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Composer James D. Thornton was born January 23, 1953 in New Rockford, North Dakota, into a family of musicians. His father, Donald Thornton, was a band director in Dickinson, North Dakota, where James and his five other siblings received their music education. All the children became professional musicians. James started on the cornet, then graduated to the tuba and euphonium (or whatever the band needed!). The latter instrument then became his speciality. Thornton’s professional music career began when he became a member of The President’s Own United States Marine Band in Washington, D.C. from 1974 to 1981. With this ensemble, he performed for four U. S. Presidents, toured yearly throughout the United States, and appeared frequently as soloist on the euphonium, trombone or tuba, often performing his own compositions and arrangements.


Upon returning home from the Marines in 1981, James Thornton pursed his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, which he received in 1986 and his Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1987. For four years (1988-1992), he was the Instrumental Music Educator for grades 5-12 in the Hazen Public Schools, Hazen, North Dakota. Following this, Thornton became the Minot State University Director of Bands from 1992-2000. His skill and artistry as a Euphonium performer have inspired many students. Concurrent with these positions has been Thornton’s involvement as a faculty music educator, since 1983, at the International Music Camp’s Summer School of the Fine Arts held at the International Peace Gardens on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada, a position he continues each summer. Thornton resides in Dickinson, North Dakota, teaching music.

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