Dr. Jim James grew up in rural Iowa , where he began his piano studies at the age of 7. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, a Master of Music degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a doctorate in Piano Performance from the University of Texas at Austin. He also spent a semester studying at the École Normale de Musique in Paris , France . His principal piano instructors are Joan Smalley, Michael Kim, Catherine Kautsky , Edson Elias, Robert Weirich and Gregory Allen. He has played in masterclasses for Richard Goode and Ruth Laredo. In 2002 Jim took first prize in the Badger Piano Competition of the Wisconisin Music Teachers Association, and received the Margaret Daniels and Jane Shephard Keyboard Awards at Lawrence University .
As a teacher, Jim focuses on giving students the musical and technical tools they need to confidently practice during the week. He also encourages students to think creatively and positively during their lessons so that they can see their daily practice can be more of a challenge and less of a chore.