John McGann passes

And the sad news just keeps coming…

John McGann, noted instrumentalist and acoustic music educator passed away this morning in Boston. He was on the faculty at the Berklee College of Music where he taught mandolin and guitar, and led a number of string ensembles. He was also a gifted performer who was conversant in a wide variety of musical genres.

We understand that John had been diagnosed with a kidney condition just a few weeks ago, and was thought to have been responding well to treatment. He had been away from school, but the expectation at Berklee was that a full recovery was anticipated.

John leaves behind a wife and young daughter.

David Hollender, who served with McGann on the Berklee faculty, described his colleague as…

“One of the nicest, funniest, most knowledgable people I have ever known. The things he knew about music would blow your mind.

When he was out playing with Matt Glaser, they used to play a game on stage called “Ask John.” No matter what instrument he had in his hands, people could call out any Beatles tune, and he could start playing it on the spot.

He knew bluegrass, jazz, gypsy jazz, classical, Celtic and American folk music well.

John wore lot of hats. He was a great musician and we will miss him terribly.”

One bluegrasser whose life John touched is Sierra Hull, who studied with him every week while she was enrolled at Berklee.

“My heart is so heavy with the news of John’s passing. He was a special person and has been a great inspiration to me. I feel so blessed to have known him, and to have studied with him during my two years at Berklee.

He was one of the most gifted mandolin players and musicians I have ever met. He knew how to teach in such a way not to intimidate, though he knew more than I will probably ever start to grasp. He always carried himself with a smile, and was a great encourager to anyone that he was around. Thanks to him, my Berklee experience was one that I am proud of and thankful for.

He will be so greatly missed!”

Bluegrass Today offers our most sincere condolences to the McGann family, the community at Berklee, and all John’s many friends and students who loved him dearly.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

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  • John Intrator

    This is heartbreaking news, and almost impossible to believe of someone as vital and fully alive as John McGann.

    John was a wonderful teacher, performer and a close friend. I first got to know him in the mid 80s, when he came over to Europe to play with me and my band. His energy, humor and talent were a delight, and left a deep impression on me and my family, as on everyone who met, heard or played with him.

    We stayed in touch over the years, as John grew into a musical mentor and guide not only for me, but for countless other musicians lucky enough to know and study with him.

    John was a brilliant musician and a funny, warm and totally decent human being. Words cannot say how much i miss him.

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