James Demeny is a jazz musician, tap dancer, teacher, and theatre artist in Chicago. He leads his self-titled jazz group, playing new musical theatre standards, video game tunes, jazz of many styles, and much more. James has been a musician since age 10, and he has an incredibly diverse history in the performing arts. He is a graduate of Elmhurst University, where he earned his BA in Musical Theatre and minor in Dance Education in 2020. James has played leading roles in musicals and plays, sang in classical and jazz vocal ensembles, performed with dance companies, and much more.
James uses tap dance as a musical instrument, rather than a visual spectacle constrained to the musical theatre stage. Rather than using choreography or focusing on the visual aspect, James uses his shoes to make music. James plays melodies, improvises over song forms, and replaces the drummer in many of his ensembles. James has trained with Chicago drummers like Isaiah Spencer, Bob Rummage, and TJ Thompson, where he learned about percussive soloing and phrasing, drum rudiments, the role of the drummer in an ensemble, and much more. His voice and sound through tap dance is not technical or flashy, but always focused on the music he makes. Tap dance in place of a drummer creates an intimate sonic environment that makes you lean forward, watch, and listen. James’ music is influences by his 14 years of playing trumpet, vocal training in many styles, and his experience with classical music, musical theatre, video games and their soundtracks, and much more. James’ experience with tap dance began at Elmhurst University with a theatre-focused approach to the dance. Throughout quarantine, however, James began experimenting with improvisation. This quickly led to playing the melodies of jazz standards, improvising over those songs, and “playing his tap shoes” all over Chicago.
As an educator, James teaches his students to develop their own voice within tap dance. It was designed to be an expression of movement and music, and a language, not for the glitz of Broadway and dance competitions. Rather than teaching pre-choreographed steps and combinations, James guides students through their own musical improvisation and exploration. Different than most other tap dance teachers, James’ students learn about music theory, and the creation and execution of their own musical ideas. James currently teaches private lessons, as well as music schools like Lessons by Brooke and Co., Noteable Notes in Wheaton, IL, and Kimberlyrics in Dundee, IL.
As a theatre artist, James teaches acting and performance classes throughout the Chicago suburbs, and directs children’s theatrical productions. In 2021, James made his directing debut at the Glen Ellyn Park District, directing and music directing Annie Jr., and Seussical Jr. the following year. In Summer 2021, James attended the Open Jar Institute Broadway Actor Intensive in New York, New York. After a highly selective audition process, James was one of 50 college-level actors from around the country who worked with some of the biggest performers, composers, and directors on Broadway today.
You can find James playing jazz with some of the best musicians in Chicago, directing theatrical productions, teaching theatre and tap dance classes, and much more.