James W. Thatcher began his professional career at the age of 16 when he played and studied in Mexico City with his uncle, Gerald Thatcher, former principal hornist with the National Symphony of Mexico. Thatcher continued his studies at Brigham Young University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Music in 1975. While at BYU, Thatcher studied with Don Peterson, former Principal Horn of the Utah Symphony; K. Newell Dayley, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications; John R. Halliday, former pupil of Paul Hindemith, Robert Manookin, and Merrill K. Bradshaw.
After serving a mission to Brazil following graduation, he studied composition and conducting with Eduardo Mata, former conductor of the Dallas Symphony and a protege of Carlos Chavez. In 2002, his Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello had had its world premiere with the Pacific Trio. His Symphony #2, was also performed, in 2002, at the Sunflower Music Festival in Topeka, Kansas.
Thatcher has been a member of the Phoenix Symphony, the Utah Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He currently plays principal horn for the Pasadena Symphony and the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and is an associate professor of French horn at the University of Southern California.
He is arguably the most heard horn player in the world due to his performances on some 70 to 80 films per year for the last 15 years. He has performed as principal horn for more than 900 motion pictures, including Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Father of the Bride, Apollo 13, Minority Report, The Patriot, Newsies, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, and many others. Such illustrious composers as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Randy Newman, James Newyon Howard, Alan Silvestri, Alan Menken, David Newman, Danny Elfman, and James Horner frequently request his services.
Thatcher has been principal horn of the Academy Awards show for over 10 years. He has also played solo horn on recordings for Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamand, David Grusin, Johnny Matthis, Kenny Rogers, Sting, Henry Mancini, Yo-Yo Ma, Mel Torme, David Benoit, Michael Jackson, Sarah Vaughn, Howard Keel, Harry Connick Jr., and Frank Sinatra.
Thatcher performs for International Horn Society Symposiums and for the British Horn Society, where he gave recitals and master classes in Birmingham and at the Guildhall School of Music, in London. He has been invited to return to London and lecture at Trinity College.
Thatcher has recorded his first solo album, Now Playing in 2002, of which reviewer Chris Huning wrote in Horn Magazine that “Thatcher shows his supreme mastery of the instrument.”
Thatcher returned to the BYU campus in 2002 as an Honored Alumnus for the College of Fine Arts and Communications.