Texas native John Dickson brings a unique blend of musical artistry and versatility to the craft of composition.
A multi-instrumentalist, 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, Seth Macfarlane, and Ray Charles. John has composed and arranged music for nearly every facet of the entertainment industry including for the hit USA series Burn Notice, the blockbuster film XXX, chamber music with jazz giant Chick Corea and many cable and network TV shows and movies.
John grew up in a household filled with music. Anything from Chopin to Puccini, Glen Campbell or the Carpenters, Dave Brubek to Strauss 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, Usher, and "Weird Al” Yankovic. He’s also performed on over 300 feature films, TV shows, trailers and national commercials. See credits tab for more details. In 1994 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. Their professional association continued for the next two decades plus and has resulted in more works for orchestra, soloists and jazz chamber music. Many of these have yet to be premiered.
John considers his relationship with Mr. Corea, who passed in February of 2021, to be his most valuable and treasured artistic collaboration. Chick is greatly missed. (Please the tribute section to him on this site) John received 4 ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Top Television Series awards for his work on Burn Notice and has been a part of projects which have earned Emmys and Grammys and multiple film festival distinctions. His growing list of concert and chamber works is gaining wider play as well.
- AFM (Local 47)
- Recording Musicians Association
- The Society of Composers and Lyricists
- The International Horn Society
- BM in Piano and Composition
- MM in Media Writing and Production