Bio

Texas native John Dickson brings a unique blend of musical artistry and up-to-the-minute technology to the craft of composition. He has an exceptional background in composing music for film, television and the recording industry as well as performing with such artists as Barbra Streisand, Elton John and Ray Charles. John is currently working on the fifth season episodes of the USA Network smash hit Burn Notice. He has also recently completed work on the Moving Pictures film, Miss Nobody, the Fox series The Good Guys, and USA’s Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe.

John grew up in a household filled with music. Anything from Chopin to Puccini, Glen Campbell or the Carpenters, Dave Brubek to the Beatles was on the playlist. Mornings in particular were underscored by whatever his folks had on the stereo in the game room. Turandot and Corn Chex, the breakfast of champions. This, combined with his great love of studying and performing the classical piano repertoire, and living in a university town with a vibrant music and theatre scene gave John a deep pool from which to draw as a composer later in life.

Everyone who comes to Hollywood has a story. Some aspiring film composers have been rock stars or touring musicians. Some are born into the business. Others have had a ton of schooling and despite good advice to the contrary were drawn into the fray by a love of movies, music, and the magical chemistry that occurs when the two meet. - John falls mostly into this third category.

By the time John was thirteen he helped form his first band. “We called ourselves Oasis,” John says. “It was mostly made up of a bunch of stage band kids from high school. We had a full Motown style horn section, two singers, but usually no guitar. We could do Styx, but the Stones were out.”

College brought more growth, into different forms of jazz, and writing for voices and chamber ensembles. John also added French horn and conducting to his arsenal. His emphasis in undergraduate school at Stephen F Austin University was almost entirely “legit” in nature. One of his first writing assignments in the masters commercial music program at the University of Miami was to compose a diaper jingle. The tide had turned.

After hundreds of classes, late nights in the Miami studio, and early mornings at the beach, John relocated to Houston, TX and found work as a freelance horn player and pianist. He performed with some of the great artists of the day there, including Tommy Tune, Diahann Carroll, Ray Charles, Andy Williams, Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach. His efforts eventually led to an amazing period with the Alley Theater where he assisted in the World Premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde and scored and composed songs for Alley productions of As You Like It and A Christmas Carol. One of John’s great friends and mentors, the estimable trumpeter Nelson Hatt, suggested that if he seriously wanted to get into the movie music business, it was now or maybe never. So John loaded up the truck and moved not quite to Bev-er-ly, but to North Hollywood and set up shop.

John began life in Los Angeles primarily as a session horn and piano player. He has performed and/or recorded with many artists including: Alanis Morissette, Chick Corea, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra,  Shirley Horn, Warrant, Harry Connick, Lionel Ritchie, and ““Weird Al” Yankovic. He’s also performed on over 300 feature films, TV shows, trailers and national commercials.

  • AffiliationsAFM (Local 47), Recording Musicians Association, SAG, AFTRA, The Society of Composers and Lyricists, The International Horn Society
  • PROASCAP
  • DEGREESBM in Piano and Composition, MM in Media Writing and Production
  • PRIMARY INSTRUMENTSPiano, Horn, Conductor
He had the great fortune of meeting a couple of orchestrator/arrangers early on that put him onto some of his first writing/orchestrating opportunities. Most notable of these were with Snuffy Walden, on The Stand, Crossroads, Wonder Years, The Jackie Thomas Show, A Place to Be Loved, and others, and the APLA benefit show “A Commitment to Life VI” which gave John the chance to write for and perform with some of the all-time greats, including Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Billy Joel, Liza Minelli, Johnny Mathis, Patti Austin, Eddie Van Halen, Kenny Loggins and many others. “I could go on and on about how inspirational and moving it was for me to be a part of such a concert,” John says. “Its preparation, its performance, and its enormous contribution to AIDS awareness and prevention were life-changing.”

At the same time John began canvassing LA’s film programs, AFI, USC, UCLA and the like for up and coming directors to work with. Over the years he scored numerous short films and met a lot of talented young filmmakers like Matt Nix and Tim Cox.

In 1995 John began an incredibly rewarding association with jazz giant Chick Corea as an orchestrator and rehearsal assistant resulting in works for piano and string quartet and pieces for orchestra and jazz quintet/sextet. The first of these, “Spain for Sextet and Orchestra,” won the Grammy Award for the Best Instrumental Arrangement in 2000.

John’s filmography as a composer includes Burn Notice, Miss Nobody, The Good Guys, Killer Per Caso, A Galaxy Far Far Away and over a dozen sci-fi/horror films for SyFy including Mammoth, Alien Lockdown, Larva, and Mark Lester’s Pterodactyl. His compositions and arrangements have also appeared in Sony’s Who Killed the Electric Car?, XXX, Cool World, The Oprah Winfrey Show, General Hospital and a number of other television and film projects.

John has received three consecutive (2008-2010) ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Top Television Series awards for his work on Burn Notice.