Colombian composer James Diaz, currently based in New York and Philadelphia, composes music that strives to create unique sonic textures and environments. His music extends beyond exclusively concert music including projects that explore the potential of electroacoustic and mixed media settings. Deeply influenced by psychedelic-rock bands his music also draws from elements of the classical canon, renaissance music, modernist architecture, Latin-America landscapes, minimalism, and photography. 


James is serving as the 2019 composer-in-residence for the Medellin Philharmonic. Recently, his orchestral piece "Frack[in]g" has been awarded the 2018 Bogotá Philharmonic Prize in Composition.


Currently, James is working on commissions and collaborations with Apply Triangle, and Unheard-of//ensemble. Similarly, as part of the DeGaetano Composition Institute, he composed "Behind a wall of illusions" for the Orchestra of St. Luke's. 


James won the 2015 National Prize of Music in Composition from the Colombian Ministry of Culture for "Saturn Lights", his concerto for percussion trio and orchestra. The same year, his piece was recorded by conductor Mateo Sepulveda, and the REC Symphony, with James as the producer.


James has been selected Composer Fellow at The Loretto Festival (2018), As a composer fellow, James wrote a piece for the Longleash trio and received lessons from Composer-In-Residence, Kate Soper. Similarly, James composed a piece for piano and electronics for the Grammy-Nominated duo ZOFO as Frances Richard Composer Fellow at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music.

His orchestral music has been performed, awarded, and/or recorded by the Nashville Symphony, the National Symphony of Colombia, the American Composers Orchestra, the Medellin Philharmonic, the MSM Composers' Orchestra, the Bogota Philharmonic, the Curtis Symphony, the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra, and the EAFIT Symphony. In 2014, the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSEP Foundation) commissioned him a chamber piece for the International Winter Festival of Campos do Jordao.


James has also won several composition prizes for his chamber and wind ensemble music, including the 2015 Choral and Symphony Composition Award by the Bogotá Philharmonic; the 2013 Composition Prize of the International Winter Festival of Campos do Jordão for his string quartet "Dynamics of Meteorite"; and the XV National Award for Musical Composition, City of Bogotá, from the Bogotá Philharmonic for his work "Iron Curtains". 

photo by Julia Gang

In addition, James has been selected three times by the Colombian National Symphonic Music Association in the National Competition for Young Colombian Composers "Platform 28", where "Mirrors in the Void" (2017), "Reflections of a Radioactive Sky" (2014) and "Catharsis" (2013) were conducted by Jose Luis Dominguez, Tomasz Golka, and Alejandro Posada, respectively. His first orchestral work, "REFERENCE", was selected to be premiered in the Reading Sessions of New Colombian Composers conducted by Baldur Brönnimann in 2012. 


James is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in composition at the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin fellow, where he studies with James Primosch and Anna Weesner. James holds an M.M. in Composition from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Reiko Fueting and received the Nicolas Flagello Award and the Saul Braverman Award for outstanding achievement in Composition and Music Theory, respectively. James studied composition with Moisés Bertrán, Harold Vázquez, and Gustavo Parra at the National Conservatory of Music, receiving his B.M in Composition, Honor Grade, in 2015. He has attended master classes with composers including Kate Soper, Aaron Kernis, Gabriela Lena Frank, Chen Yi, Derek Bermel, Kalevi Aho, Lewis Nielson, and Anna Clyne. James initiated his music studies on theory, composition, and piano with Hugo Riaño, Diego Sanchez and Clarita Correa, respectively.

He has been sponsored by the Banco de la República de Colombia and was a recipient of the Young Artist Talents Scholarship by ICETEX.