Assistant Principal Viola
DSO member since 1986
Currently Assistant Principal Violist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, James VanValkenburg came to orchestral playing after a satisfying 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, as well as the U.S. 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 of Evian, France.
Since joining the DSO in 1986, Jim 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 Violist of the Bellingham, WA music festival in 2012 and 2013 and of 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 earlier.
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, among them Menahem Pressler, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, David Shifrin, and Isaac Stern. Recent recordings include a violin, viola duet of William Bolcom, Piano Quartets of Franz Waxman and the Stravinsky Septet, on Koch, and the Beethoven Septet on Philips.
Jim is in demand as a soloist and chamber musician, becoming 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.
Jim has been happily married to Farah since 1986. They have two sons. Noah is working as a manager for a large firm in Philadelphia and Eliot is a data analyst for a tech company in Boston. Jim spends much of his free time training for Ironman Triathlons and has started and completed five, including Ironman Hawaii in 2004.