Ulysses S. James graduated with honors from Brown University in 1958 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music. He studied with the Principal Trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra as an undergraduate, and attended the graduate program at Tanglewood the summer following graduation. Accepted at both New England Conservatory and Indiana University as a Master Degree candidate, Mr. James elected to pursue an alternate career. The draft notified him that they had other plans, so he joined the Navy. He served as a Regular Naval Officer for twenty years retiring as a CDR in 1979 (13 Vietnam campaigns, 5 Navy Commendation Medals, Surface Warfare specialty, Organization Development subspecialty, USNPG School - M.S. in Computer Systems Management).
Upon retirement, the call to return to music was irresistible. He became a serious student of the Cello. However, conducting opportunities became available, and he became the Conductor and Music Director of what is now Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic and Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra in 1984. Both orchestras developed from small neighborhood string ensembles to metropolitan-wide symphonic orchestras. In May 2011 he passed the baton for the Youth Orchestra to his long-time colleague Dr. Henry Sgrecci. Mr. James has continued as Music Director of Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association and Conductor of Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic.
For the past 23 years, he has hosted a weekly summer chamber music series for local professional and amateur musicians at The Lyceum in Alexandria , VA. In 2006 he initiated a regional composition competition to encourage deserving, emerging composers. The winner is given the opportunity to have his or her work performed by the Philharmonic. Currently scores are requested from composers in the entire Eastern United States. In 2008 an orchestra for middle school musicians, the Washington Metropolitan Concert Orchestra, was added to the Association. It is currently about forty-five members strong and is continuing to grow.
Mr. James has conducted in Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and Terrace Theater, Avery Fischer Hall and Strathmore Concert Hall. He was awarded Mount Vernon District Citizen of the Year and Region 4 (Alexandria) Honored Mentor for May the Month of Children (7th-12th Grade) in 2002.
From 2010-2013 he served as President of the Alexandria Arts Forum. In 2013 he received the prestigious 2012 Alex Award for exceptional contributions to the enhancement of the quality of artistic opportunities in the community.