After completing undergraduate studies at Wayne State University in guitar performance and composition, he pursued a master‘s degree in composition at Michigan State University and a doctorate from the University of Southern California, where he studied composition with Robert Linn and Morten Lauridsen. In addition to composing, Lentini is a guitarist who has studied with William Kanengiser, Joe Fava, and Charles Postlewate.
His music has been performed by solo artists such as guitarist William Kanengiser and by international ensembles including the Krakow Philharmonic (Poland) and the Bohuslav Martinů Orchestra (Czech Republic). In addition to many commissions, his honors include first prize in the 2004 Choral Composition Contest at Bluffton University for his composition "Peace I Leave With You," the 2002 Andrés Segovia International Composition Prize for his solo guitar piece "Westward Voyage," the Atwater-Kent Composition Award (first Prize), the McHugh Composition Prize, a grant from "Meet the Composer," and several awards from ASCAP. In 2003, Lentini participated as a juror in the Segovia International Guitar Competition in La Herradura, Spain. He has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, and his work has been featured in new music festivals throughout Europe and the United States. In reviewing the recording "James Lentini, Chamber Music," released on the American Classics series by Naxos Records, critic Laurence Vittes, writing in Gramophone Magazine, called Lentini a "...typical classical music success story," and went on to describe Lentini's composition "Scenes from Sedona" by stating that "...the pièce de résistance of the disc may be 'Scenes from Sedona,' perhaps the best piece for viola and cello since Beethoven’s 'Eyeglasses' duet. In 2009, Lentini's suite for solo guitar entitled "The Four Seasons" was published by Mel Bay.
From 2003 to 2007, Lentini served as the founding Dean of the School of Art, Media, and Music at The College of New Jersey. Previously, Lentini held the position of Professor of Composition at Wayne State University from 1988 to 2003, where he also served as Acting Chair and Associate Chair of the Department of Music. In 2007, Lentini accepted the appointment of Dean of the School of Creative Arts at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, overseeing the Departments of Music, Art, Theatre, and Architecture/Interior Design, in addition to the Performing Arts Series and the University Museum. He is recognized as an arts advocate and fundraiser through his efforts to promote the importance of the arts in education. In 2012, his new musical arrangement of Miami University's Alma Mater was performed in Carnegie Hall.
In 2013, Lentini received a Career Achievement Award in the Field of Music from Wayne State University. In May, 2013, he was named as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland University in Rochester, MI.
Publications and recordings
His works are published by Mel Bay, Editorial de Musica Española Contemporanea, Acoma Editions, and the Society of Composers, Inc., and recorded on the Naxos, Capstone, MMC, and CRS recording labels.
- Bluffton University Press Release, April 22, 2004.
- Press Release from ABC de Sevilla (Spain), January 5, 2002.
- Press Release from El Pais (Spain), December 17, 2002.
- Laurence Vittes, "Expressive and Atmospheric Music with a Hint of Populism." Rev. of James Lentini, Chamber Music (CD). Gramophone Magazine, October 2010. Accessed from Naxos Album Reviews, June 11, 2011.
- Charles Postlewate, "Contemporary Anthology of Solo Guitar Music." Mel Bay, 2009.
- Miami University PR staff News Release, April 24, 2007.
- Miami University News Release, June 28, 2012. School of Fine Arts Announces Name Change to School of Creative Arts.
- Miami Celebrates "Year of the Arts." Cincinnati Enquirer, October 15, 2011
- Kathy Schwartz, "Art for Everyone's Sake." CityBeat Magazine, January 3, 2012
- Miami University Press Release, "Anonymous Gift Benefits Art Museum and School of Fine Arts". Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- Janelle Gelfand, "Miami soars in the Big Apple". Arts in Focus, Cincinnati.com, October 11, 2012.
- Miami University YouTube Site. Performance of the Alma Mater at Carnegie Hall arranged by James Lentini. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- 2013 Arts Achievement Awards, Wayne State University.
- Miami University Press Release, February 28, 2013. "James Lentini to be Honored by Wayne State University."
- David Jesse, New Provost Named at Oakland University. The Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2013.
- James Michael Floyd, Composers in the Classroom. Scarecrow Press, 2011.
- Raymond Tuttle, "James Lentini: Building One's Own Audience." Fanfare Magazine, Nov-Dec 2010, pp. 110–118. Retrieved through EBSCO Host Connection, Nov 2, 2012.
- Michael Cameron, "Lentini, Orchestra Hall Suite." Fanfare Magazine, Nov-Dec 2010, pp. 118–119. Retrieved through EBSCO Host Connection, Nov 2, 2012.
- Mark Stryker, "Winning Music, Strong Recordings." The Detroit Free Press, October 24, 2010.
- Laima, "James Lentini-Chamber Music." WRUV Reviews, September 7, 2010.
- Christopher Davis, "Monday Motivation: James Lentini." September 6, 2010. . Retrieved June 5, 2011.
- Steve Hicken, "College Town." Sequenza 21/, August 12, 2010.
- Andrea Saglimbene, "An American Composer in Spain." New Music Box, February 11, 2003.
- Bryce Rankin, Society of Composers, Inc, Grand Designs. Rev. of James Lentini's Music for Brass. 21st Century Music, May, 2000, pg. 34.
- Mark Stryker, "Composers Infuse Music with Electronic Sounds." The Detroit Free Press, February 12, 1999.
- Official website
- Allmusic Bio for James Lentini
- James Lentini Radio at Pandora Internet Radio
- WGUC Radio Playlist: James Lentini, solo guitar
- WWFM Radio Playlist: Lentini, "El Signo del Angel"
- WCPE Radio Playlist: James Lentini's "Montage"
- "The Four Seasons" by James Lentini published by Mel Bay
- Naxos American Classics
- Capstone Recordings
- CRS Recordings
- James Lentini Wins XV Andrés Segovia Composition Competition (listed in history of the competition)
- " Westward Voyage" for solo guitar by James Lentini published by EMEC (SEEMSA), Spain