James Olin was born in Schenectady, New York and began his musical studies on the piano at the age of five. By high school Olin had performed professionally within the diverse musical genres of classical, jazz, rock, blues and country-western. Olin holds degrees from the Interlochen Arts Academy and Northwestern University, where his major teachers included Frank Crisafulli, Jay Friedman and David Sporny. Other deeply influential teachers include Arnold Jacobs, Per Brevig, John Swallow, David Fedderly and Laurie Frink.
Olin joined the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1976 as second, assistant first and utility trombone and was promoted to co-principal trombone in 1980 and principal trombone in 1983. He has been a faculty member of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University since 1980, where he has taught chamber music, repertory classes, pedagogy, wind and brass orchestra sectionals, and lessons in applied trombone.
Formerly the principal trombonist with the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Olin has given master classes for the Eastern and International Trombone Association workshops, the International Tuba Euphonium Association, and for the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland. Olin served as faculty member of the Asian Youth Orchestra in Hong Kong from 1999-2012. Olin has performed as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony, Roanoke Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Baltimore Pro Musica Rara, the Gardner-Webb University Orchestra, the Peabody Wind Ensemble and the United States Navy Band. In addition, he has performed under many of the world’s finest conductors, including Solti, Bernstein, Ozawa, Levine, Rozhdestvensky, Zinman and Temirkanov, and can be heard on over twenty-five CDs with the Baltimore Symphony on the Argo, Sony, Columbia, Telarc, Vanguard and Nonesuch labels.
Olin also serves as director of the Trombody Peabones trombone choir and coordinator of the Peabody Brass Repertoire Class.