biography: James DeMars (b.1952)

James DeMars (1952 - ) has written  works that frequently explore intercultural collaborations:


GUADALUPE: a bi-lingual opera in two acts (110’); winner of two 2015 Arizona Theater Awards for libretto and music.      "As the last notes faded I sat awestruck... this opera was a milestone in the history of contemporary music." Latino Perspectives


AN AMERICAN REQUIEM (75') for chorus, soloists & orchestra        "At the close of last night's premiere performance there could have been little doubt that James DeMars had met the standards of the death masses of Brahms and Britten;  grand and spacious, stately, ethereal, glorious, inspired and quintessentially American, (it) speaks of untarnished dreams and naive yearnings; an intensely hopeful conjuration of all that is best about the nation's peoples."  -  Washington Post


TITO’S SAY, for chorus, soloists & orchestra: for soloists, poetry by Alberto Rios (25’)       "Four poems of skewed love set to pleasant and chatty music."  - New York Times


NATIVE DRUMMING, two movements for the Black Lodge Pow-wow Singers & Orchestra (20’)       "...searingly honest, by turns mesmerizing, haunting, hair-raising and astonishing... just plain gorgeous in its sonics, with strings racing over the singer-drummers like a veil of night over the desert, and brass harmonies moving like sunlight across a mesa." - Arizona Republic


TWO WORLD CONCERTO for Native American flutist, R. Carlos Nakai (28’); winner of two Native American Music Awards.       "...on epic scale, sweepingly dramatic & rhythmically concise."  Los Angeles Times        "...compelling... an ode to the unspoiled beauty of Minnesota lakes, forests and wildlife."  Chicago Tribune    


 SABAR CONCERTO for African Drums & Orchestra for Mark Sunkett (22’)      "DeMars brings the orchestra into direct union with ritual music and dance from Senegal in a sonic travelogue, that was stunningly entertaining as well as culturally engaging."  - Arizona Republic


Composer/conductor James DeMars belongs to a generation that is revealing a new integration of world music with the range, depth and stylistic variety of the classical tradition. 

His works include: 

  • Intercultural Concertos; orchestra with African Drum Ensemble, Black Lodge Pow-wow Singers, Native American flute 
  • Classical Concertos for  Violin, Piano, and Flute
  • Choral cantatas, and Song Cycles
  • An Opera and an Oratorio 
  • An American Requiem
  • Chamber Music 
  • Music for R. Carlos Nakai 
  • Music for Zeitgeist and TOS Ensembles

Ensembles that perform DeMars' music include:

The New York Choral Society, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Phoenix Symphony, California Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta,  Tucson Symphony, Anchorage Symphony, Memphis Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony,  Choer et Orchestre Francais D'Oratorio (Paris), Wuppertal (Germany) Orchestra, St. Petersburg (Russia) Chamber Philharmonic, I Solisti di Zagreb (Croatia), Army Band of China (Beijing) and others. 

Commissions include:  NEA,  Heard Museum, Flynn Foundation, Art Renaissance Foundation, Phoenix Symphony, Canyon Records, European-American Foundation, Phoenix Boys Choir, I Solisti di Zagreb, and Arizona Commission on the Arts.


He is frequently involved in performances of his work as a conductor or pianist. These include the national premiere of his work, An American Requiem, at the Kennedy Center in Washington and nationally televised performances at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. In 1998 he conducted the European premiere of the requiem in Paris at Église La Trinité with Choer et Orchestre Francais D'Oratorio and was inducted to the French Order of Arts and Letters. He has conducted performances with the symphonies of Memphis, Utah, and Phoenix and served as pianist


With Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai he has created four CDs for Canyon Records. Two World Concerto received two Native American Music Awards and led to the 2008 release of DeMars' inter-cultural oratorio, GUADALUPE. In 2010 he received the Governor's Arizona Artist of the Year Award and in 2016 two Arizona Theater awards for best opera libretto and music.


Aesthetic influences include the writings of Joseph Campbell and Albert Camus. He holds a doctorate from the University of Minnesota studying under Dominick Argento and is a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Requiem rehearsals, Paris 1996

Requiem rehearsals, Paris 1996