For San Diego native John January MacDonald, music has always been a big part of his life. “My family made music important in our home,” recalled John. “Show tunes, jazz and classical music were played on the stereo by my dad all at high volume on the weekends.” As a hobby, John’s father sang barbershop quartet and his mother played the accordion and guitar. But it was John’s brother, Joe, an avid collector of rock, jazz, and soul music, who really served as his inspiration. “(My brother) fed my mind with the greater universe of musical expression,” shared John. “It only was matter of time before Clapton, Hendrix, and Chicago with Terry Kath became favorites of mine.”
As a result, John took an interest in the guitar and soon started playing under the guidance of his teacher, Dave Hargrove. “Dave set my path to learning and teaching in motion when he asked me ‘What do you want to learn?’” remembered John, who now is a guitar teacher himself. “This philosophy of nurturing the student’s musical ambitions became my own teaching mantra, and has greatly contributed to keeping my students engaged in the guitar from a young age all the way to college.”
Born in Claremont, John moved to Chula Vista as a teenager, where he attended The Chula Vista High School for the Performing Arts. Later, he learned recording production at Southwestern College before relocating to Portland, OR for some time.
Name: John January MacDonald
Profession: Guitar Teacher/Professional Musician
Community: Poway since 2003
Hobbies & Interests: Sailing, wildlife, vintage guitars
Favorite Local Spot: The greenbelt along Metate Ln.
Since moving back to San Diego, John has appreciated living in Poway. “I love the green belt that runs along the southern boundary of Poway and includes the bike paths and parks that run west along the ‘Ted,’” shared John. “I enjoy hiking and biking, and I’m passionate about local wildlife.”
John often performs in Poway with one of his bands, Planet Jack – a classic rock cover band. His primary band is The January Berry Band, which he formed with his musical partner and girlfriend Linda Berry. “Linda is an excellent singer,” stated John. “We are considered a blues band, but we play funk, classic rock, and duets.”
A few years ago, John was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Chicago. He has received an award from the Billboard magazine songwriting competition as well.
Most recently, John’s album Chemistry 101 was nominated for the Best Blues Album in 2018 by San Diego Music Awards. “The feedback from fans of Chemistry 101 is that people put it on and listen all the way through and then listen again and again,” said John. “For both Linda and me, this news has been very rewarding.”
As for giving advice to aspiring musicians, John offered: “Listen to a lot of different music, check out funky bands from Africa, Persian music, Cuban and Caribbean music. Learn about the birth of jazz in New Orleans, how it lead to rock, blues, and everything we listen to today.” He added, “Making music is rewarding and brings people together… When you push past the butterflies in your stomach and just go for it, something magical and chemical happens.”