Benjamin James read Music at the University of Leeds and the ArtEZ Conservatoire in the Netherlands. He was awarded a 1st Class (BMus) Honours degree in 2013. He is founder and artistic director of the Illyrian Ensemble, principal conductor of Barnet Youth Orchestra and associate conductor of Lewisham Concert Band.
Benjamin currently studies with Denise Ham as part of the London Conducting Academy and will take part in masterclasses with Colin Metters and Mark Wigglesworth.
In 2013, Benjamin was awarded the Orion Orchestra Conducting Prize, courtesy of the Richard Carne Trust and during the 2014-15 season was offered the job as the orchestra’s assistant conductor. In this role Benjamin assisted Edward Gardner in a Charity Gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall, coached Sue Perkins for a children’s concert at Cadogan Hall as well as assisting the orchestra’s principal conductor Toby Purser.
He has taken part in masterclasses with Mark Stringer (University of Vienna), Mark Heron (RNCM), Bjørn Sagstad (Norway) and Cynthia Johnston Turner (Canada). During his ERASMUS year in the Netherlands, Benjamin studied extensively with Fried Dobbelstein on symphonic works by Strauss and Stravinsky. In the summer of 2012 and 2013 Benjamin was selected to study on a one-week intensive conducting course as part of the Aberystwyth International Music Festival, mentored by Toby Purser.
Past conducting engagements have been with the ensembles of Leeds University Union Music Society: from 2010-11 he conducted the Symphonic Wind Orchestra, performing with them some of the major wind orchestra repertoire. From his experience conducting university wind ensembles he was invited to publish an article in Winds Magazine. In 2012 Benjamin was assistant conductor for the University of Leeds School of Music Philharmonia, under the direction of Dr Ian Sapiro.
In his final year at the University of Leeds, Benjamin conducted the society’s flagship Symphony Orchestra, performing works by Mussorgsky, Ravel, Brahms and Shostakovich in Leeds and on tour in Berlin. With this orchestra, he organised and conducted a concert of music made famous by the Rat Pack, collaborating with the university big band and choir. The gala concert was in aid of the Yorkshire based charity Lost Chord and was awarded a ‘Riley Award’ from Leeds University Union.