James Sullivan has been Principal Oboe of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra since the rebirth of the orchestra in 1997. Prior to this appointment, he was Principal Oboe of both the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and the Columbus Symphony. While living in the Atlanta area, James often performed with the Atlanta Symphony, with whom he recorded Bach’s B Minor Mass and Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. More recently, James has been invited to be a guest performer with the San Francisco Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony.
James received his Master of Music degree in oboe performance from the Boston University School for the Arts where he was a scholarship student of Ralph Gomberg. During this time he served as Principal Oboe of the Boston Civic Symphony. James’ other principal teachers were Jonathan Dlouhy of the Atlanta Symphony and John Mack of the Cleveland Orchestra. He also studied for two summers at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada where he worked with Richard Killmer and Peter Bowman.
Receiving his undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of Georgia, James also has an active teaching career in oboe. He currently serves on the faculties of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Samford University, and Birmingham-Southern College. In the summer of 2002, he was guest Professor of Oboe at Indiana University. While in Atlanta, James was oboe instructor at Clayton State University and DeKalb College. Prior to teaching oboe, James taught choral music in the public schools for two years and worked closely with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus.
In 1998 during his first season with the Alabama Symphony, James was concerto soloist in S. Bainbridge’s Concerto in Moto di Perpetuo. Since then he has been featured with the orchestra in concertos by Francaix, Vivaldi, Vaughn-Williams, and Marcello. In 2009, James traveled to Sibiu, Romania to perform at the Romanian-American Music Festival on both the J.S.Bach Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor and the Fasch Triple Concerto for Trumpet, Violin, and Oboe d’amore in A Major.
Oboe playing and choral conducting have been dual interests of James Sullivan throughout his career. They were finally united in 2013 when he was appointed Choir Director of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, a position he combines with his oboe duties in the ASO. The past two summers have led him to extensive study in choral music at Westminster Choir College and most recently to Oxford University in England.
Russ deLuna joined the San Francisco Symphony as English horn player in 2007 and is occupant of the Joseph and Pauline Scafidi Chair. He has appeared as soloist with the orchestra in Quiet City by Aaron Copland and this season performing The Swan of Tuonela. In the summer he performs as a member of the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Matsumoto, Japan and earlier this year performed as guest English Hornist with the New York Philharmonic. He was previously principal oboist of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and Columbus Symphony Orchestra of Georgia; he played English horn in the Atlanta Ballet and the Alabama Symphony. He holds an M.M. from Boston University, has taught at Emory University and Columbus State University and has given master classes at Manhattan School of Music, University of Michigan and many others. He has performed on the San Francisco Chamber Music Series, Noe Valley Chamber Music Series as well as with the Gold Coast Chamber Players. He is also on the oboe faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Emily Van Niman began her musical career at age six on the piano. However, at age nine she discovered the oboe, studying with Nancy King and William Baker, former principal oboist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and professor at The Ohio State University. After high school, she attended Capital University to continue her studies with William Baker for a bachelor degree and in 1996 was accepted to the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music to study with Dr. Mark Ostoich.
After graduating with her Master degree, she taught in Cincinnati, and was an Adjunct Professor of Oboe at Northern Kentucky University. In 2000, she left Cincinnati to go on tour playing Oboe and English horn in the pit orchestra with Big League Theatrical’s musical Peter Pan. After her travels, she returned to Cincinnati to play and teach in the area.
Mrs. Van Niman currently teaches privately and plays with the Ohio Valley Symphony, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Blue Ash/Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, and the Lakeside Summer Symphony. She has also recently played with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Middletown Symphony Orchestra and Richmond (IN) Symphony.
Oboist Julie Grasso enjoys an active music career as a performer, educator, clinician and businesswoman. She has served as Principal Oboe and Personnel Manager of the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra and has performed numerous concerts with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Pops Orchestra. She has performed with the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, Kentucky Symphony, Richmond (IN) Symphony, Georgia Sinfonia, Greenville Symphony (SC), Columbus Symphony (GA) and Macon Symphony. As an active freelance artist, she has performed with artists such as Johnny Mathis, Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, The Moody Blues, Michael Bolton, Roger Daltrey, Frank Sinatra, Jr., and Harry Connick, Jr.
With education at the forefront of her mission, Ms. Grasso maintains an active oboe studio. Her students regularly hold positions in regional youth orchestras, participate in All-State events and have gone on to pursue successful careers in music. She has served as adjunct oboe faculty at Piedmont College, and assisted in an educational oboe presentation at the Midwest Music Conference in Chicago. Julie is a founding member of three summer music camps: The Oxford Oboe Camp; The Oboe & Bassoon Camp; and The Southern Oboe Intensive, where she currently holds the position of Director. Her article entitled An Intriguing New Work for the Oboist was published in the 2001 International Double Reed Journal, where it was greeted with positive reviews.
As a sought-after event manager, Ms. Grasso has organized nationally-recognized oboe and English horn events for artists such as Elaine Douvas (Principal Oboe, The Metropolitan Opera), Patrick McFarland (English Horn, ret., Atlanta Symphony) and Linda Strommen (Prof. of Oboe, Indiana University, and Visiting Oboe Instr., The Juilliard School of Music). Julie is co-owner of a thriving double reed business (Double or Nothing Reeds) and is the current president of Envision Oboe. Additionally, Ms. Grasso served as Orchestra Contractor for the Fox Theatre’s (Atlanta) 75th Anniversary Show in December 2004.