Aileen James, DMA – board member/forum hostess
Sharing a personal and professional delight in music with the community
Aileen James returned as a board member of InConcert Sierra after a one year hiatus (she had served from 1998 – 2014). Her role as our pre-concert forum hostess and musicologist began in 1999 to de-mystify the world of classical music and make it more accessible to all. Aileen was also a disc jockey on our local community radio station KVMR. Her “Classical Showcase,” which aired once a month, was the only primetime classical music and talk show in the Sacramento and surrounding area. Additionally, she leads a monthly workshop entitled, “Adult pianists who don’t wish to perform,” which keeps her very busy…and happy.
Aileen began piano studies at age 3, and from the ages of 8 to 16 was a student of Mae Gilbert Reese in Hollywood, during which time she made her professional debut at age 15, performing the “Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1” with the Meremblum Youth Symphony at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. Aileen holds a Bachelor’s degree in music and a Master’s degree in piano performance and music history. In 1976, she was accepted to Stanford University on full fellowship, the only pianist in the graduate program, and received her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Performance practices (DMA). Her studies encompassed an equal amount of performance and research, with a thesis on Brahms. Further studies included the University of Southern California, the Schubert Institute in Austria, the Royamount Music Festival in France and private studies with Adolph Baller of the Alma Trio and Julian White of Berkeley.
Aileen has been a private teacher for more than 50 years and served on the faculties of Pacific Union College, Stanford and Santa Clara Universities. From 1986 – 1997, she was the Artistic Director of the American Pianists Association in Indianapolis, heading its Biennial National Piano Fellowship Competition and the fellowship program. While living there, she was forum hostess and wrote the program notes for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. As a member of the Music Teachers National Association and Music Teachers Association of California, she has been active as a lecture recitalist and teaches master classes.
Currently, Aileen lives in Grass Valley and continues her enjoyment of performing chamber music and lecture-recitals. She frequently shares the bench with her colleague and friend, Ken Hardin, in piano four-hands (and sometimes even two pianos!). Her relationship with the American Pianists Association has resulted in a partnership with InConcert Sierra that brings a Fellowship Winner to the Third Sunday Season’s chamber series each year. Aileen enjoys facilitating the pre-concert forums as it gives her a continuing opportunity to share with the audience the experience of listening to great music in exciting live performances. Her informal approach brings the audience and the artist closer together through her ease in communicating with both. Aileen’s passion for music history and research is notable in the notes she writes for the concert programs and the conversations with the artists at the forum presentations, and is fulfilled with the opportunity to share these with the audience.