Dennis James has dedicated his professional career to the theatrical traditions of organ performance and furthering public interest in the pipe organ. From the time he began performing concerts while still in his teens, James has been at the top of the organ profession. He has played virtually everywhere pipe organs are to be found, from the spectacular movie palaces throughout the United States and Canada to the most prestigious concert halls and theaters in Europe and the Far East.
Born in Philadelphia in 1950, Dennis James began formal organ training in that city at the age of 12. He attended Indiana University's School of Music as a student of concert and church organ performance, earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees under the tutelage of Dr. Oswald Ragatz. Highlights of James' early professional career include his New York City recital debut at St. Patrick's Cathedral and a two-year appointment as staff organist at the largest pipe organ in the world, the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia.
His organ-with-symphony-orchestra concerto debut was in 1984 at Chicago's Orchestra Hall performing Handel's Concerto No. 13 in F, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His many European concert tours have featured several return engagements at Vienna's famed Konzerthaus to perform at the historic 5-manual Rieger concert pipe organ; a ten year appointment as Silent Film Organist for the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria: and a featured all-Europe organ convention performance shared with renowned French concert organist Marie-Claire Alain. He made his Sydney Opera House concert hall debut three sellout solo organist performances and was the premier performer for the Singapore Esplanade Concert Hall pipe organ.
For more than 50 years Dennis James has played a pivotal role in the international revival of silent films with live music. Beginning as an accompanist for university screenings, James now tours worldwide under auspices of his Silent Film Concerts production company presenting professional silent film programs with accompaniments ranging from solo piano or theatre organ, to appearances with chamber ensembles and full symphony orchestras. Performing to film at an ever-increasing number of sites throughout the world, James is celebrated for providing the most comprehensive selection of historically authentic silent film with live music presentations available today. James has performed sellout silent film programs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at Meyerson Symphony Center among many such major ensembles, and his international silent film presentations have been seen most recently in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, England, Singapore, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Italy.
A featured solo performer on the international film festival circuit, James has appeared regularly at annual Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia events as well as the Pordenone and Rome (Italy) Festivals Cinema Muto. He may be seen in series presentations at the National Gallery of Art, the Walker Film Center in Minneapolis, the Cleveland Cinematheque and for the Chicago Art Institute, the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the Palazzo Delle Espisozioni in Rome. James has performed programs under the auspices of the American Film Institute, National Film Registry, Museum of Modern Art, Library of Congress, Pacific Film Archive, George Eastman House, American Federation of the Arts, UCLA Film and Television Archive and the British Film Institute.
Dennis James currently serves simultaneous professional positions including House Organist for the Washington Center (Olympia, WA) and Historic Coleman Theatre (Miami, OK), Silent Film Organist for the Forum Theatre (Binghamton, NY and Hollywood Theatre (Gowanda, NY) plus appears regularly as silent film organist for the Stanford Theatre (Palo Alto, CA) and California Theatre (San Jose, CA). James' career has included such past professional appointments ranging from House Organist at the Lansdowne and Brookline Theaters in Pennsylvania, the Paramount and Rivoli Theaters in Indiana, the Seattle Paramount, Lynwood Theatre, Everett Theatre, Mt. Baker Theatre in Washington, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, plus as the final employed Resident Organist for the national landmark Ohio Theatre in Columbus and Symphony Organist for the San Diego Symphony. James has performed frequently at various California locations including the State Theatre (Monterey), Arlington Theatre (Santa Barbara), Paramount Theatre (Oakland), Berkeley Community Theatre and annually for twenty three years at the famous outdoor Spreckels Concert Organ in Balboa Park (San Diego). James also maintains a long-term performing relationship at New York's "Showplace of the Nation," Radio City Music Hall which has included solo organ concerts, variety performances and multiple appearances together with orchestras in accompaniment to silent films.
In a professionally diverse career, James has played organ together with professional, semi-professional, academic and community symphony orchestras, “pops” orchestras, chamber orchestras, symphonic wind band ensembles, tuba ensembles, marching bands presented in concert, percussion ensembles, brass & percussion groups with dancing cheerleaders & flag corps, Scottish pipers, stage & show orchestras, swing bands (Thirties to Fifties), nostalgia bands (Dixieland, Ragtime, Traditional Jazz, Novelty, Twenties recreation), country-western, vocal soloists (classical, opera, Broadway current and past, commercial popular groups playing 50’s, 60’s, 70’s through current tunes), wedding bands, choirs (church, show, theme, etc.), rock groups, and in tandem with solo instrumentalists with all sorts and combinations ranging from classical duos and trios to ballet troupes, fashion shows, magicians, puppeteers, children’s theatre shows, celebrity actors and narrator programs, radio drama show recreations, onstage fireworks demonstrations, burlesque, film exhibition and even a troupe of professional Viennese ballroom-show dancers in a televised variety concert from the Konzerthaus in Vienna.
Dennis James' educational activities have include Lecturer for Glass Music Studies at Rutgers University (2011-2015), an appointment as Research Fellow at the University of South Carolina, and guest lecturer for universities nationwide, including Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Alfred University in Alfred, NY among others. He has held artist-in-residencies at the Flint Institute of Music and for CAPA in Columbus, OH plus was the debut Theatre Organ Workshop artist for the Granada Theatre Historical Society. James has served as adjudicator for numerous organ-playing competitions, including the London, England "Young Organist of the Year" plus various American Theatre Organ Society local and national contests. An experienced composer and arranger, James has seven record album and five compact disc solo issues to his credit. He has been the subject of many American national broadcasts over NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and NPR radio and television. James has been profiled in a feature television documentary for the Australian Broadcast Commission, played solo concerts broadcast over national Austrian and Italian television with followup Europe-wide streaming and has appeared on numerous radio broadcasts for the BBC in England, the CBC in Canada, French, Austrian Italian and Belgian national radio networks.