Long Biography

James Whittle is a musician based in Leeds.

He specialises in devising pieces collaboratively, blending musical performance with theatre and movement, and drawing on performance art and dance-theatre practices. With a mix of composed and improvised elements, his pieces often have a satirical streak.

James was born in 1989 and grew up in Woking. His first composition (in 2000) was a county prize-winning Christmas carol.

In 2011 he graduated from the University of York with a BA Music 1st class honours with distinction. He received AHRC Professional Development funding for his Masters in Music by Research, Composing and devising music theatre.

James was joint recipient of the Terry Holmes Composer/Performer Award 2012/13 with Victoria Bernath. Together they created the 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 2014 he was an Impossible Lecture Retreat artist with Live Art Bistro Leeds at Beacons Festival, and in December 2015 was Musician-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, as recipient of a Lyons Celebration Award.

In 2017 he completed a PhD in Composition, Music is Theatre, supervised by Professor Roger Marsh. This practice-based research project was funded by a Sir Jack Lyons Research Scholarship.

Community arts and education are key aspects of James’s work. He has run composition and improvisation projects with primary and secondary schoolchildren, working with 4 York schools to create a collaboratively composed choral-orchestral work, The Darkening Green, in 2011, and for Britain in Song Choral Festival in 2014.

Having worked with Castaway Music Theatre, Goole, since 2013 as a conductor and cellist, James worked with the Adult Music Group and Sloop Group (Youth Music) as the company’s first Composer-in-Residence in 2015-16 to devise new works. In 2016 he collaborated with York Music Centre Jazz Band on a new work to perform with Dr K. Sextet. In 2017 he worked with York-based disability dance group, Chilli BON BON and he currently collaborating with MeshDance, Leeds.

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, Katharina Arnold, Rachel Fullegar, and Ruth McNulty; rapper/performance poet Raphael Attar and poet Andrew Mitchell.

His scores for theatre, film and radio were born from close collaborations with directors and producers. 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. He also writes the music for award-winning podcast sitcom, Wooden Overcoats.