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James Janssen 

piano • organ • fortepiano • harpsichord

conductor • composer • teacher/coach



James Janssen conducts a dress rehearsal for the world premiere of “Joseph’s Gift.”
James Janssen conducts a dress rehearsal for the world premiere of “Joseph’s Gift.”

A little press...

“Music Director/Conductor James Janssen kept the troops in together, no easy task as the orchestra of twenty-one was necessarily behind the action. Always sensitive to both Lynch’s writing and to the breathing of the singers, much of the success of the evening must be attributed to Janssen.”

Chicago Theatre Review

Via Sequencia...

30 Apr 2020
Needing my barber after six weeks
Needing my barber after six weeks

Another month down

It’s May Day, and I‘m ready to radio a “may day” to Jeff, my barber. If only just for something to do outside the house! I should be taking the initiative and walking a few miles every day, but instead I’ve worked and worked and worked. All inside at my kitchen table (with the Scotties under the table on their beds). 

My CEO sent all staff an email—all of us are working remotely—reminding us to take care of ourselves and not work without rest, explicitly telling us to take our comp time and PTO as we need it. Well, I NEED IT! Handholding brilliant physicians as they fumble around trying to find that one email that tells them how to logon to a webinar or how to find that bit of info that you’ve given to them in myriad ways over the past weeks is exhausting! 

My husband and I are faring all right... no imminent divorce it seems. We’ve gotten good at stepping out of the way when space seems to be needed. We’re cooking for each other, keeping the dirty dishes out of the sink and in the dishwasher, taking turns walking and feeding the pups... all around well-oiled, if cramped, machine. 

I’ve given up looking forward to the day we go back to semi-normal (?), whatever that will look like. Trying to completely be in the moment so the repetitive nature of this new routine doesn’t weigh me down. Zoom meetings are more than plentiful, but they’re doing a good job at helping me feel less isolated from family, friends, and coworkers. 

I hope you all are coping, too. Send me an email if you wanna Zoom!

About Me


James Janssen made his debut as a pianist at age 13 performing Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major with the Anderson (Indiana) Symphony Orchestra. A native of Indianapolis, he received his education from Indiana University and Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, where he studied with some of the world’s most respected experts in the field of Baroque and Classical performance practice. It was there that he found his love and affinity for historically informed performance. He is artistic director and co-founder of Haydn by the Lake, a period instrument chamber ensemble specializing in music of the Baroque and Classical periods. James has toured extensively in recital with his husband of 30 years Mark Crayton, countertenor. He has been broadcast on Chicago’s classical radio station, WFMT, in recital with Crayton and in concert with Haydn by the Lake. James is artistic director, resident music director, and conductor with Evanston Chamber Opera Company (EChO). He conducted the world premiere of two new operas by Francis Lynch with EChO; Joseph’s Gift (2016) and For Those in Peril (2018). Other works he conducted with EChO include Bizet’s Doctor Miracle (2019), Wolf-Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret (2019), Chabrier’s An Incomplete Education (2020), and d’Albert’s The Departure (2020). Also in 2019, James conducted, from the piano bench, two EChO benefit performances of an abbreviated La Bohème for four singers. He has also appeared in the Chicago area with Music of the Baroque, Ars Antigua, and St. Clement Orchestra and in numerous recitals in Ganz Hall at Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University. Outside Chicagoland, James has performed across the country, including multiple appearances at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC and in recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York City and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at University of Notre Dame in South Bend IN. Internationally, he has played on the Amstelrande Concerten series (Amsterdam), at Grosvenor Hall (London), and at the Handel & Hendrix in London, returning there in 2021. He has taught master classes at the University of Notre Dame and at the Hap’ning Place in London, United Kingdom. James most enjoys collaborating with singers, playing Classical chamber music on fortepiano, and supporting the choir and congregation from the organ bench. Equally at home at the piano, fortepiano, harpsichord, and organ, James is also a composer. He is organist and associate choir director at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Evanston IL and can occasionally be found playing the musical saw, recorder, or melodica.

Wedding Officiant — A number of years ago, I was ordained by the Universal Life Church (ULC) specifically to offer same-sex marriage rites for friends who weren’t able to be married by their denomination’s clergy. So, I’m available and authorized to officiate weddings, LGBTQ+ or otherwise! Contact me if you’d like to schedule a consultation. -James

Photo Gallery

James Janssen publicity shot (c.1999)
James Janssen publicity shot (c.1999)

Photos from over the years

This is a collection of my instruments, the church where I have worked for twenty years, musicians with whom I have collaborated, and other related photos that are important to me. Contact Me if you would like more information about any of these things.