Born in South Korea into a musical family, James D’León began the piano at the age of 4 and performed his first recital at the age of 5. After receiving early piano training from his mother, he was awarded a full scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a pre-college student. As the winner of both the San Francisco Symphony and the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra competitions, he performed the Grieg Piano Concerto and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, respectively, at the age of 12. He then relocated to Pennsylvania where he honed his technique and performance skills. By the age of 14, he had won every regional competition culminating in his debut performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music.
He continued his piano studies with the late George Sementovsky in Philadelphia, which resulted in top honors as a summa cum laude graduate from Temple University in Philadelphia. This study greatly influenced his style, refined his technique, and formulated his philosophy of piano performance, especially in regard to physical movement. He was subsequently awarded a fellowship to the Eastman School of Music in New York where he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance and Literature.
From there, he won praise in many international piano competitions such as the Bachauer, Kapell, Leeds, and the Van Cliburn Competition. He was also a top-five finalist in the Naumburg International Competition where he was selected out of 250 extraordinary pianists. Afterwards, he received top honors in the New York Artist International Competition that led to his New York Debut 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 as an official Steinway Artist on both the prestigious New York and Hamburg, Germany rosters. Since then, he has performed in England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Canada, and 40 states throughout the continental United States.
His performances have garnered critical praise from audiences and critics everywhere, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, which stated that he performed with “exciting pianism filled with powerful emotion.” The Salt Lake Tribune commented that “D’León was a musical sorcerer who mesmerized the audience with every note.” After his performance at the 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!” His busy summers have included performances at the Banff Festival in Canada, the Boyle Festival in Ireland, the Schlern Festival in the Italian Alps, and the Mendocino Music Festival on the northern California coast.
As a chamber musician, he has performed with the world’s finest chamber groups including the Muir String Quartet, and the Shanghai String Quartet, with whom he performed the Brahms Piano Quintet for a capacity audience that resulted in a 10-minute standing ovation. He is also in great demand as a master-class presenter and adjudicator. To date, he has given master classes at more than 75 universities around the world and has served as a judge in international piano competitions of all ages.
As a recording artist, the American Record Guide stated “D’León’s performance is a revelation and a real treasure!” In addition, E-Music Magazine called his performance of the Schubert and Liszt “amenable and remarkable!” Upcoming projects include the first recording of Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla’s complete tangos transcribed for piano quintet. He is also a frequent guest conductor of the Prescott Symphony and the Prescott Chamber Orchestra in Arizona. Recent concerto performances have included the Mendocino Festival Orchestra, the Symphony of the Redwoods, and the Arizona Philharmonic, with whom he performed the world premiere of American composer Henry Flurry’s “Currents,” a piano concerto based on the events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
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 solo recital or collaborating with a chamber music group. He continues to dazzle audiences and keep them on the edge of their seats with his commanding technique, expressive body movement, and searching interpretations.
For more information or to contact Mr. D’León, go to www.jamesdleon.com.