Maestro James Blachly

James Blachly is a conductor dedicated to audience engagement, community outreach, and imaginative programming. Recently named the 12th Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra in its esteemed 88-year history, Mr. Blachly also serves as Music Director of the New York City-based Experiential Orchestra, Music Director of Geneva Light Opera, and co-Artistic Director of The Dream Unfinished, a social justice orchestra. Steve Smith, writing for the New York Times, praised his performance of Mahler 4, saying, “Mr. Blachly’s interpretation had a subtle elasticity” and his “thoughtful conception was admirable.”

His innovative programming has invited audiences to dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, join with the orchestra in “Loft Parties” in New York City, and engage with Symphonie fantastique and Petrouchka with circus choreography in an ongoing collaboration with The Muse in Brooklyn. Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, Blachly is also in demand as a speaker on Listening as Leadership, bringing his expertise as a conductor and passion for music to corporations, schools, and other organizations.

Mr. Blachly is a conductor with a purpose, and has developed a reputation for producing and performing benefit concerts over the past six years. In 2014, he conducted a large-scale benefit concert for six El Sistema-inspired programs in New York City hosted by Jamie Bernstein, joining with concertmaster Krista Bennion Feeney of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s to perform Bartok’sConcerto for Orchestra.

Dedicated to music education, he is the co-founder of Make Music NOLA, an El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans, and was the only American invited to participate in the 1st Annual Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th Anniversary celebration. He regularly conducts workshops for the New York Philharmonic, and served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program. 

Guest conducting engagements have included the Spokane Symphony, Odyssey Opera (Boston), Discovery Ensemble (Boston), Trinity Church Wall Street (New York City), and performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

During his tenure as Assistant Conductor for the Boston Philharmonic, Blachly founded the Young Composers Initiative, created Boston Philharmonic New Directions in order to initiate a dynamic concert series for the Millenial generation. While in Boston, he also served as assistant conductor for Gil Rose, one of the preeminent conductors of contemporary music in the US, and as session conductor for Parma Records, specializing in the work of contemporary composers. He studied conducting with Don Schleicher and Larry Rachleff, and in workshops with Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier, and Jim Ross.

In his previous career 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.

James was born in New York City to a family of musicians and teachers. He was concertmaster of his youth orchestra and performed as a child actor off Broadway and at City Opera, notably with Julie Taymor and Richard Foreman. After graduating from Oberlin, he returned to New York, working as a freelance musician and touring internationally as a bassist and singer before training in conducting. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Rebecca and their two cats, Roger and Cleo. In his off-stage time, he enjoys exercise, literature, good food, and conversation.