McCreary was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and spent most of his formative years in Bellingham, Washington. He is the son of author Laura Kalpakian and professor Jay McCreary of University of Hawaii. He is of Irish and Armenian descent. He studied under the renowned film score composer Elmer Bernstein at the USC Thornton School of Music, during which time he reconstructed and re-orchestrated Bernstein's 1963 score for Kings of the Sun. Their collaboration allowed for the complete score to be available as a soundtrack album for the first time in forty years.
McCreary earned degrees in Composition and Recording Arts from the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, and is a classically trained pianist and self-taught accordionist.
McCreary is married to singer/songwriter Raya Yarbrough, with whom he worked on the music of Battlestar Galactica.
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