Jim Lentini: Dean, Composer, Guitarist


James Lentini – Dean and Professor of Music at the nationally recognized School of Fine Arts of Miami University – is not only an accomplished administrator whose efforts to facilitate arts and culture resulted in a 2010 endowments of in excess of $15 million from the For Love and Honor campaign.

James Lentini is also an accomplished composer and classical guitarist whose compositions have won national and international awards and have been performed and recorded by leading solo artists and ensembles including the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland and the Bohuslav Martinu Orchestra in Czech Republic.

In addition to honorable titles and prizes, Jim Lentini is a down-to-earth, pleasant and interesting conversationalist.

ARTS CONNECTION OF CINCINNATI – Jim, you went through a very music oriented study: you received a bachelor of music in composition from Wayne State University, a master of music in composition from Michigan State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Southern California. What sparked your interest in music and when and why did you decided to make music your professional career?   

Jim Lentini – I grew up in Detroit, Michigan in an environment of different mixtures of music. The city has gone through some challenges, but it had a really intense and deep body of musicians. There has always been the classical influence, a lot of jazz players and the rock bands. My first real foray into music at all was in choirs. I used to sing in a catholic school as boy soprano. I grew up in a musical family. My mother and grandmother were singing areas around the house, though they were untrained musicians. My interest in guitar was raised by the influence of all the rock players in the 1960s and 1970s including Jimmy Hendrix and the Beatles in 1964. They came to the US and gave a concert; I was 6 years old and still remember watching them. I wanted to play the guitar and 2 years later started taking guitar lessons. My first guitar was a huge acoustic instrument that was bigger than I was. When I was 15, I was getting ready to go to college and started playing rock bands kind of like the old band Chicago used to be. It was good for me because I was not only playing rock but it taught me how to arrange for the brass instruments.

ACCdid you start playing classical guitar before you went to college?

JL – I had never really played formally the classical guitar until I got to college. I don’t remember going in the college thinking I am going to finish it in four years and here is the job I am going to do. It was more about exploring and how can I grow as a musician. A little more of an educational adventure. At that time, Wayne State University had started one of the earliest classical guitar programs in the country and turned out to be a very good place to start as a guitarist. There were many people to learn from about the classical guitar there including one of my teachers Joe Fava who was sort of a mentor to a lot of guitar players, so I learned a lot.

Please read full article in Winter issue