James Blanchard


Acting Principal, Flute


Flute, Acting Principal

James Blanchard is the Acting Principal Flutist of the Des Moines Symphony. He joined the ensemble in May 2018 as 2nd Flute. He is a regular guest performer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet of Seattle. Previously, James has played as Guest Principal with the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and as a substitute for the New York Philharmonic. Later in April, James will participate in the London Symphony Orchestra’s Global Academy, which will culminate in chamber and orchestral performances with members of the LSO led by Sir Simon Rattle.


James is a native of Las Cruces, New Mexico. After graduating from the Interlochen Arts Academy, he received his Bachelor of Music degree from Rice University where he studied with Leone Buyse at the Shepherd School of Music. While at Rice, James founded the Prismatics Woodwind Quintet – the ensemble won the bronze medal at the 2015 Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition.


After graduating from Rice, James earned his Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School where he studied with Robert Langevin. During his time in New York City, James won second prize at the 2017 New York Flute Club Young Artist Competition. He also founded Tangent Winds, another woodwind quintet that also won the bronze medal at the 2018 Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition.


James has attended the Aspen Music Festival as a member of the Contemporary Ensemble, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Texas Music Festival, and Music Academy of the West.


James lives in San Jose, California with his parter. 

Member of the Orchestra since


How I got started playing my instrument

I attended a local band camp in Las Cruces when I was in 5th grade. During demonstrations for the beginners, I fell in love with the flute after I heard a solo from Peter and the Wolf. When I was in 7th grade I made the decision that I would be an orchestral flutist, and I’ve never had any doubts since then!

Favorite composer

I think Maurice Ravel is my favorite composer. His music is so inwardly expressive and evocative - it’s always a joy to hear.

Favorite solo piece

Though it’s not necessarily a solo work for flute, Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun has a flute solo running through almost the entirety of the work. It’s one of the most beautiful things written for the instrument.

Other than classical music _____ is on my iPod

Lizzo, Vampire Weekend, The Chordettes, Vulfpeck, Lake Street Dive

Back to Meet the Musicians