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Canon James Buonemani | Organist and Director of Music

James Buonemani began his musical career at age thirteen when he was appointed Assistant Organist to William Ferris, then Director of Music, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester, NY. An early interest in composition won him first prize, at age 15, in Baylor University’s Young Composer Competition. Since then he has composed music primarily for the church. His setting of the “Preces and Responses”, published by Paraclete Music, has been performed throughout the US and in England and has become a staple of the Evensong repertoire. His “Vis Aeternitatis”, published by MusicaBellaLuna, has recently been released on the Raven Label, performed by the Choir of the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC, directed by Jeremy Filsell and broadcast nationwide on NPR. A review of this work appearing in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of the “American Record Guide” remarked on “Buonemani’s beautifully evocative setting…a welcome discovery.” His “Missa Miamiensis” for choir, organ, piano, soprano saxophone and field drum was premiered at a Sesquicentennial Eucharist in 1994 at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC, with Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning, officiating, and has subsequently been performed multiple times in Chicago, New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. The Fantasy on Ave Regina Caelorum is his most recent composition written for the 25th Anniversary of the Murray M. Harris organ in St. James Church. Dedicated to organist Todd Wilson, the work has been recently released on a double CD album on the Gothic label by Mr. Wilson performing on St. James’ organ. Wilson premiered the work at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, in the summer of 2021.

Mr. Buonemani graduated with highest distinction from both the Eastman School of Music and the Westminster Choir College and has also studied in England at the Royal School of Church Music. He was awarded the Performer's Certificate from Eastman in 1978 as an organ student of David Craighead. He was elected to Pi Kappa Lambda, the American collegiate honor society for musicians, in 1977.

He has performed as solo organist and/or conductor in such notable venues as the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, and Church of St. Paul the Apostle at Lincoln Center, Grace Cathedral (San Francisco), Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (Chicago), Walt Disney Concert Hall and First Congregational Church (Los Angeles) and in many of the great Cathedrals and Chapels of the British Isles including Canterbury Cathedral, Wells Cathedral, St. George’s Chapel Windsor, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, and in Ireland at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, Galway’s St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Cork’s St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral and Tullamore’s Church of the Assumption. He has also performed in Mexico City’s Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe and on Mexican National Television. 

Mr. Buonemani collaborated with Los Angeles composer Morten Lauridsen in setting the organ version of Lux Aeterna and performed the world premiere with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in April, 1997 and jointly inaugurated the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ with a performance of the work in 2004. He can also be heard in the premiere recording of this version of the work, among other works, in a 1998 CD release with the Donald Brinegar Singers.

Buonemani has appeared before regional and national conventions of the AGO, the American Choral Directors Association, the Association of Anglican Musicians, and the Organ Historical Society. He has guest conducted on several occasions the William Ferris Chorale of Chicago and the Chicago Choral Artists. His choir’s 2018 CD album on the Gothic label “O Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New” received critical praise with the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians stating “this recording has been a musical highlight of my year . . . nothing short of genius in its conception and execution.” Jack Sullivan writes in the American Record Guide “This is a wonderful choral collection, full of variety and adventure, mostly radiant and serene but with moments of melancholy and subtle disturbance.”

Since 1995, James Buonemani has been Organist & Director of Music for St. James Church, Los Angeles, CA. Now in its third decade of concerts, the “International Laureates Organ Series” was founded by Buonemani with underwriting from the Ahmanson Foundation to provide the greater Los Angeles community the opportunity to hear world-class artists on the church’s historic pipe organ in seven free recitals annually. In addition to the organ recital series, Buonemani has secured the continuation of Los Angeles’ oldest continuous running chamber music series “Sundays Live,” now entitled “Classical Sundays at Six,” presenting solo, chamber and orchestral musicians from throughout the US and abroad.

Prior to his position at St. James Church, Buonemani was Organist & Director of Music for the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC, where he developed the church’s weekly Tuesday Afternoon Concert Series and launched the Epiphany Artists Series featuring full-length programs of drama, music and dance. In 1992, he founded and conducted "Musicians Against AIDS," a fund-raising event which featured musicians from the National Symphony and musical luminaries baritone John Shirley-Quirk and the American Boychoir.

In June of 2015, Mr. Buonemani conducted a choir of over 200 voices in Walt Disney Concert Hall marking the 150th anniversary of Episcopal Ministry in Southern California, at which time the Rt. Rev. Jon J. Bruno, then Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles, conferred on him the title Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, acknowledging his extraordinary contributions to the musical life of the Episcopal Church.