James Ross Spencer is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, recording artist, composer, musicologist, author and playwright. Currently residing in Long Beach, California, he is the founder of Spencer Artist Development where he coaches privately students in acting, modeling and music. Lessons are available via online coaching sessions to United States residents or at his Long Beach acting and music studio.
James, born on February 13, is the oldest of six. He comes from ancestry of renowned musicians. His great-great grandfather, Canuto Berea was a Galician composer, conductor and concert pianist as well as the mayor of A Caruña, Spain. Canuto was also the founder of the Galician Folk Institute of Music and a music publishing house.
James' father, Charles is a noted Country-Western and Bluegrass guitarist and singer. James' mother Dolores was a noted soubrette coloratura soprano on the New York operatic stage.
James began his musical and acting studies at age 5 studying piano, voice, violin and music theory. James began acting and musical theatre training at age 6, performing in roles with local children's playhouses and musical theatre groups.
After giving his first classical piano recital at age 6, James began formal music studies with his parents. In his early teens he studied piano with concert pianist Adrienne Iagjian, a USC graduate and former student of Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian, Joanna Hodges and John Perry (USC).
At age 12, James began competing in regional, state and international piano competitions. He was a soloist with MTAC's Musical Encounters -Young Artists Series. James gave his first symphony debut at age 14 performing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Pacific Symphony. Childhood honors and awards include: Chapman University Junior Piano Concerto Competition (1st Place), California State Bach Festival (Soloist), Joanna Hodges' International Piano Competition (Competitor, Solo Artist, Accompanist), Academic Decathlon Performing Arts Nationals (1st Place, and KCET Television Debut Show (Solo Artist).
James attended Edison High School in Huntington Beach, CA (1982-1986). During these years, he sang lyric bass-baritone with Madrigals and Concert Choir. He was also assistant staff accompanist and student teacher-conductor under Richard Otey. He was also a member of the drama club and performed in several school productions including: Sorry Wrong Number, The Crucible, Godspell, and Pippin.
While in high school, James began performing jazz-pop piano throughout Southern California. He also performed cabaret with Melissa Fahn (noted Broadway and voiceover actress). James also performed ragtime piano at the Disneyland Resort, as well as performing regularly at local 5-star restaurants, resorts and yacht clubs. James was featured entertainer at The Ritz (Newport Beach, CA) and Maxwell's By The Sea (Huntington Beach, CA).
James joined the New Wave band In Common Hours in 1982 as keyboardist and back vocalist performing with the band throughout Southern California for a decade. This served as his introduction into the LA music industry; a fortunate turn of events allowing him to connect and collaborate with leading artists in the industry. James was the founder of the Goth band 13th Hour, and the smooth jazz quartet, Breezin'. Band venue credits include: The Roxy (Los Angeles), The Golden Bear (Huntington Beach), Coach House (San Juan Capistrano) and Disneyland (Anaheim).
James began teaching privately at age 14. His work as a church music director allowed him ample opportunity to conduct, compose, arrange and perfect his craft as a pianist, organist, harpsichordist, vocalist, violinist and conductor. He had his first sacred and secular choral works published by age 16.
While in high school and during his university years, James appeared in numerous local Southern California musical theatre productions . Credits include Kids of the Kingdom (Disneyland), Wolf in Into The Woods, Bobby in Company, Claude in Hair, Sky in Guys and Dolls, Billy in Chicago, M. C. in Cabaret, Chuck in Promises-Promises, Chip in On The Town and Riff and Bernardo in West Side Story.
James has collaborated with notable celebrities including: Carol Burnett, Nel Carter, Ann Miller, and Sue Raney. James also appeared as an actor in regional commercials and playhouse productions: Roles include Michael in Boys in the Band, Jonathan in Dracula and Alan in Torch Song Trilogy and Alan in Equus.
James received several degrees in his career. Commencing with an Associate of Arts degree from Orange Coast College (1988). He graduated with a Bachelor of Music (1992) and then a Master of Music (1995) from California State University, Fullerton. He also graduated with the keyboard department's highest honors. After completing his MM degree, James completed a California CLAD credential from National University (1996). James holds a clinical hypnotherapy and holistic health diploma from Hypnosis Motivation Institute (2006) and honorary fellowship in musicology from University of West London.
James Spencer is a faculty US representative instructor in music and acting for University of West London's London College of Music, offering prestigious performance grade and advanced diploma programs to his students in acting and music.
James studied keyboard with leaders in the field including: Joanna Hodges (CSULB), Dr. Robert Watson (CSUF), Dr. Lucinda Carver (USC), Dr. Burton Karson (CSUF), Dr. Malcolm Hamilton (USC), Dr. Rita Fussek (CSUF), Masterclasses include: Oscar Peterson, Andreij Dutkiewicz , Eduardo Delgado, and Vladimir Ashkenazy.
His vocal professors included: Dolores Spencer, Su Harmon (CSUF), Jane Paul (CSUF), Dr. Dennis Parnell (CSUF), Michael Kurkian (CSUF), and Dr. Mark Goodrich (CSUF).
After university graduation James joined the faculty of California State University, Fullerton as a vocal coach and staff accompanist. From 1999-2010, James was faculty instructor for Coastline Community College and Orange Coast College teaching both in the music and drama departments.
James currently teaches: piano, digital keyboards, voice, musical theatre, acting, voiceover, dialects, modeling, strings, theory, composition, music therapy, and music history, hypnotherapy, and metaphysical studies.
As an artist developer James worked with talented professional musicians and actors. James' musical theatre and acting students perform regularly with local companies such as: Musical Theatre West, Orange County Children's Theatre, Long Beach Playhouse, Attic Community Theatre and South Coast Repertory. Current and alumni students are with Disney Entertainment, cruise ships, and are featured in television, feature films and commercials.
As a musicologist and author he wrote the celebrated Lounge Music Companion, a 500-page encyclopedia of bios, discography and rare interviews. He has also written bios on Julie London, Les Baxter and Jackie Gleason.
A vegan activist, James' new books The Vintage Vegan and Vegan Comfort is available through Amazon.
As a recording artist James has created the award winning Cocktail Piano Hour series as heard on Cocktail Nation. James is also musicologist-programmer for the mid-week Evenings At the Penthouse show.
James is the founder of Intuitive Wholeness offering: clinical hypnotherapy i and intuitive healing/Reiki sessions as well as psychic-tarot readings.
For information on private in-studio or online lessons, artist development, James' album and book releases or other services, explore this website or call 562 394 2694.
Becky Golden: Musical Theatre Actress