Dr Jonathan James works as a creative workshop leader, pre-concert speaker and presenter for venues, artistic organisations and orchestras throughout the UK.

Clients include the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (as their ‘Discovery Guide’), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (as an Associate), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, National Children’s Orchestra, Pro Corda, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Czech Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as concert venues such as: Cadogan Hall London, National Concert Hall Dublin, Usher Hall Edinburgh The Sage Gateshead, Bridgewater Hall Manchester, St David’s and Brangwyn Halls in Wales; Colston and St George’s Bristol; Anvil Arts Basingstoke; Cambridge Corn Exchange and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham.

Jonathan’s school work is generally with the secondary sector, finding innovative ways of exploring the curriculum and set works, and with youth orchestras and music hubs. His workshops often involve creating pieces with instruments and voice which give an active and fun way of understanding themes, processes and forms in the music being studied. Every week he brings this expertise to his teaching sessions as director of the Bristol Pre-Conservatoire (see below). He also runs adult one-day workshops (see information on 2022-3 courses here).

Most recently he set up Dovetail Music Workshops to specialise in workshops for advanced adult musicians, and to incorporate the Dovetail Orchestra for asylum-seeking musicians.

He has written many educational resources for Rhinegold Publishing’s Music Teacher Magazine (online) and was often called on to lead teacher training events (e.g. formerly for Keynote Education).

He has written programme notes for the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and been a presenter and  expert interviewee for BBC Radio 3 broadcasts. Last year, Jonathan taught orchestration at Bristol University on the MA and BA Music courses.

Jonathan is committed to seeing music in his home city of Bristol flourish, working as an advisor (past and present) to the Bristol Music Trust, Trinity Community Arts Centre (where he was a trustee) and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre (where he advised on the Bristol Proms).  He founded the New Bristol Sinfonia, has chaired the Bristol Music Education Partnership, and set up the Bristol Pre-Conservatoire. 

Jonathan is a trustee for the Finzi Trust and for Changing Tunes charity. He also runs the Bristol Recovery Orchestra, an ensemble that supports people recovering from addictions. It was set up by the Bristol Drugs Project and runs in partnership with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

A bit of background:

Jonathan has been enthusing about music to concert audiences and in classrooms for almost thirty years, ever since he started giving pre-performance talks as a conductor.

JONATHAN_JAMES_004As a conductor, Jonathan worked in London, Europe and the States, including with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic (as a Zander Fellow) and City of Prague Symphony Orchestra. He was principal guest conductor with the Bristol Ensemble for four years and was founder-conductor of the New Bristol Sinfonia.  He had training from John Forster, formerly head of conducting at the Royal College of Music and at the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Weimar, Germany, as well as attending numerous international masterclasses.

With a PhD in Music Education and a qualified teacher, he founded and directs the Bristol Pre-Conservatoire, a prestigious evening school for talented young classical and jazz players.  Whilst Head of Performing Arts for a Further Education college in Bristol (2007-12), he taught on a Rock and Pop performance course, and continues to teach jazz piano.

Jonathan James prepares original and imaginative educational resources for music concerts and events. He is able to provide high-quality written material, gauged perfectly for the target audience, be it adults or children. Jon is also an adept interviewer of musicians and conductors, and readily communicates his profound knowledge and understanding of the subject matter with great enthusiasm.
Mary Harrison, IMG Artists, Orchestra Tour Manager

newmethodResearch interests

For his PhD at Bristol University, Jonathan explored definitions of musical creativity and devised the ‘reinvention method’ for encouraging advanced classical and jazz musicians to improvise together on equal terms.


Bristol Pre-Conservatoire
Jonathan set up this evening school in 2012 to challenge and excite the most able young classical and jazz players in Bristol and surrounding regions. There is a big emphasis on creativity and learning from each other’s musical language, as well as more formal training in small ensembles.