May 17, 1855, Huntington, Pennsylvania.
John was the son of minister N. S. Buckingham, of Virginia, and Margaret Morris Duncan of Pennsylvania.
He was educated in Boston, London and Paris. He studied music under Whiting (organ), Emery (harmony), Parker (piano), John K. Paine (counterpoint composition), I. Philipp, Paris (piano), R. R. Terry, and E. D’Evry, London (plain song). He graduated from the Boston University College of Music in 1879.
He began teaching at the New England Conservatory in 1877, was a member of its faculty until June, 1896, then taught privately in Boston. He played the organ at Monument Square Church, Charlestown, Massachusetts (1876–81); Immanuel Congregational Church, Roxbury, Massachusetts (1881–94); St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Providence, Rhode Island (1897–1900); and at St. Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church, Brookline, Massachusetts (1900–?).