Musician and film composer John 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. Among the many subsequent film scores by McDowell are Higher Love (winner of Slamdance Grand Jury Award), Salam (currently on Netflix), and the film Sold, a narrative, feature film adaptation of the globally acclaimed novel by Patricia McCormick.
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 30 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. McDowell’s formal education and subsequent informal global training have made him a largely self-taught ethnomusicologist of a 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.He has written over 100 pieces ranging 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, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and the United Nations. He is also a biodynamic farmer and has performed and toured in the U.S. and Canada with the chamber music project Music for Farms.