James Spinazzola

Barbara & Richard T. Silver ‘50, MD ‘53 Associate Professor, Director of Winds


James Spinazzola is an active conductor, ensemble clinician, saxophonist, and arranger. In addition to directing the Cornell wind program, James teaches undergraduate courses in conducting, music theory, and chamber music; and serves as faculty adviser to CU Winds, a student-driven organization devoted to the performance and promotion of wind band music.

Under James's direction, the Cornell Wind Symphony was selected to perform at the 2022 and 2018 Eastern division conferences of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and host the 2024 conference in Ithaca. The Wind Symphony has premiered new works by John Berners, Kathryn Likhuta, David Maslanka, Christopher Rouse, Dana Wilson, and Mark Winges, among others; and has collaborated with a diverse collection of musicians including Wynton Marsalis and Joshua Redman during on-campus residencies. The Wind Symphony has premiered James's arrangements of music by Christopher Rouse, Roberto Sierra, Wynton Marsalis, and Patrick Williams; all of which are now published. 

James's current research focuses on the intersection of ensemble performance and purposeful community engagement. In 2019 and 2017, James led the Cornell Wind Symphony on two community-engaged performance tours of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and has sustained partnerships with the Holy Trinity Music School and RAM, both based in Port-au-Prince. Stemming from these initiatives, James published the book, Community-Engaged Performance Tours: A Handbook for Ensemble Directors and Educators (Routledge).

James’s work as an author, arranger, and performer is published by Alfred Music, Boosey & Hawkes, Mark Records, Scarecrow Press, and Subito Press. He has served as visiting director of the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble (2021-22) and has conducted and adjudicated bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles in the U.S., China, India, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. He has also presented on a diverse collection of topics, from rehearsal pedagogy at the Midwest International Band & Orchestra Clinic to jazz arranging at Shanghai Normal University.

James has been a Cornell Engaged Faculty Fellow and has earned grants from the Cornell Center for Teaching Innovation and the Cornell Council for the Arts. He has earned two grants from the Central New York Humanities Corridor for founding a working group entitled Banding Together, which fosters interactions between college wind ensembles and composers from historically underrepresented populations. Through this initiative, Cornell currently partners with peer ensembles from Syracuse University and the Eastman Conservatory.

Prior to his current posts, James was an associate professor at the University of Indianapolis and an assistant professor at Tennessee Tech University. He holds degrees from Duquesne University (BS), the University of Colorado (MM), and Louisiana State University (DMA).  

Research Focus

  • Performance: wind ensembles
  • Performance: conducting
  • Performance: jazz saxophone
  • Arranging and orchestration: full and chamber wind ensembles
  • Teaching and rehearsal pedagogy


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