James Higgins , a 2018 NYIT award nominee for Sound Design, is a musical director, pianist, and orchestrator living in New York City. In his 30 years as a professional musician, he has performed in over 80 countries on all 7 continents (including a concert in the middle of the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica!). His broad range of experiences and abilities allow him an extraordinary versatility, making him as comfortable and proficient in musical theatre, classical music and opera, as in pop, rock and jazz. He has been a faculty pianist at AMDA since 2018, helping to train the next generation of Broadway performers.
Recently, he performed in the exciting critically-acclaimed smash off-Broadway anti-Trump political revue Me The People at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, providing the arrangements, vigorous piano accompaniment, as well as the occasional ditty. Stretching his acting wings, he appeared as the male/pianist cover in the Off-Broadway hit Old Jews Telling Jokes at the Westside Theatre, (go know...), and as a cantankerous Beethoven in the hilarious two-hander Ludwig Live! at SubCulture. He is the arranger and orchestrator for The Gefilte Fish Chronicles, a new musical by Iris Burnett, and the Emmy Award-winning composer Matty Selman, based on the acclaimed PBS documentary. This show has had several industry readings in NYC and Montreal; a full productions at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT., and at the Chicago Musical Theatre festival; and a special performance at the White House (!!) in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. In April of 2012, he worked closely with legendary composer Galt MacDermot (Hair) as music director for the world premiere of his new musical, Goddess Wheel. He was the music coordinator and orchestrator for the premiere of Slow Dance with a Hot Pick Up, by Broadway playwright John Pielmeier (Agnes of God) and Mr. Selman. He was also music director for the award-winning Living With Henry at the 2012 NYMF.
Working in regional theaters and operas houses across North America, he has conducted over 75 musicals and operas including Sweeney Todd, Candide, Ragtime, Madama Butterfly, South Pacific, Cats, A Chorus Line, Kiss Me Kate, Vanessa (Samuel Barber), Evita, A Little Night Music, Bat Boy, The Pirates of Penzance,and The Rocky Horror Show. In 1997, he worked with Tony Award-winners director Martin Charnin (Annie) and orchestrator Doug Besterman (The Producers) on the Broadway-bound Jeanne La Pucelle. From 2002-2005, he was the resident music director and co-executive director of Musical Theatre Southwest in Albuquerque NM, the largest community musical theatre company in the U.S. at the time. In his 3 seasons, he conducted, stage directed and/or produced 20 fully-staged productions, as well as numerous benefits concerts and gala performances.
From 1998-2002, he was an instructor, staff coach and the chorus master at Opera McGill at McGill University in Montreal. He prepared the ensembles for Les Contes D'Hoffmann, Die Fledermaus, L'Elisir D'Amore and Cosi fan Tutte. He also conducted productions of The Crucible (Robert Ward) and the world premiere of Taptoo!, by eminent Canadian artists playwright James Reaney and composer John Beckwith.
Also a respected vocal coach, he has many former students and clients in productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, London's West End, and at regional theaters around the world.