Nanette McGuinness was born Nanette Michèle Cooper in Boston, Massachusetts. She spent much of her youth in Houston, before attending Cornell University where she earned a B.A. in Music. She later graduated from Holy Names College, where she earned an M.M. in Vocal Performance and the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned her PhD in Musicology.
McGuinness began her music career as a soprano in both operatic and chamber music performances. She was featured on three albums released on Centaur Records, Fabulous Femmes (music by 19th and 20th century women composers) with the Athena Trio and Benedetto Vinaccesi: the Solo Cantatas with the Vinaccesi Ensemble. She has also worked as a voice teacher.
McGuinness is the vocalist for the trio Ensemble for These Times, alongside pianist Dale Tsang and cellist Anne Lerner-Wright. Formed in 2007 Ensemble for These Times plays both works by living composers, including 56 out of 275 submitted via an international "Call for Scores" in 2016 and also relevant but forgotten works from the twentieth century, including composers exiled or killed in the Holocaust. In 2016 the group also released the album Jewish Music & Poetry Project: Surviving – Women's Words, based upon their performance project that set poems written by women survivors of the Holocaust to music. The album was awarded a Silver Medal at the 2016 Global Music Awards. Other members of the group have included composer David Garner and guest artists such as violinist Dawn Harms, for their stage show The Guernica Project, which commemorated the 80th anniversary of Pablo Picasso's work Guernica. In 2018 McGuinness's album The Hungarians: from Rozsa to Justus received the gold medal from the Global Music Awards.
McGuinness is also a translator, having translated about fifty published books and graphic novels from Italian and French into English for children and adults, including the Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novel series with Papercutz and California Dreamin': Cass Elliott Before the Mamas & the Papas with First Second Books, and Luisa: Now and Then.
- "Group revives works of those who perished in the Holocaust – J." 30 October 2015.
- "Profile - Nanette Cooper McGuinness - The Authors Guild". www.authorsguild.net.
- "National Association of Teachers of Singing - Nanette McGuinness". www.nats.org.
- "Centaur releases a fascinating 'project within a project'". byteclay.com.
- "Ensemble champions new music from around the world".
- "The Guernica Project: World Premiere".
- "Features". Deezer.
- "An Ensemble Asks What Picasso's Guernica Means in These Times".
- "A War Atrocity Inspires Twice - Classical KDFC". 6 April 2017.
- ""Guernica Project" Concert to honor bombing of Gernika".
- Swinkels, Niels. "Mother, Sister, Daughter, Marvel ~ Ensemble for These Times ~ Timon of Athens ~ Nathaniel Dorsky". www.kalw.org. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
- "Ensemble for These Times". www.e4tt.org. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
- "Children's Book Review: Dinosaurs: In the Beginning... by Arnaud Plumeri, trans. from the French by Nanette McGuinness, illus. by Bloz. Papercutz (Macmillan, dist.), $10.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-59707-490-2".
- "California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas Breaks Through the Biographical Noise".
- "GERONIMO STILTON by Geronimo Stilton , Lorenzo De Pretto , Michela Battaglin , Nanette McGuinness - Kirkus Reviews".
- "A Graphic Bio of Cass Elliot Traces the Singer's Complicated Rise to Fame".
- "Luisa: Now and Then - Review". Publishers Weekly.