James Ross

Director of Orchestral Studies
Conductor / Performance

Conductor James Ross is an improviser, a horn-blower, a questioner of concert rituals, a man who likes to move, and a firm believer in the shaping impact of classical music on the lives of those it touches. He is considered one of the finest conducting pedagogues in the country.  

He has taught conducting at the Juilliard School since 2011 and has led Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA as orchestra director since its founding in 2013. He served as professor and director of orchestral activities at the University of Maryland from 2001 to 2017. Mr. Ross has been music director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra since 2018.  

 Mr. Ross is internationally recognized for his work advancing the future of orchestras through cross-genre collaborations especially with choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Liz Lerman, polymath designer-director Doug Fitch, and video artist Tim McLoraine. He was principal horn of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1981 to 1984 and was a prize winner at the Bavarian Radio Horn Competition in 1978 at age 19.   

He was artistic director of the National Orchestral Institute (NOI) at the University of Maryland from 2002 to 2012 where his leadership helped served as an impetus for creative change in the orchestral landscape of our country. Mr. Ross has also led inaugural courses of the Cuban American Youth Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s RCO Young. He has served on the music faculty of Yale University and Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges.  

Mr. Ross’s principal conducting teachers were Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Bernstein, and Otto-Werner Mueller with whom he studied at Curtis from 1987 to 1989. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University and a Master’s Certificate from the Berlin Academy of the Arts.  

Mr. Ross loves art that is new no matter when it was created. He loves concerts that tell a compelling inner story. And he loves helping conductors and orchestras find their own singular communal voices.  

Mr. Ross joined the Curtis faculty in 2024.