James J. Kellaris (b.1956, Montebello, California) is an American composer of contemporary art music. At age 5 he began playing his grandfather’s mandolin. He penned his first musical composition at the age of 9 and began formal study shortly thereafter, eventually attending college on a music scholarship.
James studied musical composition at the Georgia State University School of Music and privately thereafter. His performance credits include an Atlanta Opera Theatre production of Don Giovanni (mandolin solo); a residency and concert tour with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra; concerts at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts in Atlanta with the Atlanta Community Orchestra; a concert with the Romeiko Ensemble at the Parthenon in Nashville; Olympic Arts Festival of the Centennial Olympiad and DeKalb International Choral Festival in Atlanta, GA; the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Mandolins with Dorothy Palsgrove (Pittsburgh, PA, 2011); and frequent appearances with The Greek Islanders (1982-2010), The Odyssey Mandolin Quartet (2009-2010), Norman Conquest (2009-present), and the Dayton Mandolin Orchestra (2007-present). James has also performed countless ad hoc gigs, including a mandolin-guitar-bass jazz trio in Liverpool, UK, with Paul McCartney’s bass player.
His catalog includes works for plucked strings, string quartet, other chamber ensembles, solo and ensemble works for guitar and mandolin, art song and choral pieces, and numerous arrangements for mandolin quartet and mandolin orchestra. Recent premieres include performances of Chrysopylae Reflections by the Classical Mandolin Society of America en masse orchestra (Canadian premiere), Regina, SK, September 28, 2013, Regina Performing Arts Centre; Orchestra dell’Accademia Internazionale Italiana di Mandolino (European premiere), Bolzano/Bozen, Italy, August 24, 2013, Museion – Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea; Dayton Mandolin Orchestra (Mid-Western premiere) Dayton, OH, March 17, 2013, Dayton Art Institute, NCR Renaissance Auditorium; Providence Mandolin Orchestra (East coast premiere) Providence, RI, January 27, 2013; San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra (world premiere) May 19, 2012; a performance of the Kalamazoo Swag by the Piccola Orchestra Mutinae Plectri (European premiere) Modena, Italy, October 11, 2013; and a world premiere of the Kalamazoo Suite in a joint performance by the Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra and Dayton Mandolin Orchestra at the Kzoo Valley Museum of Art, May 20, 2012.
James served as 2013 Composer in Residence for the Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA) and was named International Composer in Residence for the Federation of Australasian Mandolin Ensembles (FAME) 2015 Mandolin Festival in Sydney, Australia; however, a back injury prevented his attending.
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.
James has lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Northern Virginia, Atlanta, Cincinnati, France, and Australia. He currently resides in Hamilton, Ohio, with his wife, Janice Day Hink Kellaris, a choir director and piano/voice teacher, and daughter Christina Marie.