Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, James studied with Ellen Doyle before leaving to complete his undergraduate studies with Christopher Bunting and Derek Simpson, graduating with first class honours from the Royal Academy of Music, London. This was followed by a Master of Music degree with Timothy Eddy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. James later studied baroque cello with Phoebe Carrai and Markus Möllenbeck at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin.
Winner of the Television New Zealand Young Musicians Competition and the National Concerto Competition of New Zealand, James has appeared as soloist with all of New Zealand’s major orchestras.
James has been invited to teach, coach and give masterclasses in situations as varied as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the University of Hong Kong, the National Youth Orchestra of Catalonia and within New Zealand as a special guest at the IRMTNZ National Conference.
James’s long and continuing association with the Swiss based Jonas Foundation, a foundation working to combat the social exclusion of young people through music, led him to found a music school in the poorer eastern suburbs of Berlin, which he directed for 7 years.
Advanced studies in England, America and Germany, have given James a broad knowledge of the prevalent streams of pedagogical thinking. His teaching philosophy includes a special interest in encouraging children to learn to improvise within classical models.