James Dalton

General Info


Professor of Core Studies



Personal Website


James Dalton joined the Conservatory in 2000. He is a professor of music theory and teaches music theory and ear training courses.

As a music theorist, Dalton's interests and research have ranged from palindromes and symmetrical musical structures to just intonation and microtonality. He has presented at conferences in the United States and abroad, including the Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for American Music, the Macro Analysis Creative Research Organization, Beyond the Semitone (Aberdeen, Scotland), and the 17th International Music Theory Conference (Vilnius, Lithuania). 

Dalton’s compositions have been performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe by the Providence Mandolin Orchestra, Enigmatica, Toronto Camerata, Ensemble Decadanse, Transient Canvas, Scottish Voices, Sharan Leventhal, Stephen Altoft, Marti Epstein, Paul Ayres, Aaron Larget-Caplan, and Carson Cooman and at such venues as the Kansas Symposium of New Music, Musiques Nouvelles (Lunel, France), EUROMicroFest, Sound (Festival of New Music, Scotland), and Akademie der Tonkunst (Darmstadt, Germany). 

Dalton performs on guitar, mandolin, banjo, and other plucked string instruments with soprano Maggi Smith-Dalton, specializing in historically informed performance of 19th- and 20th-century American music. Together, they have released four recordings. He freelances in orchestral, chamber music, new music, and theater/opera pit orchestra settings and has played with orchestras around the world, including the Macao Orchestra (China) and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco (Mexico). 

Dalton earned a B.A. with honors from Rutgers University and an M.M. from the University of Idaho. He studied composition with George Walker, Louie White, Neely Bruce, Robert Dickow, and Daniel Bukvich and guitar with Michael Newman and John Abercrombie. D

alton contributed to Music in American Life (ABC-CLIO) and a forthcoming book on the early banjo. He is the author of Mandolin for Beginners (Alfred, 2001).

Professional Awards and Recognitions

  • First Prize, choral composition, "The Rocky Road to Dublin" (Toronto Camerata Competition, 1997)

Recent Notable Works

  • Macao Orchestra performance (Macao, China, 2017)—Banjoist
  • Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco performance (Guadalajara, Mexico, 2017)—Banjoist
  • American History Through Music performance with Maggi Smith-Dalton (Boston Conservatory at Berklee, 2017)—Performer
  • 17th International Music Theory Conference (Vilnius, Lithuania, 2017)—Presenter