Jim Dalton

Professor of Core Studies
Affiliated Departments

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Jim 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), the 17th International Music Theory Conference (Vilnius, Lithuania), and the Nova Contemporary Music Meeting (Lisbon, Portugal). 

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, Carson Cooman, Michael Nix and Donald Bousted 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. Dalton contributed two articles to Music in American Life (ABC-CLIO), contributed a chapter to Banjo Roots and Branches (ed. Robert B Winans), University of Illinois Press, and wrote several prefaces for scores published by Musikproduktion Höflich in Munich, Germany. He is the author of Mandolin for Beginners (Alfred, 2001).

Professional Awards and Recognitions

  • Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize, awarded to the book Banjo Roots and Branches (the American Musical Instrument Society, 2020)
  • First Prize, choral composition, "The Rocky Road to Dublin" (Toronto Camerata Competition, 1997)

Notable Recent Works

  • Carillon composition “Prelude on 'Nettleton” performed at Senator John McCain’s funeral at the National Cathedral (Washington D.C., 2019)—Composer
  • Nova Contemporary Music Meeting 2018 “Composing Music Today” (Lisbon, Portugal, 2018)—Presenter
  • 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


  • School Name
    University of Idaho
    State or Province
    Master of Music (M.M.)
    Field of Study
    Date Degree Received
  • School Name
    Rutgers University-Newark
    State or Province
    New Jersey
    Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
    Field of Study
    Date Degree Received