James Blackford is a Melbourne based musician, highly regarded as one of the best up and coming euphonium players in Australia. Currently working full time with the NSW Police Band, James recently released his first album, entitled Blackford & Collins; New Australian Music for Brass, funded by the NSW Government through CreateNSW. James is an Australian Music Foundation alumnus, awarded the foundations Guy Parsons Award, in 2019, making him the first ever euphonium player to be supported by the AMF. Concurrently, whilst studying a Master of Music at the Royal Northern College of Music, in Manchester, he was a winner of the college´s highly competitive concerto competition.
Growing up in Brisbane, James started playing the unique instrument at the age of 10. By the end of high school, he had realised his passion for music, had been recognised as an upcoming young brass performer and in 2012, began studies at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. During his studies, he was awarded first place in numerous competitions at a state and university level, developed a love for brass banding and started to build valuable experience as a specialist low brass educator. In the latter half of his studies, James performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, was a soloist with the Queensland Conservatorium of Music’s Wind Orchestra and successfully auditioned for the NSW Police Band.
2014 saw James graduate with a bachelor’s degree in advanced performance and move to Sydney as the youngest ever full-time member of the NSW Police Band. Whilst in Sydney, James performed as a soloist with several premier wind and brass bands, won the euphonium division of the Australian National Band Championships on two occasions, and travelled to Knoxville, Tennessee to compete in the semi-finals of the 2016 ITEC euphonium artist division. He has enjoyed educating young and enthusiastic brass players as a low brass specialist and has been involved in several solo and ensemble recording projects, including performing on Tomomi Takahashi’s album ‘Illusions’.
In August of 2019 James realised his long-term dream of studying at the Royal Northern College of Music with David Thornton and Steven Mead, when he moved to Manchester to begin a Master of Music. His study was made possible thanks to the support of the John Fewkes Scholarship, the Marah Mahlowe Brass Award and assistance by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts. James also received support from Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund and was a recipient of a grant through the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA).
James has a passion for brass banding which has led him to play as a member of ‘National Australia Brass’ directed by Professor David King, as solo euphonium with Pacific Brass, Warringah Concert Brass, and The Leyland Band. He has also performed with other famous brass bands including the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and Brighouse & Rastrick Band.
Returning to Australia in March of 2020, James resumed his job with the NSW Police Band, deferring temporarily his Master of Music. This year, alongside Matthew Collins, James was a successful recipient of a NSW government grant from CreateNSW, enabling the duo to commission four new Australian works, all which were released in June on the album titled ´Blackford & Collins; New Australian Music for Brass´. James looks forward to returning to Manchester in the near future to continue pushing the boundaries of euphonium performance. He is a strong advocate for its versatile and virtuosic possibilities.
James is a Besson Artist, and performs exclusively on a Besson Prestige 2052