James Tuggle was born in Portland, Oregon/USA. He studied conducting in Los Angeles between 1972 and 1976 with his mentor Fritz Zweig and continued his education at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria with Otmar Suitner.
From 1974 to 1976 James Tuggle was engaged by the San Diego Opera as conductor. As of 1977 on he was assistant conductor for the three season festival production Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Seattle Opera. In 1982 he gave his debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and was immediately offered an engagement as conductor, a position he maintained the following 1983/84 season. In this time he also conducted concerts throughout Europe.
In September 1984 he accepted the position of music director with the Stuttgart Ballet. In addition to the intensive conducting schedule in Stuttgart, this position also gave him the possibility to work with orchestras all over the world as a result of the intensive touring schedule of the company. In 1988 James Tuggle started to work together with the choreographer Youri Vamos, first in Bonn then in Basel, Switzerland as of 1991. After a very successful debut at the Wiener Staatsoper in 1993, James Tuggle was engaged there as main conductor and musical advisor for the ballet and as opera conductor. From 1996 to 2001 he guested regularly at the Komische Oper Berlin and at the Opera in Rome.
In 1997 James Tuggle returned to the Stuttgart Ballet as Music Director, where he conducts a wide repertory of works and tours around the world with the company. In 2001 he conducted for American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera House, since 2002 he is a regular guest conductor with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Wiener Staatsoper, La Scala in Milan, the National Ballet of Portugal, the Hong Kong Ballet and the Semperoper Ballet in Dresden.
In addition to conducting for ballet, James Tuggle conducts a large repertoire which contains almost all standard works from symphony and opera. He is noted in particular for his performances of the German repertoire of the late 19th century, for which he has received acclaim by colleagues and critics.