Jim McDonough began selling his distinctive brand of soothing piano music in gift shops near his hometown of Monticello in eastern Iowa just six years ago. Today, his fourteen CDs are available in nearly 1000 stores across the country and via his Web site, www.PianoFavorites.com. His Christmas concert tour -- complete with a 14-piece orchestra, a cast of singers and dancers, and an on-stage snowfall -- has become a holiday tradition for thousands of families across the Midwest, and his music has caught the attention of fans from coast to coast. Through his independent record label, Jim McDonough Productions, Inc., the International Steinway Concert & Recording Artist has already sold more than 200,000 CDs...
- from his Facebook page
The youngest of four children, Jim McDonough was born in Monticello, Iowa (population: 3,600). When Jim was seven years old, his mother grew too busy to continue taking piano lessons, so Jim stepped in to fill the spot. And he discovered a talent and love for music that propelled him into a career as a professional musician.
The night before Jim left for college, a friend who dabbled in recording asked if Jim would let him record a few songs. Jim pushed aside his suitcases and sat at the piano, plinking out a few favorite tunes.
He didn't think of the impromptu recording session again - until his family visited him at school with the news that his tape was being sold all over his hometown of Monticello. Jim parlayed the success of that first tape into a second, holiday-themed tape.
Jim graduated from Wartburg College in Iowa with a degree in Music Education, and he took a job as band director for the senior high school in Waukon, Iowa. After a year, he was offered a position at a larger school in LaPorte City, Iowa, and found himself directing two concert bands, two jazz bands, and offering private lessons.
Thrilled to be involved with music, but unimpressed with the politics of teaching, Jim decided to pursue a non-musical career -- as long as he could continue playing piano as a hobby.
Far from home -- and from his beloved Steinway -- Jim found himself spending his off-hours lingering at piano stores, pretending to be considering a purchase and playing as much as he could. "Music was what defined me, and I had given it up," Jim says. "It was who I was, and it had almost entirely vanished from my life."
In the summer of 2000, Jim was contacted about a job playing piano on a cruise ship. He auditioned -- over the phone! -- and was offered a two-week fill-in gig. The only catch: they needed someone immediately. Could he be on a plane at 6:30 the next morning? He decided that it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up, so he used his vacation from the air traffic center to give it a try. He loved every minute of it, and was quickly offered a full-time job on the largest cruise ship in the world.
So, after two years as an air traffic controller, Jim decided to dive headfirst into playing piano professionally. For more than two years, he performed on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in piano lounges, during cocktail hours, and in an 1,800-seat dining room. "I went from the most stressful job in the world -- literally -- to the least stressful job in the world," he says.
On break from the cruise line, Jim recorded his first CD, Requests, which he sold to passengers when he returned to the ship. Dry land eventually beckoned, and in 2002, he moved back to Monticello to concentrate on producing and distributing his music. In Fall 2003, he released his second album, a collection of holiday favorites called Home for Christmas.
Since then, Jim has produced fifteen more CDs...
- from his home page