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James attended Bakersfield College out of high school where he studied composition, theory and piano with Dr. John Gerhold, who introduced James to the art of composition. James then attended California State University, Bakersfield where he studied composition, theory and 20th century history with Dr. Doug Davis and trumpet with Charles Brady. He received his BA in music composition with a minor in philosophy in 2005 graduating magna cum laude as a member of Alpha Chi National Honors society, also earning the music department's outstanding graduating senior award. He then went on to get his Master of Music in Composition from Oklahoma City University's Wanda L. Bass School of Music studying composition with Dr. Edward Knight and music theory with Dr. Ildar Khannanov. James has participated in master classes with, among others, Jack Stamp, Ovid Young, David Maslanka, Laura Schwendinger, Jesse Ayers, Jack Gallagher, Stephen Gryc, Sujin Nam and Sy Brandon.