James D’León, Pianist
Born in South Korea into a musical family, James D’León began the piano at the young age of 4 and performed his first recital at the age of 5. After receiving early piano training from Lyn Bronson, a student of legendary Artur Balsam, he was awarded a full scholarship to the prestigious Pre-College program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with May Kurka and Milton Salkind. As the winner of the Young Soloist’s Competition of both the San Francisco Symphony and the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, he performed the Grieg Piano Concerto and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 at the age of 12. Upon the advice of May Kurka, he relocated to Pennsylvania where he honed his technique and performance skills with Miriam Gottlieb in West Chester. At age 14, he had won every local competition in the state culminating in his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music performing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2.
He continued his piano studies under George Sementovsky, a student of master teacher Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School in New York. With Sementovsky, he learned and refined his Russian keyboard technique, which culminated in top honors as a summa cum laude graduate from Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia. This study greatly influenced his style and philosophy of piano performance. He was eventually awarded a fellowship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he studied with Thomas Schumacher and received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance and Literature.
From there, he competed and won praise in many international piano competitions such as the Gina Bachauer, William Kapell, Leeds International, and the Van Cliburn Competition. He was also a top five finalist in the Naumburg International Competition where he was selected from a pool of more than 250 extraordinary pianists. Afterwards, he received top honors in the New York Artist International Competition that led to his New York Debut Recital at Carnegie Hall, and the Gold Medal at the New Orleans International Piano Competition, which helped launch his performance career.
In 2009, he was selected to become an official Steinway Artist listed on both the prestigious New York and Hamburg, Germany rosters. Since then, his performances have taken him throughout England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Canada, and 40 states throughout the continental United States.
His performances have garnered critical praise from audiences and critics everywhere. After his performance in prestigious Reading Festival in England, International Piano Magazine stated that “D’León is one of the latest U.S. pianists to watch, and his recital was a sheer and dazzling delight!”
As a chamber musician, he has performed with many of the world’s finest chamber groups that include the Inman Trio, the Muir String Quartet, and the Shanghai String Quartet.In addition he is a popular master-class presenter and adjudicator who has given master classes in more than 75 universities around the world and served as a judge in the International Young Artist Piano Competition in Washington D.C., and the International Artist Competition in South Korea.
As a recording artist, his recording of the Charles Ives Sonata No. 1 and Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata on the Eroica Label received top praise from the American Record Guide, which called it “Remarkably played…the result is a revelation…This recording is a real treasure!”
Today, D’León is known as a rare and completely versatile pianist who is just as comfortable performing a concerto as he would be playing a full solo recital or accompanying an instrumentalist or singer. He continues to dazzle audiences and keep them on the edge of their seats with his commanding technique and searching interpretations.