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Born into a middle-class Jewish family in St John's Wood, North London. Age 7, he borrowed the CD of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto from his father's collection, although he did not progress formally beyond Grade 3 piano tuition. After moving to a local boarding school, he then, from age 13 onwards, was educated at Harrow School, where he worked with piano teacher Colin Stone. It was during this period that he entered the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, but failed to make it past the second round.

In 1993, he was offered a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. But in part due to mental health issues and his father's insistence, Rhodes took a psychology degree at University College, London.

A fan of the Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, Rhodes wrote to Sokolov’s agent Franco Panozzo in Italy, with the idea that Rhodes would become a music agent himself. Panozzo responded, and after Rhodes sent him a bottle of Champagne Krug, the pair arranged to meet in Italy. After hearing Rhodes play, Panozzo arranged for Rhodes to have a brief tutorage by the renowned piano teacher Edoardo Strabbioli in Verona Italy.

Returning to London, he met Canadian entrepreneur Denis Blais while practising at the Steinway Hall, Marylebone in 2008. Encouraged to record his first CD, and uncomfortable with the austere and traditional 'white tie and tails' recital, Rhodes and Blais decided it was time for the performer to communicate directly with the audience. Rhodes introduced his own programme notes to share with the audience what it takes to perform these works of art, using anecdotes about the composers and his own life experience.

2008/2009 saw his profile go from complete unknown to rising star, attracting celebrity followers such as Stephen Fry and Sir David Tang. Having performed in non-traditional classical venues, Rhodes built on this new revolutionary performance approach.

In March 2010, Rhodes became the first core classical pianist to be signed to the world's largest rock label Warner Bros. Records.

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Past events by James Rhodes