James Litzelman, DMA, NCTM, enjoys a successful career as a pianist, teacher, lecturer and adjudicator, having performed and lectured in the United States, Mexico, Europe, China and Russia. In demand for master classes, adjudicating and workshops, he regularly presents lectures nationally and internationally to music organizations and has judged competitions throughout the eastern and southern United States.
Litzelman’s path in the musical world has not been a traditional one; he grew up on a farm in central Illinois and didn’t begin to study piano until the age of 16. Near the end of his doctoral studies in piano performance at The Catholic University of America he was diagnosed with focal dystonia, a neuromuscular disorder that afflicts classical pianists and guitarists in a disproportionate number. He began to research the causes of this condition, and through retraining, especially using symmetrical inversion as a practice strategy—a treatment modality in which he has been a pioneer—as well as work with a gifted Rolfer, Dr. Litzelman has regained much of his capability at the instrument.
As a result of his dystonia diagnosis Litzelman has become a passionate advocate for pianistic health, spending the last 25 years investigating piano technique and how one may play the piano in the most physiologically correct way. He regularly lectures at state and national conferences, recently presenting at the 2018 MTNA National Conference on pianists with focal dystonia who’ve returned to playing. This presentation was such a success that he has been invited to present a follow-up session at the 2019 conference, and a paper on “Symmetrical Inversion as a Treatment Modality for Focal Dystonia” was selected for presentation at the same conference. Additionally, Dr. Litzelman has been invited to serve on the Wellness Committee for the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy 2019 and will be presenting at that conference in Chicago next summer. Most recently, he presented a paper at the Maryland State Music Teachers State Conference entitled “Musician—Heal Thyself! Developing and Maintaining Healthy Practice Habits for a Lifetime of Injury-Free Playing”. In short, his work in this area has been of enormous benefit to students and teachers alike, with many pianists seeking his insight because of their own or their students' problems.
Dr. Litzelman has performed and taught in China, and has performed solo and collaborative recitals at the Rachmaninoff Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and the Sviatoslav Richter Museum in Moscow. A frequent adjudicator, he has recently judged the national finals of the MTNA piano competitions in New York City, and the Canadian Music Teachers Association National Piano Competition. Litzelman is very active with the local music teachers associations, having served as president of the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association from 2009-2011. Dr. Litzelman is a published writer with numerous articles appearing in musical journals such as Keyboard Companion, American Music Teacher and Clavier Companion. Litzelman currently serves as chairman of the editorial committee of the American Music Teacher magazine, the official journal of the Music Teachers National Association, is a reviewer of new books and music for that periodical, and is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music.
Dr. Litzelman has been a member of the piano faculty at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC since 1993, where he teaches applied piano and courses in piano pedagogy and musicians’ wellness. He was director of the graduate piano pedagogy program at Catholic University from 2000-2010. Litzelman has also taught at the University of Maryland, College Park; in 2016 he was invited to teach a piano pedagogy course and he will be teaching a doctoral seminar in piano literature at UMD in Spring 2019. Jim is particularly interested in teaching young people and he maintains an active independent studio at his home in Arlington, Virginia, where his students have been prize winners in many local and national competitions.