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When Joe began taking guitar lessons from a local music teacher in 1982, he had no ambition to pursue the undertaking beyond a hobby. Having been captivated by the sound of the classical guitar since early childhood, and later by the music of Mike Oldfield, at the time he only wanted  to explore guitar finger style and the evocative qualities of the instrument. His natural abilities had lain in Art & Design and therefore it was assumed his career was destined to be in this field.

However, from the first guitar lesson Joe was completely absorbed and, practicing addictively, over the next few years he quickly progressed whilst giving priority to his other academic studies.



It was not until 1986, under the tutelage of Anne Chaurand, that Joe's interest and technical ability on the guitar developed to a level beyond that of a hobby. He began working towards Associated Board grade certificates in classical guitar and music theory and ultimately set his sights on obtaining a diploma. At the time he was also in full-time education studying for a diploma in Art & Design, but even before he obtained this qualification in July 1989, Joe had already decided where his true passion lay.

In 1988, he enrolled for a degree course in music, philosophy and art history with the Open University and by September 1989 -shortly after obtaining a grade 8 certificate in classical guitar performance - was teaching his first guitar students.



























Since 1988, Joe had been attending classical guitar workshops and festivals in Inverness, Cambridge, Leicester and Dingwall, and it was at these that he made the acquantance of world-class performers and some of the UK's most respected guitar teachers. The director of many of these festivals, Chris Kilvington, was a performer, author, composer and respected teaching figure in the guitar world who was also reviews editor for Classical Guitar magazine. Having previously accepted a few concert reviews submitted by Joe, Chris gave the young student his first taste of professional writing when he invited him to become an official reviewer for the magazine in 1991 - a position Joe held until the untimely demise of Chris Kilvington in 1999.



As a writer for  Classical Guitar magazine between 1991 and 1999, Joe reviewed newly-published music books (which included original compositions for guitar, transcriptions, collections and tutor books), CDs and live concerts. During this time he had the privilege to review the concerts of many renowned guitarists and interview some of the world's foremost artists, including John Williams, David Russell, Carlos Bonell, Juan Martin, Paco Peña, Martin Taylor, Eleftheria Kotzia, Stein-Erik Olsen, Vladimir Miku1lka and Nikita Koshkin.



From left: David Russell, Joe McGowan and Mike McGeary

Joe with Nikita Koshkin prior to the Russian composer's first UK concert







         Click image to enlarge


A year after obtaining his first guitar teaching diploma (the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music (LRSM)), in 1992 Joe successfully auditioned for the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow (now the Royal Conservetoire of Scotland) for a BA degree course in musical studies, with guitar as primary study and composition second. His guitar tutors were Philip Thorne, Selina Madeley and Allan Neave, and for composition Tom Wilson, John Maxwell Geddes, Gordon McPherson and James MacMillan.

For Joe, composition had become another area of creative interest that equalled that of the guitar, and during his years at the academy he wrote music in a wide range of styles, including accompanied and unaccompanied vocal works; several solo and ensemble pieces for various instruments; a string quartet and orchestral and electro-acoustic music.

The first two movements of his electro-acoustic symphony, Legend of the Bell, were premiered at the academy in 1994 at a student composers' concert (press review below), and in 1995 his piece for unaccompanied male voice choir, 'Echoes of Scotland,' was highly commended in a national composing competition celebrating the Bank of Scotland's tercentenary year.

 The Guardian review of the composers' concert at the Royal Scottish  Academy of Music and Drama, 1994  


Click image to enlarge


By the time Joe completed his degree in 1995 (taking the option to graduate from Glasgow University), he had also obtained his second guitar teaching diploma, the LTCL, from Trinity College, London. Another year of post-graduate composing study at the academy followed until July 1996, after which Joe was offered a position as guitar instructor for South Lanarkshire Council, teaching in a number of local authority schools.

For the next two years he held this post and another as part-time lecturer in music and computer graphics at Langside College in Glasgow, a job which allowed him to utilise his skills in both music and Art & Design almost to the maximum, as he was now teaching diploma level students.




At the end of 1998 Joe formed a guitar duet with Cameron Angus (also a former student of the RSAMD) and in January 1999 duo Cross Culture spent a year performing on the Canariene island of Lanzarote. In addition to playing duets from the guitar repertoire, they wrote many of their own arrangements of popular songs as well as works by Albeniz, Granados, Rodrigo and Jobim, some of which appear on the album, Crossing the Boundaries, which they recorded towards the end of their time here. In addition to Spanish, classical, Latin-American and popular music, this album includes their own composition, Spanish Portrait. Track information and purchase details can be obtained by clicking on the image above, whilst excerpts can be heard by visiting the jm-music channel on youtube: click here.


Click image to enlarge & view track listings




                                            Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote. Photo by Joe McGowan 



Upon his return to Scotland in 2000, as well as giving private music tuition Joe accepted a teaching post at the Graham Laurie School of Music in Paisley. In the following years he would also turn more seriously to writing, his output including novel-length fiction and short stories, childrens' poetry and academic texts, and in 2005 his first music book, How to pass Standard Grade Music, was published by Hodder Gibson. This award-winning book was the first of several Joe would write for the school music curriculum by the same publisher (see Writing for details).



2010 - present

In February 2010, Joe moved to the region of Manilva on the south coast of Spain where he now teaches music and performs solo classical guitar at numerous venues from Malaga to Gibraltar. He is regularly engaged to play at private corporate events and functions, often performing for dignitaries or celebrities, and on occasion taking centre stage at receptions for international golf tournaments held at some of Marbella's most exclusive courses. 


In 2015 Joe became director of Your Music Mentor, an online tuition and mentoring service catering for beginner to advanced musicians, exam and school students, professionals and teachers.

Visit the website at: www.yourmusicmentor.com










   Guitar Repertoire

Accumulated from more than fifteen years of professional performing, Joe has an extensive and diverse guitar repertoire featuring classical, Spanish, jazz, blues, ragtimepopular, Latin-American and flamenco styles. From his own arrangements of music by The Beatles to works by J.S. Bach, Joe can tailor a performance to suit the requirements of the individual event, whether it's a recital, wedding reception or corporate event. His arrangements of classic pieces and contemporary popular music for guitar solo - many of which were written by special request - are scheduled to become available to buy in collections from 2015. 

Below is a small example of Joe's guitar repertoire.



Includes music by Albeniz, Sor, Torroba, De Falla, Tarrega, Granados           




Recuerdos de la Alhambra

Spanish romance      

Dance of the Miller      

Concierto de Aranjuez

Capricho arabe


En los trigales


Estudio brilliante


Includes music by Sondheim, Joplin, Mandel, Gershwin, Hamlisch


The entertainer

Ain't misbehavin'


As time goes by

The shadow of your smile


Moon river

Let there be love

Maple leaf rag

The Autumn leaves

The black and white rag



Includes music by The Beatles, Elton John, Snow Patrol, Eric Clapton, Robbie Williams





A thousand years

Use somebody

Your song


Classical gas


Stairway to heaven

Nothing else matters 





Includes music by Dowland, Bach, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Satie


3 Gymnopedies

Canon in D

4 Lute suites

Für Elise

Venetian boat song

Jesu, joy of man's desiring


Lachrimae pavan

Guardame las vacas

Moonlight sonata


Pavane pour une infante defunte




Includes music by Villa-Lobos, Cardoso, Bonfá, Jobim, Barrios, Pernambuco, Brouwer, Ginasetra              


Ebony samba        




Tico tico no fuba

Morning of the carnival

Samba de orfeu

Agua de beber

Moliendo cafe

Samba of a jet plane

El  Negrito





Comprising traditional forms and flamenco fusion arrangements          

















Arrange a booking/recital

Joe can be booked for a recital, function or corporate event by sending an enquiry stating individual requirements to the email address in the Contact page.   







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