John McGrew is a composer, storyteller, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and performer currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.
Born in Ohio, McGrew was raised in a family of musicians, surrounded by madrigals, operas, and hand-built harpsichords. He studied piano and trumpet formally throughout his childhood, and while studying theater at the University of North Carolina, began to write electronic and rock compositions. Upon graduation, McGrew hauled his keyboard and trumpet north to New York City and started a band, John McGrew & The Sitbacks.
McGrew's desire to compose lyrical and textured melodies soon extended beyond his work with the Sitbacks to compositions for theater and dance. In 2008, McGrew composed music for the Hunter College High School production of Shakespeare's Two Noble Kinsmen, later collected on the album Bells and Bones. The New York Times called McGrew's music for the Jack Ferver dance performance piece Death Is Certain both "ominous" and "delicate." His musicals (one based on the myth Cupid & Psyche with lyrics by Jon Karpinos, and one inspired by the work of Apollo Run's Here Be Dragons series) were the central piece for youth performers at the Acting Manitou performing arts camp in Maine in 2009 and 2012, where McGrew acts as musical director. In 2009, McGrew was invited by to create and perform a piece for DanSpace Project's Food For Thought, a night that honored the year's most influential artists from the dance world. McGrew composed/performed original music for Judith Sanchez Ruiz' Site Specific performance at Invisible Dog Art Center, Colleen Thomas' Anatomy of a Viciously Sweet: A. Love; B. Lust; C. Life; with Zenon Dance Company in Minneapolis, and for Bill Young/Colleen Thomas' A Place In France at 100 Grand in NYC. McGrew has continued his annual work with Hunter College High School, composing and music directing original work for Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, and Comedy of Errors. In 2013, McGrew was asked to compose the theme music for the TED Talk conference, TED Talk: The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered. (with Graham Fisk, artist Oliver Jeffers, and videographer Mac Premo.
In 2014, McGrew was nominated as a Fellow in the Academy for Teachers for his work at schools in the New York Metro area. He has also pioneered an interactive, multimedia course entitled "Igniting the Creative Process" which he has been teaching both publicly and privately over the past ten years.
McGrew performs across the country with his Brooklyn-based rock group Apollo Run, whose "talent for quickly jelling melodies" was recognized by NPR's Song of the Day, among others, including HuffingtonPost, Time Out NY, Crawdaddy!, LAist.com, and FutureSounds.com. Apollo Run released their debut full length record, Here Be Dragons, Vol. III, in September of 2012. McGrew composed/performed for Enrico Wey's Where We Are Right Now as part of LMCC's 2014 River to River Fest and Tony Orrico's recreation of Yvonne Rainer's Hand Movie.
Between 2016-2018, McGrew worked as a Senior Producer on toy and short form animation audio & music at Mattel Inc. for Nickelodeon brands and Thomas & Friends. In the past year, McGrew has led all music initiatives at Mattel TV, Overseeing music for Mattel's TV division. Shows include He-Man Masters of the Universe, Kevin Smith's He-Man Revelation, Thomas & friends, Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures, Enchantimals, and over 20 shows currently in development.
McGrew is currently working on an original dark fairy tale, The Village of Vale, which Had its Theatrical world premiere in Fall of 2017 at Lincoln Center in NYC. Supported by a workshop run at The Invisible Dog Art Center, a residency with New Victory LabWorks, and further development with Lincoln Center Education, The Village of Vale is an exploration in storytelling, featuring one original dark fable told through word, music, art, performance, and a scenic design immersive art installation. Created with Jonathan Karpinos and Joe Varca Vale features an ageless Traveler returning to the village that once betrayed her carrying only a pair of magical glasses and a desire for vengeance. As she embarks on her quest, she becomes caught up in the lives of an obsessed bookkeeper, a haunted widow, and the family of woodcutters that exiled her long ago. When her reckless desire threatens the lives of the villagers, she faces a pivotal choice: find a way to forgive, or risk everything to take her revenge.