James’s first theatrical experience was playing a sunflower in the Wewoka, Oklahoma public library’s summer production of Oklahoma! when he was 5. You may not remember the pivotal role of the sunflower in productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ground-breaking musical that you may have seen, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.
For 25 years, James McQuillen has been a music director in musical theatre, concerts, cabaret, and opera, having worked on somewhere between 150 and 200 individual productions. Some of his favorite music directing experiences include the southwest premiere of A New Brain, Ed Dixon’s Whodunit for the York Theatre Company, conducting the Dallas Wind Symphony in Watertower Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls, the national tour of Three Redneck Tenors, and the 2018 Apprentice production of Sweeney Todd, directed by Casa’s former Director of Theatre for Youth, Noah Putterman.
As co-founder of Front Line Cabaret, James co-produced and curated a performance series exploring the artistic possibilities of cabaret in the 21st Century. From 2013 to 2018, the company celebrated the depth and diversity of North Texas talent by featuring performers such as Sergio Garcia, Jay Gardner, Marjorie Hayes, Catherine Johnson, Sheran Keyton, Calvin Roberts, and Diana Sheehan in evenings of intimate, engaging, and theatrical solo performance. James created 3 award-winning cabarets with Diana Sheehan and 2 recordings based on those shows: Nobody’s Hart: The Lyrics of Lorenz Hart and Diana Sheehan Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook.
Education is central to James’s career. He has been on the faculty at universities and colleges in North Texas, Missouri, and New York, music directing productions and teaching courses on musical theatre performance, auditioning, singing, and musical theatre history. For many years, he has also been a private teacher and coach, working with young people and professionals alike. His private clients and former students appear in national tours and regional theatre, sing with leading opera companies and symphony orchestras, and are accepted into the top university musical theatre, acting, and voice programs. He has taught performance masterclasses across the country for universities, theatre and opera companies, and arts education organizations.
After living in North Texas for many years, James relocated to Washington, DC, in 2018 to pursue an MA in Arts Management at American University. While there, he was awarded the Strathmore Fellowship in Marketing and Development, and he graduated in May of 2020.
James is happy to be back home in North Texas among family and friends. He looks forward to building on the enormous strengths of Casa Mañana’s Education programming and TYA series. James is excited to work with Casa’s board, staff, and community to create even more meaningful arts experiences for North Texas’s growing and diverse population.