After stints as a high school band director, cruise ship entertainer and air-traffic controller, Jim McDonough began selling his distinctive brand of soothing piano music in gift shops in eastern Iowa. Today, the International Steinway Concert and Recording Artist’s CDs are available in stores across the country, while headlining concert tours as a soloist, as well as with his professional orchestra and singers.
The youngest of four children, Jim McDonough was born in Monticello, Iowa. He began taking piano lessons when he was seven years old, and discovered a talent and love for music that would eventually propel him into a career as a professional musician.
But the road to success wasn’t without its detours. In eighth grade, an accident nearly ended his musical career – crushing his right hand – and nearly crushing his dreams in the process. Jim emerged from two hours of surgery with pins in his fingers and tiny fractures across his hand. But throughout more than a year of physical therapy, Jim kept playing – with a cast on his right hand – and concentrated on improving his performance with his left hand. Determined to play again, he devoted nearly every spare moment to working to get back the dexterity in his right hand. The rigorous rehearsing paid off, and in ninth grade, instead of a car, Jim bought a Steinway grand piano to celebrate how far he’d come.
After graduating from Wartburg College in Iowa with a degree in Music Education, he worked as a high school band director. As many of us do, he then took a slight detour, leaving the world of music behind: Jim traded his piano keyboard for a computer keyboard, and accepted a job as an air traffic controller at one of the largest air traffic facilities in the world, in Chicago.
But the high-stress job wasn’t filling the creative need that gnawed at Jim. So after two years away from the piano, he decided to return to his first love and dive headfirst into playing piano professionally. In the summer of 2000, he was offered a job performing on the largest cruise ship in the world. 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 Iowa to concentrate on producing and distributing his music. Since then, he has recorded
eighteen more CDs, filled with most often-requested songs from a variety of genres.
In 2010, Jim was honored by the legendary piano maker, Steinway & Sons, naming him to its worldwide artist roster. As an International Steinway Artist, McDonough joins an exclusive list of the most accomplished and discriminating performing artists, including classical piano phenom Lang Lang, jazz star Harry Connick Jr., pop icon Billy Joel, and "immortals" Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.
Throughout his two decades of touring, Jim’s Holiday Grande concert tour has become a must-attend tradition for thousands of Iowa families each Christmas. In 2011 he added a Spring Tour to his annual itinerary, which like Christmas, includes his professional fourteen-piece orchestra.
His hour-long television special, Home for Christmas with Jim McDonough, a warm and intimate concert taped at his Cedar Rapids, Iowa home, aired on PBS stations across the country during the 2021 holiday season.
Jim's independent record label, Jim McDonough Productions, Inc., distributes his albums to stores across the country and through his Web site, www.PianoFavorites.com. His music has been featured in magazines and newspapers, as well as on radio and television stations from coast to coast. Reviewers have showered critical acclaim on his performances, calling his music "wonderful" and "extraordinary."