Position: Adjunct Instructor, Teaching Fellow, Instrumental Ensembles
Employed Since: 2020
- Beginning Choral & Orchestral Conducting
- Video Game Music
B.M., East Carolina University; M.M., University of South Carolina
James “Aaron” Hardwick has established a reputation as an outstanding conductor, educator and music advocate — setting himself apart with his engaging, charismatic and musically precise approach on and off the podium. Highly versatile and musically insightful, his artistic collaborations span multiple genres including standard classical repertoire, musical theatre, opera, video game music, popular music and new works.
Hardwick began conducting professionally in 2015. Since then, he has worked with the Brevard Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic, Williamsburg Symphony and Aiken Symphony Orchestra among others. He has studied with Jan Wagner, former principal conductor of the Odense Symphony Orchestra and current director of orchestral studies and professor of conducting at Shenandoah Conservatory; Ditson Award-winning conductor Donald Portnoy; Neil Varon of the Eastman School of Music; Paul Vermel, Samuel Jones, Victoria Bond and the late Maurice Peress. Hardwick has been an Eastman School of Music Summer Conducting Fellow with the Rochester Philharmonic and a two-time Conductor’s Institute of South Carolina Conducting Fellow.
Most recently, in response to COVID-19 pandemic and the dynamic performance needs of Shenandoah Conservatory, he was hired as teaching fellow and adjunct professor of the Shenandoah Conservatory Virtual Instrumental Ensemble to lead and empower student artists who were unable to be on campus. Selected from more than 300 applicants from fifty-seven countries, recently participated in the 2020 European Union International Conducting Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 2018/19, as assistant conductor, he led the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in season concerts. In 2017, he assisted in the development of and conducted a sold-out concert series with the Brevard Philharmonic and University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra. In 2016, he conducted the world premiere of a rescoring of the silent film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” with the CICA (Collaborations in Contemporary Art) Ensemble.
Hardwick is also recognized as an award-winning educator and guest clinician/conductor with youth ensembles. He served as a conductor of the Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia from 2011 to 2015. The Virginia Symphony Orchestra named Hardwick as one of Hampton Roads’ “Most Outstanding Music Educators” two years in a row. He was nominated by the Grammy Foundation® and the Recording Academy® as a quarterfinalist for the Music Educator Award in 2014 from more than 7,000 applicants. In 2011, Mr. Hardwick was one of 50 educators in the nation to be honored by Yale University in receiving the prestigious Yale Distinguished Music Educator’s Award.
Hardwick is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance (Conducting) at Shenandoah Conservatory. He earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in music with honors from East Carolina University. He studied viola with Ara Gregorian, Nicholas Cords and Karen Huey, and has performed with the New York Ballet Company, Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, University of South Carolina (USC) Opera, USC Symphony Orchestra, Brevard Philharmonic and Aiken Symphony Orchestras. Hardwick currently lives in Virginia with his amazing wife and son.
Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul. – Plato