James Tennant

American born cellist, James Tennant, is head of solo cello, chamber music and orchestral studies at the University of Waikato, department of music in New Zealand.  A prominent concert soloist, chamber musician and teacher, Tennant is also a recognized arts innovator and one of the founders of New Zealand’s most prestigious chamber music events, the Adam Festival of Chamber Music.

Tennant has enjoyed a long and lively performance career. He completed his cello studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy at the University of Michigan and counts as his main teachers cello masters, William Pleeth, Gregor Piatigorsky and Jerome Jelinek.   A member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during his studies, Tennant performed under Antal Dorati, Klaus Tennsted, Frubeck de Burgos and Leonard Bernstein.  His versatility as a musician made him a sort after commodity transcending genres as he recorded for Motown with some of the biggest names in American Pop and Rock.

By the age of 30, having lived in the USA, London and various parts of South America, where he was the cellist of the Trio Mozart, Tennant had performed as a soloist and chamber musician in 16 countries. As a teacher he was also on the staff of Albion University (USA) Universidad del Cauca and the Conservatorio Nacional de Colombia (Colombia), and had performed as principal cellist with the Flint (U.S.), Orquesta de Camera de Bogota and Sinfonica Nacional de Colombia (Colombia) Orchestras.

In 1982, Tennant settled in New Zealand and building on his international career soon established himself as a highly successful and respected performer and teacher. A sort after concerto soloist, he has performed most notably with the Auckland Philharmonia on numerous  occasions (including a performance of the Brahms Double Concerto with Viennese violinist Karin Adam), the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Dunedin Sinfonia Orchestra.  Solo, collaborative and chamber music concerts have seen him perform throughout New Zealand with notable international musicians Dene Olding, Diedre Irons, Patrica Wright, Piers Lane, Alexa Still, Michael Houston, Katherine Austin and the New Zealand String Quartet.

Having participated in numerous master classes in his youth with such notables as Janos Starker, Leanard Rose and Stephan Kates, Tennant is himself now recognized as a leading cello educator, attracting international students to the University of Waikato cello performance programme.  He previously taught at both the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury and over the years his students have achieved noteworthy successes.  Most recently, Santiago Canon-Valencia, was the joint top prize-winner at the 2010 Beijing International Cello Competition securing Tennant’s standing among the best teachers in the world.

Tennant’s contribution has extended beyond performance and teaching and he remains a fundamental force in the innovation and establishment of New Zealand arts infrastructure. A founder of the Nelson International Chamber Music Festival and Summer School, he has also been instrumental in the formation of CadeNZa, the Belli Celli, the Rotorua International Chamber Music Festival and Cellophonics. He was a member of the Ogen Trio and currently performs with the NZCS trio and the Tennant-Austin Duo.