Born in South Korea into a musical family, James D'León gave his first piano recital at the age of 5. After receiving early piano training from his mother, he won a full scholarship to the pre-college program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with May Kurka and Milton Salkind. When he was 12, he won both the San Francisco Symphony and Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra competitions, and by 14, he had won every regional competition, which led to his debut performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
He then studied piano with George Sementovsky in Philadelphia and graduated summa cum laude from Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia. He was subsequently awarded a fellowship to the Eastman School of Music in New York where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance and Literature.
Thereafter, he won praise in many international piano competitions and received top honors in the Artist International Competition which led to his New York debut recital at Carnegie Hall and the Gold Medal at the New Orleans International Piano Competition. In 2009, he was selected as an International Steinway Concert Artist, and since then has performed in England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Canada, and throughout the United States.
Following his performance at the prestigious Reading Festival in England, International Piano Magazine wrote, "D'León's recital was an absolute sheer and dazzling delight!" His summers have included performances at the Banff Festival in Canada, Boyle Festival in Ireland, Schlern Festival in the Italian Alps, and Mendocino Music Festival on the northern California coast.
As a chamber musician, he has performed with many of the world's finest chamber groups including the Muir String Quartet and Shanghai String Quartet. He has given master classes at more than 75 universities around the world and has served as judge in international piano competitions for pianists of all ages.
As a recording artist, the American Record Guide calls his performances "Remarkably played! The result is a revelation and a real treasure!" E-Music Magazine calls his performance of Schubert and Liszt "Amazing…and if you think you have heard it all with this particular Schubert sonata, take a listen to this disc!" He has recorded contemporary works for the German Col Legno label, including works by renowned Czech composer Ladislav Kubik. Upcoming projects include the first recording of Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla's complete tangos transcribed for piano quintet.