James Fellenbaum enjoys an extraordinarily diverse career as a conductor, equally at home with Symphonic music, Chamber Orchestra repertoire, Pops, Ballet, Opera, Choral-Orchestral, and Film with Live Orchestra. In 2018, James began a new chapter in his orchestral life, as he assumed the position of Artistic Director and Conductor of the Brevard Philharmonic, NC.
James is the Resident Conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, now in his 14th season with the organization. He conducts a variety of concerts with the KSO, and has lead the orchestra in a wide array of repertoire, ranging from the complete Brandenburg Concerti to orchestral music from Wagner’s The Ring Cycle. His performances on the Masterworks and Chamber Classics series have garnered such praise as “…a remarkable performance, one that was clean, focused, and razor-sharp in its control, yet passionate and warm in its display.” and “one of the most compelling performances of a Beethoven symphony I have yet heard in Knoxville.” As a frequent conductor on the Knoxville News-Sentinel Pops series, he has collaborated with such renown artists as Kenny G, Chris Botti, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Jim Witter, Ann Hampton Calloway, Steve Lippia, The Indigo Girls, and The Midtown Men, along with tributes to Bob Denver, The Beatles, Elvis, as well as the popular Cirque de la Symphonie. He also excels in Film with Live Orchestra concerts, including recent presentations of The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. As part of the KSO’s Education and Community Partnership Program, James conducts performances throughout the city of Knoxville, as well as regional communities in east Tennessee and southwest Virginia. He also conducts the educational programs, including Side-by-Side concerts with local high school orchestra programs, as well the KSO’s annual Young People’s Concerts, which are seen by 10,000 elementary students each year.
Since 2010, James is also the Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra Association. The KSYOA consists of 6 orchestras, lead by the Youth Orchestra, which he conducts. In March of 2018, the Youth Orchestra was selected to compete in the National Orchestra Festival in Atlanta, sponsored by the American String Teachers Association, where they won 1st Prize in the Youth Orchestra Division. The Youth Orchestra was also awarded 3rd Prize in The American Prize competition–Youth Orchestra division, for their 2017-2018 season. He has been a guest Music Director of the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra, and was previously the Music Director of the Suburban Youth Symphony in Illinois. He has conducted the American Youth Philharmonic, Texas Honors Orchestra, and has led many regional and all-state orchestras, as well as hundreds of workshops and clinics.
James is the Director of Orchestras at the University of Tennessee, a position he has held since 2003. He oversees and conducts the Orchestra Program, which includes the Symphony Orchestra – the most prominent collegiate ensemble in the state – the Chamber Orchestra, founded in 2004, the Contemporary Music Ensemble, founded in 2006 and dedicated to music written since 1950, and UT Opera Theater, where he oversees orchestral administration, and has conducted past productions such as Don Giovanni, La Traviata, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, The Turn of the Screw, Sweeney Todd, Susannah, Cosi fan tutte, Little Women, and more. Orchestral performances at UT have grown in both size and quality of performances, resulting in invitations to perform in state-wide and regional concerts, and receiving critical acclaim such as “With the arrival of James Fellenbaum…the UT Symphony has developed, at an amazing pace, into an ensemble that rivals the professional orchestras in many communities.” Additionally, the Orchestra Program been chosen for two different PBS recording projects, performing as the classical soundtrack for Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People, narrated by Sissy Spacek, and the upcoming The Truth about Trees.
James has conducted orchestras nationally and internationally, including recent guest conducting engagements with the Amarillo Symphony (TX), Erie Philharmonic (PA), Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MA), Asheville Symphony Orchestra (NC), the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra (OR), Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Orange County Symphony (CA), American Youth Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Mountains (TN), the Satu-Mare State Philharmonic and Sinfonia Bucharest Orchestra of Romania, and the Russe Philharmonic and Vidin Philharmonic of Bulgaria. He was invited to the 2006 First International Gennady Rozhdestvensky Conductors Competition, where he was one of 20 conductors chosen to compete out of 112 applicants from 26 countries around the world, and finished as a Finalist – the only American to reach that round.
James Fellenbaum holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violoncello performance from James Madison University, and holds a double Masters degree in violoncello performance and orchestral conducting from Northwestern University. His primary conducting teachers were Victor Yampolsky and Cliff Colnot in Chicago, David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the Aspen Summer Music Festival, and Pinchas Zukerman and Jorma Panula as part of the Conductors Programme with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada.