Born in South Korea into a musical family, James D’León began the piano at the young age of 4 and performed his first recital at the age of 5. After receiving early piano training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he relocated to Pennsylvania. By the age of 14, he had won every competition in the state culminating in his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music performing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2.
He continued his piano studies under George Sementovsky, a student of master teacher Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School in New York. With Sementovsky, he learned and refined his Russian keyboard technique, which culminated in top honors as a summa cum laude graduate from Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia. This study greatly influenced his style and philosophy of piano performance, especially in regard to expressive physical movement at the piano. He eventually received the Doctor of Music Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
From there, he competed and 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 from a pool of more than 250 extraordinary pianists. Afterwards, he received top honors in the New York Artist International Competition that led to his New York Debut Recital 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 to become an official Steinway Concert Artist listed on both the prestigious New York and Hamburg, Germany rosters. His performances have garnered critical praise from audiences and critics everywhere including the Philadelphia Inquirer that stated that he performed with “exciting pianism and powerful emotion.” The Salt Lake Tribune commented that “D’León was a musical sorcerer who mesmerized the audience with every single note.” After his performance in the prestigious Reading Festival in England, International Piano Magazine stated that “D’León is definitely one of the latest U.S. pianists to watch, and his recital was an absolute sheer and dazzling delight!” During the summers, he has served as Artist-in-Residence for many international music festivals including the Banff Festival in Canada, the Boyle Festival in Ireland, the Schlern Festival in the Italian Alps, and the Mendocino Festival on the northern California coast.
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 full solo recital or collaborating with a world-class chamber 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.
“Exciting pianism filled with powerful emotion”