James Houlik is the leading performer on his instrument in the world. His pioneering efforts on behalf of the tenor saxophone have resulted in the composition of more than eighty new concert works for the instrument, and important performances around the world. From the East Room of the White House for President Clinton, to solo appearances with orchestras in London, Prague, Istanbul, Berlin, Chicago, Phoenix, and New York, to recitals in the music capitals of the world, James Houlik has redefined the tenor saxophone.
Houlik was born on the south shore of Long Island, New York where he began his lifelong love affair with the tenor saxophone as a junior high school student. Intending to become a high school band director, he attended the State University of New York at Fredonia, and later the University of Illinois. He studied privately and at the Eastman School of Music with Sigurd Rascher, the great alto saxophone pioneer. Rascher, impressed with Houlik's uncommon affinity for the tenor, encouraged him to pursue the instrument as his personal voice. Houlik began his teaching career at East Carolina University where he built a large and successful saxophone program. In subsequent years, he became the founding professor of Saxophone study at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and he is currently Professor of Saxophone and Chair of Woodwinds at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Simultaneous with his first teaching position, Houlik began his performing career with a particularly well received Washington DC, debut at the Phillips Collection. Following Rascher's example, he has worked closely with many composers to foster the development of a repertoire for his previously neglected instrument. Among the more than seventy pieces composed for him are concerti by Robert Ward, Morton Gould, David Ott, Sherwood Shaffer, Eric Ewazen, Walter S. Hartley, Russell Peck, Paul Harvey, Vache Sharafyan, as well as dozens of other works with band, piano, and in chamber settings by prominent composers.
Through the years, James Houlik has appeared in such major venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Town Hall in Toronto, The Smithsonian Institution, and London's Barbican. He regularly appears on university campuses throughout the United States as a performer and as a teacher of clinics and master classes. His concerto performances have included those with the American Symphony Orchestra, the Grant Park Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony, the West Virginia Symphony, the San Remo Orchestra (Italy), the Istanbul Philharmonic, the North Carolina Symphony, the Chamber Orchestra of Milan, the New Art Philharmonic of Pretoria, South Africa, the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, the United States Navy Band, and dozens more.
With a combination of landmark performances and tireless efforts to build a repertoire for his instrument, Houlik has taken the tenor saxophone to unimagined heights. Moreover, audiences and critics alike have celebrated the remarkable artistic achievements which have placed James Houlik among the leading saxophonists of our time.