James VanValkenburg

Artist Picture

James VanValkenburg


Assistant Principal, Janet and Norm Ankers Chair

DSO member since 1986

As Assistant Principal Viola of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, James VanValkenburg came to orchestral playing after a fulfilling career in chamber music. As a founding member of the International String Quartet, he toured the world with concerts in Europe, the Far East, South America, and the US. The quartet won several notable prizes including the Munich Competition, East & West Artists of New York, and was the first winner of the Premier Grand Prix at the International Chamber Music Competition in Evian, France.

Since joining the DSO in 1986, VanValkenburg has participated in several summer festivals including Lockenhaus, Newport, Strings in the Mountains, as well as the American String Project in Seattle in 2011. He served as Principal Viola of the Bellingham, WA music festival in 2012 and 2013 and the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra in 2014. In 2016 he was soloist with the University of Michigan Band, an ensemble his father played in over 60 years prior.

A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Indiana University School of Music, he has enjoyed chamber music collaborations with many of his favorite musicians including Menahem Pressler, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, David Shifrin, and Isaac Stern. Recent recordings include a violin and viola duet by William Bolcom, Piano Quartets by Franz Waxman, the Stravinsky Septet on Koch, and the Beethoven Septet on Philips.

VanValkenburg is in demand as a soloist and chamber musician. He became the first violist to be a permanent member of Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings in 2004 and appeared as soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2005, 2013, and 2014. He performs on a rare viola by Antonio Ungarini of Fabriano, Italy, made in 1740.

VanValkenburg has been happily married to his wife Farah since 1986, and they have two sons, Noah and Eliot. Noah works as a manager for a large firm in Philadelphia, and Eliot is a data analyst for a tech company in Boston. VanValkenburg spends much of his free time training for Ironman Triathlons and has started and completed five, including Ironman Hawaii in 2004.