James Demeny is a tap dancer, jazz musician, educator, and theatre artist based in Chicagoland. He leads his self-titled jazz quartet, playing new musical theatre standards, video game tunes, and much more around Chicago. James has been a musician since age 10, and he has a 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. Tap dance shares the idiom of jazz, and musicality and improvisation are central to the art form. James’ experience with tap dance began at Elmhurst University, and was 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 at jazz jam sessions and concerts throughout Chicago. James is influenced by his 12 years of playing trumpet, vocal training in many styles, and his experience with classical music, jazz, theatre and musicals, video game soundtracks, and much more. James has trained with Chicago drummers like Bob Rummage and TJ Thompson, where he learned about musical elements like percussive soloing and phrasing, drum rudiments, and the ins and outs of jazz. His voice and sound through tap dance is not technical or flashy, but always focused on the music being made. Like all other improvisatory musicians, James executes the music he hears in his head. What James loves so much about tap dance is just what everyone else loves about tap dance: that you can so tangibly see the music being made.
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. in 2022. 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.
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. Rather than teaching pre-choreographed steps and combinations, James guides students through their own 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.
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. Go to jamesdemeny.com for more information, and James hopes to see you in tap dance lessons!
"One of my favorite songs is the Route 228 theme from Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. It’s such a melodically and harmonically interesting tune and I love playing it."