By Scott MacClelland
Someone suggested to the already successful composer John Wineglass that he might find inspiration in nature. So, in 2005, he made a fateful decision to move his family from New York to Carmel Valley. “It proved a bit of shock at first,” he says. Yet, not for long. Not only does he have continually unfolding opportunities, including in the Big Apple and Los Angeles, but has seen new commissions coming in at a busy pace. He also has been seen playing violin and viola as a sub with the Monterey Symphony, and in collaborations with Rebecca Jackson’s Music in May festival of chamber music. In 2012, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music premiered its commission of Wineglass’ Someone Else’s Child for narrator and orchestra, based on poems from incarcerated teens in Santa Cruz.
Born in Washington DC, Wineglass was accepted into the DC Youth Orchestra in 1984, and soloed that year in a viola concerto. It didn’t take long for the music bug to bite big time. Every summer, when the DC Youth Orchestra traveled—to Hong Kong, the former Soviet Union, the Balkan states—he realized “music can take you places.” Ten years later, he completed a Bachelors of Music in composition at the American University, and subsequently a Masters in composition, emphasis on motion pictures and television, at New York University.
With the urging of a colleague, he interned for daytime television and went on to receive numerous Emmy nominations for All My Children, winning the coveted prized in 2002 (shared with others), 2003 and 2005. Accomplished as a conductor, jazz pianist and gospel leader, his credits include a large body for television and radio included MSMBC and NPR. He has performed with major GRAMMY-winning artists and film stars, and played for five presidents.
What really turns him on is composing, in addition to films and documentaries, a growing corpus of works for the concert hall. “I perform mainly to keep my chops up,” he says. Four weeks ago, in San Jose, Ensemble San Francisco premiered Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba which Wineglass arranged for an octet.
Wineglass makes his home in Monterey but is frequently on the road. His reputation as a composer precedes him. He does a lot of music in our area for, among others, the Big Sur Land Trust. And he’s always in talks about new commissions. His style of composition sounds graceful and at ease, disguising the efforts behind his craft.