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Kevin James

New York, NY         

Kevin James is a composer, performer, educator and writer with wide ranging interests, an equally broad compositional palette, and a fascination with the connections between language and music.


2013 marked the completion of Kevin’s Vanishing Languages Project. New York Times critics placed the works among the “Best of 2013… as haunting as they were riveting”. In May, the project received a feature story on the syndicated Public Radio International program, The World, and Chicago Classical included the first of the works among its “Top Ten Performances of 2011”.


In 2009, Kevin was one of 5 American artists awarded a JAPAN-US Friendship Commission Fellowship to pursue work on his Vanishing Languages Project. Along with the Rome and Berlin Prizes, this is among America’s most sought after artist fellowships. This allowed Kevin to travel extensively, gathering field recordings of the last remaining speakers of four nearly extinct languages for use in a series of long form, electro-acoustic and multi-media works. This project resulted in five new works developed on commissions from Elisa Monte Dance (NY), the string quartets ETHEL (NY) and Del Sol (SF), Fulcrum Point New Music Project (Chicago) and Speak Percussion (Australia). The final works of the Vanishing Languages Project were premiered in 2013 through residencies in New York and San Francisco at Brooklyn College, Roulette and the ODC Theater.


Kevin’s recent premieres include a work for American Public Media’s Radio Radiance series, premiered on a broadcast of it’s popular Celebrating Our Musical Future show, Revolution No. 11, commissioned by the International Beethoven Festival, and the critically acclaimed, 100 Waltzes for John Cage, premiered at the DiMenna Center in New York in August 2012.


Kevin has received awards and grants from the American Composer’s Forum, Jerome Foundation, NEA, NewMusicUSA/Meet the Composer, New York State Council on the Arts, American Music Center and many others.


Kevin’s Horobi No Naka Kara, commissioned by the Young People’s Chorus, was previewed on WNYC radio prior to delivery as a gift from New York City Mayor Bloomberg to Hiroshima Mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba and premiered at a Concert for Peace commemorating the 60th anniversary of the bombing.


His first art film composing project (Jocasta, created and directed by Elise Kermani) has screened at festivals throughout the US and Europe. A second collaboration with Ms. Kermani, developed in a residency at 3 Legged-Dog Center for Arts and Technology with new music icons Pamela Z, Theo Bleckmann and Rinde Eckert, is currently in post-production.


Kevin’s cantata, Sadako: Prayers for Peace, commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival, was workshopped and performed at University of Indiana prior to being premiered by the Fulcrum Point New Music Project as part of the Music Now Festival at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and again at the Harris Theater.


Kevin’s multi-media work NYC Play Ground, commissioned by the Young People’s Chorus for their Transient Glory Series (premiered at the 92nd St. Y in a live broadcast on WNYC radio), was chosen to represent the US at the World Choral Music Symposium in Kyoto Japan in 2005. In Complexu Pacis received honors in the worldwide Waging Peace choral music competition and was a winner of the Essentially Choral competition where it was performed by the renowned VocalEssence.


Kevin’s selection for the highly competitive Meet The Composer/New Residencies Program in 1999 placed him in residence variously with the NYC PAL, The Kitchen, the Quintet of the Americas, and the Sirius String Quartet. This 3-year residency partnership included the commission of The Portraits Project, a 90-minute multimedia "opera-lingua", for which Mr. James recorded over 700 interviews with homeless New Yorkers. The Portraits Project has had several successful runs at The Kitchen and The Public Theater in New York. Other residencies include the Atlantic Center of the Arts in Florida and the MUSIC-OMI artist colony in upstate New York.


Kevin’s music has also been performed on the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Music Off the Walls series, The Orchestra of St. Luke’s Second Helpings Series, the North River Music Series at the Greenwich House, the Oregon Bach Festival, and on symposia of the American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America and the Society of Composers Inc. national conferences. His music has been performed by ETHEL, Del Sol String Quartet, Meridian Arts Ensemble, Quintet of the Americas, Sirius String Quartet, percussion virtuoso Glen Velez, flutists Steve Gorn, Margaret Lancaster, and Robert Dick, vocalists such as Lisa Bielawa, Maria Jette and Daisy Press as well as many other acclaimed ensembles and soloists throughout the U.S. and Europe. Several of these groups have current plans to include Kevin’s work on upcoming CDs. In addition, his music has been featured numerous times on WNYC radio’s NewSounds hosted by John Schaefer, and WQXR radio’s All Ears hosted by Terence McKnight, as well as shows on WKCR, WBAI and DCTV.


Finally, Kevin is the director of The [kāj] Ensemble (it’s pronounced “cage”), a collective of New York’s finest and most daring improvising musicians, where he performs on trombone, didjeridoo, harmonica and a variety of other “folk” instruments. He has conducted over sixty guest artist residencies at American universities such as University of Michigan, Indiana University and University of Minnesota, and has performed for New York audiences everywhere from underground improv spaces to the Broadway pit to Carnegie Hall. In 2011 Kevin was named a “Distinguished Alumnus” of DePauw University.

Articles by Kevin James:

Articles August 19 2016 | By Kevin James
An Open Response to “… But I Hate Modern Music”

Subjectivity isn’t actually a matter of taste. It’s a matter of expectation. When it comes to art and artistic renderings, there is, unfortunately, often a disconnect between what an artist...

Articles September 4 2012 | By Kevin James
Cage = 100: Provenance and Process—100 Waltzes for John Cage

Sometimes, the thoughtful and respectful recreation of a work is the deepest form respect. Other times, taking that work, using it as a diving board to bounce on and leap...