James initially started playing the cornet at the age of three, and played his first solo aged four in front of 500 people at a Salvation Army Christmas carol concert. By the age of six he was playing with the Young People's Band of the Kettering Salvation Army Corps and later joined the Northants County Training Brass band on soprano cornet. He has also played with the Salvation Army's Territorial Youth Brass Band on soprano under the direction of Dr Stephen Cobb.
In 2005, James commenced lessons with John Hudson, the previous principal cornet of Virtuosi GUS Band, and in September 2007 he was made the youngest principal cornet of the Northamptonshire County Youth Brass Band. In early 2008, after two years of soprano cornet, he sat in the principal cornet seat at the Salvation Army's TYB course.
In March 2008, James joined the Virtuosi GUS Band just before the Midlands regional brass band championships on repiano cornet - sitting next to his father, the highly respected soprano player Gary Fountain. Also in March, James attended his first NYBBGB course on solo cornet, gaining a great deal of admiration from his fellow colleagues and tutors for his stylish playing.
During the summer of 2009, James attended his second residential course with the NYBBGB, during which he was appointed Principal Cornet at his tender age of just 14. On returning to The Virtuosi GUS Band after the summer break, the band was delighted when James accepted their proposal that he take up the end chair!
In 2011, James was given the opportunity to fulfil an ambition and play Principal Cornet with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Although very sad to see him leave, the band wishes James every success at Grimethorpe and for the rest of his musical career.