From Belfast to Bangkok, the musical maestro has played thousands of concerts all over the world, with a professional career spanning five decades.
He is still touring even now and despite having lived in Switzerland for the past 40 years, he has never forgotten his roots.
“I have to say I’m very proud to be Irish, I can’t imagine being anything else – I’ve still got my lilt!”
He developed a love of music from his parents, James and Ethel, and it was his uncle Joe who began teaching him how to play the flute at an early age.
“The music business was in our family,” he said.
“Granddad was the flute player and bandmaster in the Apprentice Boys flute band, but I learned how to really play from my uncle.”
He has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and spent six years with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra before embarking on a solo career in 1975.
Since then he’s sold 30 million records worldwide, and insists he has no intention of slowing down.
Practice makes perfect
Sir James said that his music career didn’t just happen overnight, and that he is a staunch believer in the power of preparation.
“There is a great deal to be said for self-discipline, which goes a long way to bringing it to the front,” he said.
“It’s all about practice, the more you do the better you get – I would never turn up to a rehearsal unprepared.”
Honoured with a knighthood in 2001, and having won a lifetime achievement prize at the Gramophone Awards in 2014, Sir James has been garlanded with dozens of top accolades throughout his career.