Music is what I do.  I'm a Berklee College of Music degree holder, Boston-area pianist/keyboardist, singer, teacher, and music director.

 

Rock, pop, R&B, funk, hip-hop, musical theater, jazz, blues, country, classical, avant-garde...  I hear it, I play it - quickly, and correctly.  You ask for a certain sound or style, you get it.  I don't play jazz licks in an indie-rock tune (unless you want me to, of course). 

 

I perform. I always have a good time on stage, and it shows.

 

Playing for vocalists is a specialty; I keep the spotlight right on them.  I can offer strong lead or background vocals, too (3 1/2 octave range). 

 

If I'm your music director, the show will be tight, and directed clearly.

 

Having trouble finishing up writing that song, or coming up with an engaging arrangement?  Gimme a minute.

 

Need charts or transcriptions?  Really good ones?  I do that, too.

 

I'm reliable.  I'm not a diva.  I get the job done.

James Auburn

Oh, me personally? Well: born and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi, introvert, not one to waste words, science and critical-thinking advocate, sucker for a person who needs help, snark and invisibility superpowers.  Gimme an iced tea and I'm good.

Influences:

 

Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Toto, Herbie Hancock, Gino Vannelli, Prince, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Hip-Hop (all styles and eras), Tom Waits, The Meters, James Brown, Lewis Taylor, Miles Davis, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Michael McDonald, The Gap Band, Bernie Worrell, DJ Premier, D'Angelo, AWB, EW&F, Donny Hathaway, Queen, Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Was (Not Was), the Isley Brothers, The Roots, Patrice Rushen, Frank Zappa, Kashif, Bob James, Thelonious Monk... and everything else I hear.

Some Career Highlights:
 
Education
 

Bachelor of Music degree, Berklee College of Music

 

Keyboardist/Music Director
 

Played for Lisa Fisher (backup vocalist for the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Nine Inch Nails, many more;  featured in the Oscar-winning film "20 Feet From Stardom") at a Berklee College Of Music master class

Opened for Richard Marx, accompanying Emily Luther at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, RI

Played for Crystal "Crissy" Collins (touring backup vocalist for Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Luther Vandross, Gloria Gaynor, others) at multiple Berklee College of Music performances, clinics, and workshops

Played for Marlon Saunders (session and touring vocalist for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bobby McFerrin, Lauryn Hill, Sting, Billy Joel, many more) at a Berklee College of Music master class

TBA:  will perform in, arrange, and direct a concert in at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Toronto for Mayssa Karaa (voice featured in the Golden Globe-winning/Oscar-nominated film American Hustle)

 

Performed at Carnegie Hall with hip-hop artist TheePhantom and the IllHarmonic Orchestra

 

With Shea Rose, opened for RES at the Middle East in Boston

For Dr. Lawrence Watson at Heard It Through The Grapevine: Race In Media In The 21st Century, presented by The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (Harvard Law School) on August 17, 2011, which featured an award and tribute to Motown Records founder Berry Gordy (who was in attendance), and panelists including PBS' Gwen Ifill, Motown Creative Executive Suzanne De Passe, Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Tim Wise, Charles M. Blow (New York Times), Anita Hill, and more

 

60th Birthday Celebration for Harvard Law School Professor Charles J. Ogletree:  performed with Lawrence Watson, Jetro Da Silva, Jeffrey Lockhart, others

 

September 2005, served as Event Accompanist for the Tri-Ad Veterans League/Vulcan Society for their Fourth Annual 9/11 Memorial Service. The event, co-organized by acclaimed author Haywood Fennell, Sr., was held at the historic First Church of Roxbury and aired on Boston Cable Television. Accompanied long-time R&B recording artist (and Judge) Hon. Milton Wright (also the brother of Betty Wright and cousin of Robert "Kool" Bell of Kool & The Gang) and Soprano soloist Velma DuPont

 

Jammed with Ernie Isley

 

Played for many (too numerous to list) contestants and finalists from American Idol, The Voice, The Sing-Off, other reality/competition shows

 

Special event for former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

 

with Booty Vortex:

  • Opened for Joan Jett & The Blackhearts at The Roxy, Boston (July 24th, 2007)

  • Finalist, Foxwoods Resort and Casino "Be The Wonder" Jingle Competition​

  • Won "Best R&B Group" in the New England Urban Music Awards (2009)

  • Won "Best Band Name" in The Improper Bostonian magazine (2007)

  • ​Returning act Boston City Hall Plaza, Hard Rock Cafe, Johnny D's, C-Note, Artists For Humanity, Boston Harbor Blues Cruise, much more

 

with The Outfit:

  • backed Edo.G (major-label Boston MC, "I Got To Have It", "Be A Father To Your Child") for a series of concerts, including a tour of Switzerland; other tours of Europe and Japan and an EP recording in the works

​with Velvet Stylus:

  • Opened for Royce da 5'9" (Sony), Joe Budden (Def Jam), Dre Robinson (Universal)

  • ​Backed various hip-hop artists at A Special Tribute To The Life of J. Dilla at Hibernian Hall, Roxbury, MA (February 17th, 2012), a charity event attended by the late James "Dilla" Yancey's mother, Maureen "Ma Dukes" Yancey; proceeds went to support the J Dilla Foundation

  • Backing band for national artist Choklate and Grammy-winning Hip-Hop artist Medusa

  • Backed Metaphorik, DL, Illin' P, Danielle Scott, Afrodzak, Letia LaRock, D-Tension, and many other notable Boston Hip-Hop artists

  • Performed at the Berklee Alumni Showcase, Hard Rock Cafe (Boston), and Harvard Square Oktoberfest (2006), and the Jam Master Jay Foundation For Youth benefit 2009 featuring Grammy-winning turntablist GrandMixer DXT (Herbie Hancock)

  • Won "Best R&B Group" in the New England Urban Music Awards (2008)

  • Featured on the Project: Think Different Empowerment compilation album, sponsored in part by the Boston Mayor's office

  • House band for the New England Urban Music Awards 2010, honoring New Kids On The Block

  • House band for the 2007 MIC Hip-Hop Awards, Back Bay Events Center, Boston, MA

  • House band for Hip-Hop Anonymous, Dee Tension, and Critical Breakdown events, Boston, MA

  • Performed Hip-Hop history retrospective segment for We Are Hip-Hop concert at Cafe 939

with Jamie Lynn Hart:

  • Performed on Live At Tupelo Music Hall (Limelight Magazine's 2013 Album of The Year)

  • Appeared in "Down" (Limelight Magazine's 2013 Video Of The Year)

 

with Luv Jones:

  • Lead vocalist: Shea Rose (2011 and 2012 Boston Music Awards Winner, Artist Of The Year, Pop/R&B; chosen by Queen Latifah as spokesmodel for CoverGirl "Ignite Your Persona" campaign; host of CNN's international travel and lifestyle show "CNN Go" (Sept. 2012), SESAC award winner, Songwriters Hall Of Fame Abe Olman Scholarship recipient for "Excellence in Songwriting")

  • Opened for R&B artist Amel Larrieux (Sony/Epic) at The Big Easy (Boston, MA)

  • Headlined a 9/11 benefit concert at the House of Blues, Boston

  • Performed at a birthday party for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, Kerry Healey

  • Appeared on "Exposure", an AT&T Broadband cable access arts program

  • Feature subject of an Emerson College music documentary

 

with Mumbo Jumbo:

  • Opened for Vertical Horizon (RCA) and Missing Joe

  • Performed at Lolita's Love Fest (sponsored by The Noise magazine)

  • Recorded an EP (Don't Squeeze The Shaman) at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA

 
Arranger

Tribute To Whitney Houston: 

Personally selected by Jetro Da Silva (Whitney Houston's musical director for 13 years) to oversee musical arranging and chart preparation for a tribute concert at the Berklee Performance Center, featuring Berklee students, plus appearances by Tony Award winner/Grammy nominee Melba Moore, JCisco ("American Idol" Season 4 finalist), veteran singer/songwriter Sharlotte Gibson, Arthur Award winner Janet Hubert (from TV's "Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air"), Issa Pointer (of the Pointer Sisters), many others

 

The Life And Music of Harry Belafonte:  A Tribute Concert

Arranged rhythm section charts for three numbers in a concert honoring Harry Belafonte with an honorary degree from the Berklee College Of Music - Mr. Belafonte was in attendance and gave an acceptance speech

​​​​
​​​Teaching/Clinics
 

Boston University, Center For Digital Imaging Arts (Waltham, MA)

Created and taught curriculum for music theory classes, as well as the history of Hip- Hop, Rock, Funk, Blues, Pop, and the development of recording technology

 

Berklee College Of Music

  • Two-time guest presenter about Hip-Hop in CORE Curriculum (with David Cowan, Gilson Schachnick, and Danielle Scott) at Berklee College Of Music during their faculty conference Berklee Teachers on Teaching (BTOT.)

  • Volunteer, piano lab teacher, City Music mentoring program

​​

Cambridge Arts Academy (formerly School Of Groove), Somerville, MA

Piano lessons, ensemble instruction (2007 - 2018)

 

Hip-Hop Mecca Afterschool Program, Dorchester, MA

Volunteer member of the teaching team and library/archive project team

 

Lectured on Hip-Hop history at Berklee College Of Music, Harvard University, Suffolk University School Of Government, Fisher College and served as a cultural resource to students at Harvard Divinity School, Northeastern Universtity, Emerson College, Norwich University, Boston University, and Boston College with their Hip-Hop related projects

 
Writing/Journalism
 

Quoted in "Thug Life Or Tame? Rappers Stray From The Street" by Sheila Marikar, ABC News

 

Wrote album reviews for Philadelphia-based worldwide e-zine Okayplayer.com, the online hub of The Roots as well as other artists including D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Common, Erykah Badu, etc.

 

Interview features with Platinum-selling, Grammy-award winning songwriter and musician Jay Graydon and Red K Record CEO Clayton Savage (Sugarhill Records, Kool Moe Dee, Sequence, Grandmaster Melle Mel).

 

Contributing writer and member of the Teen Advisory Board, Pulitzer-prize-winning Mississippi newspaper The Sun Herald

 

Contributed articles for globally popular e-zine Musicbizadvice.com (Jaco Pastorius article garnered record-breaking hits for the site)

 

Editor and writer for Boston music zine The Noise

 

Editor and writer for the Hi-Tide, Biloxi High School student newspaper

 
Miscellaneous
 

Selected to sing in the evening-gown competition choir for two consecutive Miss Teen U.S.A. pageants, hosted by Dick Clark

 

Co-Founder and Resident Hip-Hop History Clinician for The Boston Hip-Hop Alliance, a growing service organization for Hip-Hop professionals. The BHHA hosts nearly 450 members from all spectrum of Hip-Hop at all levels. They are a Berklee Alumni Grant recipient and work colloboratively to publicize and assist many events and organizations, including the Mass Industry Committee, Peace Boston, The Berklee/Essence Take Back The Music Competition and Summit, Hip-Hop Reconstruction/Boston Hip-Hop Festival 2006, Numark/Alesis/Akai Milestones 2006 (honoring Jam Master Jay, as well as attendees Marley Marl, DJ Premier, GrandWizzard Theodore, Grandmixer DXT, Jazzy Jay, Jazzy Joyce, and featuring appearances/performances by the above as well as Roc Raida, Special K, Teddy T, Madlib, Fab 5 Freddy, 7L & Esoteric, and others) The Boston Beat Battle 2006, and many other events

 

Panelist at NEMO (New England Music Organization) Boston, MA

Panel topic:  Creating The Power To Break You Free: Impacts Of Music on Pop Culture

 

Panelist at National Organization For Men Against Sexism; Boston, MA

Topic:  Hip-Hop imagery

 

Served as a culture resource for author Tom Zoellner's book The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through The World Of Diamonds And Desire, for the Hip-Hop-related chapter

 

Organized and hosted the Limelight Records radio special on Harvard's WHRB, featuring interviews of former Limelight CEO Robin McBride and Cork Marcheschi of 60's Psychedelic band Fifty Foot Hose.

 

Served as a judge for ihigh.com's Hip-Hop related music competitions, alongside legendary producer DJ Premier and media personalities from VH1/MTV, XM RADIO, and FUSE TV

 

Scholarship talent show judge (Jun. 23, 2006)

True Hip-Hop Culture Center at English High School, Jamaica Plain, MA

Winner:  Status Quo, who later became 2nd-place finalists on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew

 

As a teen, 4th-ranked piano student in Mississippi by the Mississippi Music Teacher's Association;  scholarship recipient