The Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts & Technology is being established in honor of Dr. James Polk, a talented, nationally recognized pianist and overall entertainer with roots in Central Texas.
Polk was born into a musical family and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. He excelled in all music classes while growing up, and moved to Austin, Texas to attend Huston-Tillotson College. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts in music education. He taught band in Elgin, Texas, and later moved to Massachusetts to work at the Rodman Job Corp as entertainment director. In 1969, Polk and longtime friend, James R. Hurst formed Twink Records.
After returning to Austin to work for IBM, where he was employed for 10 years, Polk resumed his passion for music. In 1978 Polk joined the Ray Charles Orchestra as organist/pianist and, later, as writer, arranger and conductor. Two songs Polk arranged for Ray Charles were nominated for Grammy Awards (Ain't It So, 1979, and I Wish You Were Here Tonight, 1983). He also arranged the Ray Charles Christmas CD.
Polk received his Master of Music degree from Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University), and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Huston-Tillotson College in 1995. He retired from teaching in 2006, and received his status of Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.