James Blachly is a Grammy®-winning conductor dedicated to enriching the concert experience by connecting with audiences in memorable and meaningful ways. He serves as Music Director of the Experiential Orchestra and the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, and is a versatile guest conductor in diverse repertoire with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, and WDR Funkhausorchester.

With the Experiential Orchestra (EXO), Blachly has conducted the works of Arvo Pärt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 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 Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn. During his most recent season, he led the Experiential Orchestra in a subscription concert at the Phillips Collection, in an immersive performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs with cellist Andrew Yee and soprano Sarah Brailey, and gave the New York premiere of Julia Perry’s Violin Concerto with soloist Curtis Stewart.

 In the upcoming season, EXO will perform Arvo Pärt’s Passio at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, continue its innovative EXO:Chamber concerts, and release the world premiere recording of Julia Perry’s Violin Concerto with Curtis Stewart as part of an album of world premiere recordings titled American Counterpoint, which also includes music by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Stewart. American Counterpoint is set for release in March 2024, marking Perry’s 100th birthday.  

James Blachly’s reputation as a powerful advocate for under celebrated composers was sealed with his world premiere recording with EXO of English composer Dame Ethel Smyth’s 1930masterpiece The Prison. Released on Chandos Records, The Prison won a2021 Grammy Award and was widely acclaimed by The New York TimesThe New YorkerGramophone, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Guardian, and many others. Blachly is the editor of the new Wise Music Group critical edition that has not only made modern performances and this recording possible, but has also contributed to renewed interest in Smyth's work. This is the first-ever Grammy Award for music by Smyth, who lived from 1858-1944 and struggled her entire career to have her music judged on its merits rather than on the basis of her gender.

With the Johnstown Symphony, James Blachly has conducted the orchestra at the Flight 93 Memorial for the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, in a former steel mill in a concert that was featured on Katie Couric’s America Inside Out, and dramatically expanded access to the symphony throughout the region. During his first eight seasons with the Johnstown Symphony, Blachly has emphasized long-term relationship building with community leaders, expanding youth programs and education initiatives including annual side-by-side performances with the youth orchestra, initiating a youth concerto competition, and holding auditions for local talent to perform with the symphony on “Johnstown’s Got Talent” pops concerts.

Blachly has dedicated himself to using music to bring the Johnstown community together, creating an annual Martin Luther King Jr. concert and a Juneteenth concert in partnership with the NAACP, from which he received a commendation. During the 2023-24 season, he continues his innovative programming, bringing the symphony to the legendary War Memorial for the first time for a subscription concert, bringing Carnegie Hall’s Link Up education initiative to Johnstown for Young People’s Concerts, and expanding the JSO’s series of concerts in unconventional spaces. Over the course of his directorship, both individual and season ticket sales have increased by more than 50%, and individual giving has increased 80%, a testament to the energy and enthusiasm that has defined his tenure.  


In 2020, Blachly was invited to serve as the Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the African Diaspora Music Project, directed by Dr. Louise Toppin. He has over seen the compilation of a database and website detailing more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers. At the invitation of founder Charles Dickerson, he assisted in curating a concert celebrating works for orchestra by African Diaspora composers, and was one of six conductors to lead the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles at the League of American Orchestras conference.

A strong supporter of composers of our time, Blachly has commissioned and premiered more than 40 works by composers including Jessie Montgomery, Courtney Bryan, Viet Cuong, Michi Wiancko, Kate Copeland Ettinger, Tommy Daugherty, Patrick Castillo, Brad and Doug Balliett, and many others. In recent seasons, he has collaborated with soloists Paul Jacobs, Michelle Cann, Charles Yang, Julia Bullock, Dashon Burton, Helga Davis, Sarah Brailey, Andrés Cárdenes, Michael Chioldi, KarenKim, Andrew Yee, and more.

Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, Blachly is in demand as a speaker on Listening asLeadership, bringing his conducting expertise and passion for music to Fortune500 companies, schools, and other organizations. He has also conducted dozens of educational concerts for thousands of school children. For ten years he conducted workshops and clinics for the New York Philharmonic, served asEnsemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program, and conducted clinics and appearances throughout western Pennsylvania for the JSO. From 2010to 2015, he performed benefit concerts of Mahler symphonies with New York freelancers to launch what is now Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans. In 2022, Blachly held a week-long artist residency at Montclair State University featuring composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery. During the residency, he delivered keynote lectures on composition, conducting, and choral techniques, culminating in an Experiential Orchestra-style immersive performance. In 2016, Blachly was the only conductor from the U.S. invited to participate in the Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th Anniversary celebration, and he was also the only U.S. conductor to be invited as Conducting Fellow in Maestra Marin Alsop's final year at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

Other recent guest conducting engagements include the Williamsburg Symphony, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Malaysian Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, Portland Symphony (ME), Danbury Symphony, and Odyssey Opera (Boston), as well as performances at Trinity Church Wall Street, Roulette, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center.[1] 

Also active as a composer, James Blachly 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, and have been performed at The Stone, Zankel Hall, in an audience for the Pope, and broadcast live on the CBC.

 For more information, visit www.jamesblachly.com.

Artist's Concerts