James Sleigh (Violist)

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James was appointed a professor of viola at the Royal Academy of Music in 2002. Previously he taught at Birmingham Conservatoire and for many years has been associated with the National Youth Orchestra as well as teaching at Eton College and St Paul’s Girls’ School. He is also much in demand as a chamber music coach, orchestral trainer, examiner and adjudicator. Whilst still very much a performer, James has an overriding commitment to teaching in which he draws from years of experience of orchestral, chamber and solo performing. Many of his students have won prizes and go on to successful careers in ensembles and major orchestras in the UK and abroad.

At the age of twenty, James was principal viola of the Manchester Camerata and the Orchestra of Northern Ballet Theatre. Thereafter he held principal positions with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) where he was a principal for six years. During his tenure at the SCO he worked with some of the 20th century’s legendary string players such as Paul Tortelier, Oscar Shumsky, Isaac Stern and Mstislav Rostropovich. Notable performances include Bach Brandenburg 6 with Yehudi Menuhin at the Edinburgh Festival, chamber music on BBC Radio 3 with Emanuel Ax and concerts in France and Spain with Jean Francaix at the piano.

In 1988 James moved back to London attracted by the variety of opportunity in the freelance world. His experience encompasses concerts and recordings across different genres with artists from Bernstein and Boulez to Tina Turner and Robbie Williams. He has worked with almost all the major orchestras and is much in demand as regular or guest principal with orchestras both in the UK and abroad, playing in nearly forty different countries over the years.

It is from all these sources that James draws inspiration for his teaching with a sense of history and style and a flexible approach to the changing world of music. He is committed to helping his students fulfil their potential with a sound technical foundation and an integrated approach to the expressive language of music through a thorough understanding of the player, the instrument and the music itself.