A native of Minneapolis, James Pearson attended Columbia University in New York City from 1967 to 1971, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. From 1971 to 1974 he continued his studies in London, at the Royal College of Music and the London Opera Centre.
Since 1974 he has worked as repetiteur in several opera houses in Germany, Belgium and Austria: Coburg, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt am Main, Brussels (Théatre de la Monnaie) and, since September 1993, Vienna State Opera. He has been engaged as guest pianist and repetiteur for opera productions in Nice, Paris and Los Angeles and is also busy as a pianist for vocal recitals on three continents. In March 2015 the Austrian government awarded James Pearson the title Professor.