James Sanders

Jazz Violin Faculty
Program Area: 
Private Instruction
Jazz Studies
Adult Studies
With Music Institute of Chicago since: 

James earned his Master of Music Degree in Violin Performance from Yale University in 1989. He also received his Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree, with a Violin Performance Major from DePauw University in 1987. 

Significant teachers and mentors: 

Significant teachers/mentors include:

Sydney Harth - Yale, 1987-1989

Tokyo String Quartet (Chamber Music) - Yale, 1987-1989

David Taylor - CSO, 1990-1991

Alber Igolvnikov - CSO, 1991-1994


As an improvisor, I was influenced and inspired by the late Chicago jazz violinist Johnny Frigo, whom I used to see perform almost every week in the years after I received my Master's degree.

Teaching philosophy and areas of expertise: 

"The classically trained violinist can expand their opportunities to perform professionally by learning new techniques and styles. In today's multicultural society, the distinctions between classical, jazz, world and folkloric music are increasingly blurred, and the successful musician benefits from being adept at multiple genres. My university education was strictly classical, but I began to explore jazz improvisation after graduation as well as incorporate my own heritage into my music, and I encourage all classically trained students to expand their horizons."

Awards and achievements: 

Headlining Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park with my band Conjunto

Soloist with the Chicago Sinfonietta on Chris Brubeck's 'Interplay for Three Violins and Orchestra'

Reaching the Top 50 airplay chart with my CD 'Blue Violin, A Jazz Legacy'

Professional affiliations & activities: 


Chicago Sinfonietta

Fulcrum Point New Music Ensemble

Black Music Repertory Ensemble



James Sanders' Conjunto (leader)

Blue Violin Quartet (leader)

Proyecto Libre Jazz (leader)

Harrison Bankhead Sextet (ensemble member)

Dee Alexander's Evolution Ensemble (ensemble member)

Doug Lofstrom & New Quartet (ensemble member)

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Music Ensemble (ensemble member)

Interests outside of music: 

Bike riding, weight lifting, art, philosophy

Favorite quote: 

"We sow the seeds of our future experience through what we commit ourselves to in this moment." - Christina Feldman

Favorite practice tip: 

Be Consistent - Be Patient - Pay Attention

Favorite composer or piece to play: 

Ballade by Eugène Ysaÿe, one of his Six Sonatas for Solo Violin


Overall, my favorite composer is Bach

Favorite musical moment: 

The recording session for the Harrison Bankhead Sextet CD 'Morning Sun Harvest Moon'