James Campbell is the Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He also holds the positions of Principal Percussionist with the Lexington Philharmonic and drummer with the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra. James also serves as a Past-President of the Percussive Arts Society and received the PAS Lifetime Achievement in Education Award in 2019. He is a member of the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and the Bands of America Hall of Fame.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
James Campbell: I would have enjoyed a career in the music industry—marketing, sales, or education. From my first studies as a drummer, I always had teachers who were connected to jobs in the music industry.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
JC: I think of Lexington, Kentucky as a “city in the country.” We have a thriving business, education, and cultural scene that’s surrounded by beautiful horse farms, agriculture, bourbon distilleries, and recreational areas.
R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
JC: I enjoy collaborating and creating opportunities for my students.
R!S: What is your all-time favorite album and why?
JC: I grew up playing along with all the Buddy Rich albums of the 1960s: Swingin’ New Big Band, Big Swing Face, Mercy, Mercy, and Buddy and Soul. I put headphones on and played along with them just about every day after high school.
R!S: Where did you grow up and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
JC: I grew up in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. I joined a local drum and bugle corps, the Guardsmen, in 1963, and it ignited a musical spark that’s been burning ever since.