um, hello,
I am a composer…”

Arts Administration


James Whittle is a composer-performer and conductor based in York.

Originally from Woking, James began composing whilst a teenager. In 2011 he graduated from the University of York with a BA Music First class honours with distinction. He had received the Wilfrid Mellers Prize, the Chimera Undergraduate Commission 2011 (for which he devised [CAGED]) and the John Paynter Prize for an outstanding contribution to the life of the department.

He received AHRC Professional Development funding for his Masters in Music by Research, Composing and devising music theatre.

He is now developing this research through a PhD in Composition, supervised by Roger Marsh and funded by a Sir Jack Lyons Research Scholarship.

In December 2015 he was Musician in Residence at The Banff Centre, as recipient of a Lyons Celebration Award. He is currently Composer-in-Residence with Castaway Goole Accessible Music Theatre.

Outside music, James enjoys poetry, art, satire and puns.


James specialises in devising live performance pieces collaboratively, blending musical performance with theatre and movement, and drawing on live art and dance. With a mix of composed and improvised elements, his pieces tend either to be light-hearted, with a satirical or surreal streak, or not.

He has been taught by from Roger Marsh, William Brooks, Christopher Fox, and Kenneth Hesketh.

James has collaborated with soloists Alex Wilson, Ian Pace, Robert Rice and Kate Boyd; ensembles Dr K Sextet, Black Hair, Juice, The 24, The Assembled and Chimera; dancer/performers Gracefool Collective and Katharina Arnold.

His composed works range from solo instrument to orchestral forces, with and without voice. He has worked with musicians of all abilities, from beginner level and schoolchildren to professional.

His scores for theatre, film and radio were born from close collaborations with the directors. Radio drama The New World Order, for which he composed a 40-minute score, won Gold in the Best Speech Programming prize at the Student Radio Awards 2013.

Recent works include That’s Yer Lot!, a site-specific, interactive auction, devised with Gracefool Collective and rapper/performance poet Raphael Attar. The #magicaleverytime project is an ongoing call for music, text scores and scripts, for anyone to perform.

James was joint recipient of the Terry Holmes Composer/Performer Award 2012 with Victoria Bernath, with whom he created a “music-theatre concerto”, Remains of Elmet.

He was selected for the inaugural Cheltenham Festival Composers Academy in 2013 to collaborate with Dr K Sextet. He subsequently won a commission to write a new cabaret song for their Pierrot Project in 2015.

In compositional downtime, James has also arranged classical, jazz, pop and film/TV themes for choral and instrumental ensembles.


James performs frequently as a soloist and a member of chamber and orchestral ensembles. He is taught cello by Sue Lowe and has had masterclasses with Alexander Baillie, Louise Hopkins and Pierre Doumenge.

He enjoys experimenting with physical movement, occasionally playing clarinet. An enthusiastic improviser, he has worked with The Assembled (an experimental group run by Catherine Laws) since 2012 and played with ‘BottleGreen’ Improv Collective from 2009-12.

James has also worked as a live performance and session musician, including playing cello 1/solo on James Harker’s debut album.