“Mr. Blachly’s interpretation had a subtle elasticity that stopped short of distortion. Coping with the resonant acoustics, he effectively balanced a small body of strings with the zealous brasses and percussion.” -Steve Smith, New York Times
“This splendidly crafted work is a tour de force…this is the work of a composer with a distinctive voice and sensibility.” -Lawrence Budmen, Miami Herald Tribune
James says “I want the audience to be involved. I want this music to speak directly to them.” With smaller audiences, he creates interactive audience experiences; with larger audiences in significant concert halls, James uses his natural capacity to communicate to bring the audience into the heart of the music.
James Blachly is a conductor dedicated to artistic excellence and broader accessibility. He currently serves as Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Experiential Orchestra, and Music Director of Geneva Light Opera.
Blachly innovative programming aims to increase audience engagement and empower audiences. With the Johnstown Symphony, the orchestra has performed in a former steel mill and in downtown bars; with the Experiential Orchestra, he has invited audiences to dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, sit within the orchestra at Lincoln Center, and engage with Symphonie fantastique and Petrouchka with circus choreography in an ongoing collaboration with The Muse in Brooklyn.
A strong supporter of composers of our time, he has commissioned and premiered more than 40 works from composers such as Jessie Montgomery, Courtney Bryan, Kate Copeland Ettinger, Patrick Castillo, Viet Cuong, Brad and Doug Balliett, and many others. Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, he is also in demand as a speaker on Listening as Leadership, bringing his expertise as a conductor and passion for music to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations.
He was the only conductor from the US invited to participate in the 1st Annual Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th Anniversary celebration, and he was also the only US conductor to be invited as Conducting Fellow in Maestra Marin Alsop's final year at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Recent guest conducting engagements include Spokane Symphony, Danbury Symphony, Odyssey Opera (Boston), Trinity Church Wall Street (New York City), and performances at Roulette, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
Mr. Blachly believes in the power of music to impact society. From 2010 to 2015, he founded and conducted the New York City Summer Mahler Project, performing Mahler symphonies with New York freelancers in benefit concerts for El Sistema-Inspired programs in New York and New Orleans. Steve Smith, writing for the New York Times, praised his performance of Mahler's Fourth Symphony by saying “Mr. Blachly’s interpretation had a subtle elasticity” and his “thoughtful conception was admirable.”
In order to facilitate US orchestras to represent their diverse audiences, he is the co-founder of the OMBC Foundation, a comprehensive online and engraving resource for the orchestral music of black composers. In 2015 he co-founded The Dream Unfinished, an orchestra focused on social justice. He is proud to be named as editor for the Schirmer/MusicSales edition of Dame Ethel Smyth’s career-culminating masterpiece, The Prison, which he will record with the Experiential Orchestra.
Dedicated to music education, Mr. Blachly is the co-founder of Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans. He regularly conducts workshops and clinics for the New York Philharmonic, and served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program.
He studied with Donald Schleicher and trained with Larry Rachleff, and served for two years as the Zander Fellow for the Boston Philharmonic.
Also active as a composer, he studied at Mannes with Robert Cuckson and privately with Charles Wuorinen and John Corigliano. His compositions have been celebrated as “vigorous and assured” by Chamber Music America, and a “splendidly crafted…tour de force” by the Miami Herald Tribune, and have been performed at The Stone, Zankel Hall, in Europe and across the US, in an audience for the Pope, and broadcast live on the CBC.
James Blachly is represented worldwide by William Reinert Associates. Inquiries should be made to