A refined and passionate conductor, French-born James S. Kahane has been led to conduct first-rate orchestras around the world such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Finnish National Radio Symphony Orchestra or the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He presently holds the positions of Principal Conductor of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme, and Conductor of the Polytech Orchestra in Finland, and was appointed as Susanna Mälkki's assistant conductor at the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2017/2018 season, aged only 21 at the time.
Among the orchestras he has subsequently conducted are the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Ostrobothnia Chamber Orchestra, the Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Jyväskylä Sinfonia, the St. Michael's String Orchestra, the Triangle Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Francophonie, the Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta, the Pori Sinfonietta, the Joensuu City Orchestra, the Järvi Academy Symphony Orchestra, the Lithuanian State Orchestra and the Rehovot Symphony Orchestra. Proficient in various genres of music, both in the symphonic and operatic world, James conducted the Finnish Chamber Opera on several occasions and was also a conductor at the Helsinki Contemporary Opera Festival, as well as on productions of operas such as The Tragedy of Carmen by Bizet, The Rape of Lucretia by Britten and Years of Silence by Tuurna. Working regularly with very different repertoires, ranging from early baroque up until the music of our times, James was a guest conductor at the NYKY Ensemble, the Hurra Barockorkester, the Somnium Ensemble, the SaxiBa Ensemble, and the Miroirs Étendus Ensemble. Further engagements next season include concerts in Finland, Israel, Canada, Ireland and France.
Parallel to that, James was invited to a wide range of major music festivals, conductors masterclasses and events, among which Bernard Haitink's conducting masterclass at the Lucerne Music Festival, the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival, the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, and the 2017 Deutsche Dirigentenpreis (German Conductors' Award), where he was one of twelve applicants chosen to conduct the WDR Symphony Orchestra as well as the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne. In 2019, he was offered a conducting fellowship at the Atlantic Music Festival in the United States, and in the spring of 2020 he was invited as Hannu Lintu's assistant conductor at the Orchestre de Paris.
James was assistant conductor at the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra to its Chief Conductor Susanna Mälkki during their 2017/2018 season. In Spring 2018, he was selected to be the new Conductor of the Polytech Orchestra in Finland, and in March 2023, James was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme in France.
A graduate from the world-renowned orchestral conducting class of the Sibelius Academy, James studied there under the tutelage of Sakari Oramo and Atso Almila, and benefited at the same time from the teaching of major conductors such as Paavo Järvi, David Zinman, Peter Eötvös, Matthias Pintscher, Sir Roger Norrington, John Storgårds, Mikko Franck, Leif Segerstam, Johannes Schlaefli, Nicolas Pasquet and Jorma Panula.
James is a founding member and the Principal Conductor of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, a Finnish orchestra born in Autumn 2018 and specialized in the Chamber Orchestra repertoire.
Since 2016, James is also the conductor of the Far(away) Ensemble, a modular and multidisciplinary ensemble with whom he recorded the music of Jacopo Aliboni for the short movies "Du Temps Perdu" and "Le Temps Prend Feu", among which the later was officially selected for the Sarajevo Fashion Film Festival, the Cefalù Film Festival, the Guiar Festival, and the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
In 2018, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE bought the rights to a documentary centered around 3 promising conductors of the Sibelius Academy, among which James S. Kahane. The documentary was released in the Finnish movie theaters in Spring 2020.