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 music by Byron Adams, John Berners, Sydney Guillaume, 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 tours and purposeful community engagement. He has led the Wind Symphony on community-engaged performance tours of Cuba (2024), Haiti and the Dominican Republic (2019, 2017), and has developed and sustained partnerships with the National Concert Band of Cuba, the Holy Trinity Music School (Port-au-Prince), and the Haitian roots music band RAM. James's book, Community-Engaged Performance Tours: A Handbook for Ensemble Directors and Educators (Routledge, 2023) presents a guide for ensemble directors and educators interested in leading similar projects. 

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, to community engagement as part of Cornell's Engaged Speaker series.

James has been a Cornell Engaged Faculty Fellow and has received 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.

Before his current post, 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: wind ensemble, orchestra, jazz ensemble
  • Teaching and rehearsal pedagogy


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