Dr. James Polk was born in 1940 and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas where he attended the public schools. He graduated from Solomon M. Coles School High School and attended Huston-Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University), where he graduated with a B.A. Degree in Music Education.

  Dr. James Polk at the piano

Dr. James Polk

Dr. James Polk on piano with Ray Charles

Dr. James Polk was a Band Director in Elgin, Texas from 1962 to 1967. After being relieved of his Directorship, citing a duplication of teaching position because of the integration of the two high schools. He then moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts to work at the Rodman Job Corp Center as Director of Entertainment. He returned to Austin, Texas to work at IBM as a Buyer in Production Purchasing for the next ten years. He left IBM to join the Ray Charles Orchestra in 1978 as organist, pianist and later as writer, arranger and conductor.

Dr. James Polk

Dr. James Polk

James moved back to Austin in 1988 after living in Los Angeles, California for ten years. He went back to college and received a Master of Music Degree at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) where he taught in the Jazz Studies Department from 1990 to 2006. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music Degree from Huston-Tillotson University in 1995.

Dr. Polk retired in 2006 as Professor Emeritus of jazz Studies in the School of Music at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Dr Polk is currently working with his sextet “Centerpeace” around the Austin, Texas area. He is also involved in other musical projects as well.


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