James Louis Bailey

August 8, 1921May 16, 2013

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1921, James Louis Bailey studied at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York; Juilliard School of Music, New York City, and abroad at the Akademie fur Music und darstellende Kunst, Vienna, Austria; and the Royal Academy, London. He subsequently earned multiple degrees in music from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he served on the voice faculty at the School of Music, and later as the Chairman of the Voice Division. During his tenure, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the School of Music, and to the UIUC’s Faculty-Student Senate. Mr. Bailey was also president of the honorary music fraternity Pi Kappa Lamba.

Mr. Bailey’s early career was given impetus when he won top honors in the Chicago Tribune’s famed Chicago Musicland Festival. Other professional achievements included his recordings as soloist for the renowned Little Church Around the Corner in New York City and for Follett’s Educational Series on Columbia Records, and appearing as soloist at the official Memorial Day celebration at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, with then-President Harry S. Truman as the speaker. He sang the title role in Benjamin Britten’s “St. Nicholas” with the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Vienna Opera Chorus, and the State Opera Orchestra. He also received critical acclaim for his multiple performances as the narrator in J.S. Bach’s ”St. Matthew’s Passion.” As tenor soloist with the Collegium Musicum at UIUC, Mr. Bailey performed widely throughout the east at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brandeis, Cornell, the Eastman School of Music, and other universities. A life-long educator, he was president of the Chicago Singing Teachers’ Guild, and developed innovative methods of teaching for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Over the course of his distinguished career, Mr. Bailey concertized widely in Europe and the eastern, southern, and mid-western United States, appearing as tenor soloist with oratorio societies, opera companies, choral societies, and in recitals. He retired as Professor Emeritus from UIUC after 41 years of teaching, mentoring, and motivating undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world. In retirement, he dedicated his time to collecting art and antiques, travel, gardening, church work, studying Revolutionary War history, and doting on his grandchildren. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Joan Bailey (nee Beard); daughters Gwenyth (Richard) Knorr and Jeanne Bailey; grandchildren Victoria E. Flynn, Theodore James Flynn, and Kaylee Knorr; sister-in-law Juanita Bailey; nephews and nieces Simon M. Bailey III, Gene W. Bailey III, Jeffrey A. Bailey, Rebecca Bresler, and Jennifer F. Bailey; and many great nieces and nephews.

Surrounded by family, Professor Bailey died peacefully at his home in Chicago on May 16, 2013. His funeral service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, May 24, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Salvation Army ( would be appreciated.


  • Funeral Service Friday, May 24, 2013

James Louis Bailey

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Dr Elizabeth Weber

October 30, 2013

Dear family of Jim: I am so sorry to learn of his death. i didn't even know you were living in Chicago. I would love to have seen him when in town. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor and helped me in my teaching. God Bess.

Felix Chan

May 26, 2013

Dear Mrs. Bailey, Jeanne and family: I am very sorry for your great loss. Mr. Bailey was a wonderful teacher, musician and friend. I will continue to pass on his music legacy to my voice students. Dr. Felix Chan ( 217-367-0695)

May 25, 2013

To all of James's family and friends, our thoughts and prayers are with you, we hope thinking about all the happy times will comfort you and bring you peace. Justin and Carolyn Taylor -Pittsburgh, PA

May 23, 2013

To the Bailey family and friends . so very sorry for your loss . may you find comfort in fond memories shared with your beloved as you draw strength from God and one another.

May 22, 2013

Dear Jeanne and family -- My deepest condolences on the passing of your father. With much love, Melinda Sallyards

May 22, 2013

May God comfort you during this time. (1 Peter 5:6,7)