James Jacobson

Principal Timpani

James Jacobson Biography / February 2022 

James Jacobson is Principal Timpanist of the Richmond Symphony and Percussion Coordinator of the AIMS Summer Festival in Graz, Austria. He was Acting Principal Timpanist of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra from 2013–15, and has performed with the Czech Philharmonic, National Symphony (including on tour), Minnesota Orchestra, and the Jacksonville Symphony; as well as the Columbus, Toledo, Virginia, Annapolis, Key West, and Stamford Symphony Orchestras; and the Joffrey and Bolshoi Ballet Company Orchestras. Previously, he held principal positions with the Delaware and Tallahassee Symphony Orchestras. 

Besides orchestral performance, Mr. Jacobson also teaches at the College of William & Mary, Christopher Newport University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Richmond. He has also given master classes and concerts on multiple occasions at the annual International Percussion Festival in Patagonia, Argentina, and has been a guest recitalist at the International Percussion Conference in Espinho, Portugal. As timpani soloist, Mr. Jacobson has performed concertos on three different occasions with the Richmond Symphony (Johann Fischer’s Symphony with 8 Obbligato Timpani, Druchetzky’s Partita in C Major for Six Timpani, and David Schiff’s Speaking in Drums); and he performed marimba duos with his teacher Keiko Abe on tour in Japan and the US.  

James also enjoys traveling, languages, skiing, motorcycles, and being in the company of cats. Additionally, he produced pop music and played in the punk/rock band Big Fun in Los Angeles, spent several years living in Germany and Japan, and ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. 

Mr. Jacobson’s principal teachers include Wieland Welzel of the Berlin Philharmonic and Tom Freer of the Cleveland Orchestra for timpani; and Keiko Abe, Leigh Howard Stevens, and Robert Van Sice for marimba. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a doctorate from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.