sitting at the piano. Since the age of 6, the piano has been an extension of myself. It’s been where I’ve experienced breakthroughs, frustrations, and profound joy. The music that I was brought up on and played the most was that of the classical masters: Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy to name some. These composers, along with the classic film and video game scores I grew up hearing, largely informed the kind of music I write today, though I’m fascinated with experimentation at the same time. The plethora of tools, software, and plug-ins that we have for scoring today create an absolute playground for sonic experimentation, and where these two worlds meet that I find my passion. To bring it back to the question, I think my formal classical training along with my open-mindedness is a combination that fosters success and satisfaction. To those pursuing a creative career — be open, be kind (this includes yourself!), judge less, and have fun.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Museums, shows, and food. All places, all kinds, any time of day. Recently, I saw an archival 35mm screening of Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’ at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. It was unforgettable! Want the best dumplings in the city? Go to Main St. in Flushing, Queens. Some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had? A speakeasy (not so secret though) in the East Village called ‘Death and Company.’ No reservations, so be prepared to wait for a table! New York City is full of people, places, and cultures that make it easy to experience new things, especially if you have an open mind and a little bit of spontaneity!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents have always encouraged and supported my creativity and passions, which means so much more than they realize. My partner in life and love, Alex, is a constant source of support and an empathetic listener. The many amazing teachers I’ve had (especially as a child) have always challenged and uplifted me. The NYU Screen Scoring program has given me the skills and knowledge in order to thrive in this fickle, unpredictable industry.

Website: mcquaigmusic.com

Instagram: @mcquaig.music

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-mcquaig-9ab77894/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn2-K6abSBKE6gacHQCkkwQ

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