James Blachly is a Grammy®-winning conductor dedicated to artistic excellence and broader accessibility. In addition to frequent guest conducting appearances, he currently serves as Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Experiential Orchestra. His world-premiere recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison, released on Chandos Records, won a 2021 Grammy® and was acclaimed by The New York Times, New Yorker, Gramophone, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Guardian, and many others.
Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, he is also in demand as a speaker on Listening as Leadership, bringing his expertise as a conductor and passion for music to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations.
Mr. Blachly’s innovative programming aims to increase audience engagement. With the Johnstown Symphony, he conducted the orchestra in a former steel mill in a concert that was featured on Katie Couric’s America Inside Out, and in five seasons the orchestras has increased season ticket sales by 43%; with the Experiential Orchestra, he has invited audiences to dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, sit within the orchestra at Lincoln Center, and engage with Symphonie fantastique and Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn.
A strong supporter of composers of our time, Mr. Blachly has commissioned and premiered more than 40 works from composers such as Jessie Montgomery, Courtney Bryan, Viet Cuong, Michi Wiancko, Kate Copeland Ettinger, Patrick Castillo, Brad and Doug Balliett, and many others. In recent seasons, he has collaborated with soloists Julia Bullock, Andrés Cárdenes, Michael Chioldi, Karen Kim, Andrew Yee, Owen Dalby, Janna Baty, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and more.
In 2016, he was the only conductor from the U.S. invited to participate in the 1st Annual Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th Anniversary celebration, and he was also the only U.S. conductor to be invited as Conducting Fellow in Maestra Marin Alsop’s final year at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Guest conducting engagements include Williamsburg Symphony, Lima Symphony, Spokane Symphony, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Portland Symphony Orchestra (ME), Malaysian Philharmonic, Danbury Symphony, Odyssey Opera (Boston), Trinity Church Wall Street (New York City), and performances at Roulette, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
Dedicated to music education, he has conducted dozens of educational concerts for thousands of school children. For ten years he conducted workshops and clinics for the New York Philharmonic, served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program, and conducted clinics and appearances throughout western Pennsylvania for the JSO. From 2010 to 2015, he performed benefit concerts of Mahler symphonies with New York freelancers to launch what is now Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans.
In 2020, Mr. Blachly was invited to serve as the Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the African Diaspora Music Project, directed by Dr. Louise Toppin. In that capacity, he has overseen the compilation of a database and website detailing more than 1,000 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers.
Also active as a composer, he studied at Mannes with Robert Cuckson and privately with Charles Wuorinen and John Corigliano. His compositions have been celebrated as “vigorous and assured” by Chamber Music America, and a “splendidly crafted…tour de force” by the Miami Herald Tribune, and have been performed at The Stone, Zankel Hall, in Europe and across the US, in an audience for the Pope, and broadcast live on the CBC.