7/18/1948 – 9/29/2020
James Stark: A Lifetime of Music and Performance
by Cheri Jamison and La Mirada Symphony
As a student of Albert Gillis, James Stark began his violin studies at the age of seven in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1980, he was appointed concertmaster for the Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra and toured extensively in Europe and the United States performing in the major capital cities as a soloist in over 150 concerts.
After returning to the United States, Mr. Stark taught at the California State University, Fresno and was concertmaster of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra for ten years. He appeared as a soloist numerous times, performing repertoire such as the Barber Violin Concerto and the Brahms Concerto for violin and cello. When free from his teaching duties, he played with the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Herbert Blomstedt.
Mr. Stark was a member of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra for 20 years [from 1995-2015], which was under the direction of Plácido Domingo and James Conlon. In early 2001, he was the featured violinist onstage in Handel’s “Cesare” as a major soloist with countertenor David Daniels to superior reviews.
He also completed two tours of Japan as a principal player with the Percy Faith Orchestra and recorded on a regular basis for various artists such as Barry Manilow, Steve Lawrence, Keely Smith, Linda Ronstadt and Monica Mancini.
He was well-respected in the Southern California music community. In addition to the LA Opera Orchestra, Mr. Stark has been soloist and member with the La Mirada Symphony, the West Coast Symphony in Santa Barbara, the Brentwood Westwood Symphony, the Pacific Palisades Symphony, La Cañada Presbyterian Church Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra and the California Philharmonic.
As a music educator, Mr. Stark’s impressive musical and technical knowledge touched the lives of thousands of students throughout his career teaching music for 24 years in the California public school system, including the Clovis and Whittier School districts. He retired from teaching in public schools in 2009, but continued to teach privately up until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
During his final hours, his wife Janet and daughter Cheri made sure he was comfortable. Cheri gently sang the aria, “O mio babbino caro,” (Oh, My Beloved Father) as she held his hand. The classical music station was on quietly all night long. He passed away peacefully in the early morning hours on September 29, 2020.
“The La Mirada Symphony was honored to have someone of his caliber as a past concertmaster,” said David Derks, president of the La Mirada Symphony Association. “He will be greatly missed.”
Visit James Stark’s memorial website: jamesstarkviolin.wixsite.com/memorial