B i o g r a p h y
Seeing life as a musical painting, up-and-coming Omaha-based composer James-Michael Sellers has a unique vantage point when it comes to finding inspiration for new and expressive works. Attributing his wonderful bounds of creativity to a combination of his synesthesia of motion/vision to musical notation and the never-ending self-study of a broad range of musical topics from theory to composition and beyond, James-Michael constantly finds his style refining itself in response to the world around him. For over twenty years, the music in his life has been the driving force behind countless new works for ensembles of all size.
Born in 1984, James-Michael's first interest in music came about in 1991 as a combination of a tiny keyboard with barely two octaves and an elementary school string orchestra as a Viola player. When his mother's job took his family overseas in 1994, the Viola had to go; the school had no string orchestra. Trading in his wooden stringed instrument for one of a metal and pipe-like nature, James-Michael quickly found himself a lover of the Flute, which has continued to this day. Within a year, he jokingly would play the lead parts of Trumpets by ear (especially when he was faced with this enjoyable thing known as "resting"). His band director, Mr. Richard Sowden, quickly realized that there was some talent attempting to break forth; by nurturing any aspect that showed itself, Mr. Sowden found himself with a student desperate to learn how to play as many instruments as possible. After all, if one can't play an instrument, how well can it be written for?
By the time his family returned to the United States in summer of 1999, James-Michael learned how to play the Flute, instruments of the Clarinet and Saxophone families, the French Horn, Percussion (both pitched and non-pitched), and, to some extent, the Piano. Upon graduation from Arundel High School in 2002, additional instruments he picked up included the Trombone and Tuba. To this day, it surprises many people to learn that the only two instruments he ever received instruction on were the Viola and Flute; each of the other instruments were self-taught in his quest to become a better composer.
Joining the United States Air Force in October of 2002, he missed, by only a week, being able to be a part of the Basic Training band. Although never abandoning it, during the periods of his military training, his experimentation with composing was stilted. When he arrived in Omaha as his duty station (where he would remain until his separation from the military in 2008), James-Michael dove right into the music scene, bringing a partially completed composition to the Papillion Area Concert Band for a first look in 2005. A member of the band asked if the young composer would be willing to work on a piece for the Iowa Western Community Band that would be starting rehearsals two weeks later. At the start of that first rehearsal, James-Michael surprised everyone by handing out what he still considers to be the first serious composition of his career. Entitled "East of the River", it was a much loved piece upon its first performance, composer conducting.
Over the course of the next few years from 2005 onwards into 2010, James-Michael found himself creating a smaller number of concert band works each year, although they increased in technical demands, impressing many moderators and members of the youngcomposers.com discussion boards. Focusing on learning about smaller ensembles brought him to the wonderful world of the flute choir; after many years learning the various skills for writing for a smaller ensemble, James-Michael took a chance and sent a few pieces to FLUTE.net, publisher of pieces for large and small combinations of the flute family. In 2010, this paid off as five pieces were chosen for publication; over the next two years, eight more pieces would be added to that total.
Looking forward to the future and where his music will take him is the highlight of his career. A resurgence of his love for larger ensembles has renewed a new drive to compose. Every view brings a new piece, and working to expand the love of music is one of his passions. When asked what the main goal of his putting pen to paper is, the reply was simple.