James J. Kellaris

James J. Kellaris is Composer in Residence for this year’s Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA) conference. Two of his works for mandolin orchestra will be featured on the concert program: the Canadian premiere of Chrysopylae Reflections, which recently won an international competition sponsored by the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra, and an arrangement of Erik Satie’s charming love song Je te Veux. Kellaris will also offer a workshop on compositional technique.

James has had a long association with plucked strings, dating back to early childhood, when he began playing his grandfather’s mandolin. He began formal musical studies at the age of 9, eventually attending university on a classical guitar scholarship. His mandolin performance credits include an Atlanta Opera Theatre production of Don Giovani and the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Mandolins with the DMO. He toured with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra as bouzouki soloist in performances of Nickitas Demos’ New World Sketches and performed in a mandolin-guitar-bass jazz trio in Liverpool, UK, with Paul McCartney’s bass player.

In 2011 James developed a focal dystonia in his left hand (“musician’s cramp”), which forced an early retirement as a performer. Lemons to lemonade, James began devoting more time to composing for the instruments he loves. 

James studied musical composition at the Georgia State University School of Music and privately thereafter. His catalog includes works for mandolin orchestra, string quartet, other chamber ensembles, solo and ensemble works for guitar, art song and choral pieces, and numerous arrangements for mandolin quartet and mandolin orchestra. His compositions for mandolin orchestra have recently been performed in San Francisco, Providence, RI, Kalamazoo, MI (the birthplace of his Loar era Gibson mandolin), Yellow Springs, OH, and Bolzano, Italy, where James recently attended the European premiere of Chrysopylae Reflections by the Accademia Internationale di Mandolino orchestra.

In professional life Dr. Kellaris teaches ethics at the University of Cincinnati, Lindner College of Business, and conducts research on the influences of music on consumers, including music and time perception, and the “earworm” (stuck tune) phenomenon. His earworm studies have been widely reported in the popular media. The word earworm, introduced into the American vocabulary by Kellaris’ research, made its way into the 2012 edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

James currently resides in Wyoming, Ohio, with his spouse Janice, daughters Lydia and Christina, two dogs, and one terribly disinterested cat. After months of occupational therapy, James can occasionally be seen in the mandola section of his local orchestra, “playing every other note and marveling at [his] capacity to miss notes that [he himself] wrote.

© Regina Mandolin Orchestra 2013