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Prof. James Gourlay DMA, MMus, FRNCM, FLCM is a leading performer, teacher, and academic. As well as his work as a soloist, conductor, and member of some of Europe's finest orchestras, James has held high level Academic and administrative posts such as Head of School, Wind, Brass, and Percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) as well as Deputy Principal and Director of the School of Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD), now known as the Royal Conservatoire for Scotland. Under James Gourlay's leadership, the Royal Northern College of Music became one the top schools in the world for brass and wind studies, winning two awards presented at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen of England, and in May 2008, the School of Music of the RSAMD was voted best UK Music school by the Guardian newspaper's Education & Universities Guide, moving up from the its previous best of fourth place. James has been a member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, English Brass, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of Zürich Opera House and has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. He has been Musical Director of a number of the greatest brass bands in the World, such as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (stars of the movie ‘Brassed Off') and is in demand as a clinician, giving classes and lectures in Paris, Lausanne, and at the Juilliard as well as an orchestral conductor working internationally. He is currently Music Director and CEO of the River City Brass, the world's only full-time professional brass band, adjunct professor of tuba at Duquesne University, and is International Chair of Low Brass Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England.

James' duties as Deputy Principal and Director of Music included responsibility for all Music programs (BMus, MMus and PhD) organization of all musical events including concerts and opera, fundraising in a number of contexts, international recruitment, and research. In addition to these duties, James was responsible for the management and leadership of 60 full-time and nearly 200 adjunct staff and an annual budget of £3.5 million (circa $7 million). Chosen by peer groups, such as the professional associations, he has been a panel-member for the UK wide Research Assessment Exercise, RAE 2008, which assesses the quality of research from every university music department in the UK. This nationally important work determines the level of research funding awarded to institutions in the UK.

Initially engaged as Director of Brass Studies, working closely with Timothy Reynish, James was quickly promoted to departmental Head, or Dean of School, Wind, Brass, and Percussion. There, responsible for 180 students and 40 staff, James created three festivals of national/international repute—the RNCM Festival of Brass, International Festival of Winds, and the RNCM International Tuba/Euphonium Festival. These activities contributed towards the College's successful bid for a Queen's Anniversary Prize one of the most prestigious awards in the UK Higher Education sector, which was presented at Buckingham Palace. A second bid, more specific to James's own field i.e. for the promotion of Wind Band Music' was also successful. James was a submitted researcher for the RNCM Research Assessment Exercise for his collaborative work with composer Hans Werner Henze. His responsibilities included: Curriculum writing and development, teaching, conducting of wind, brass, and percussion ensembles, practice-based research, mentoring of over 200 students and the management of 50 staff, mostly part-time hourly paid (adjunct). In 1975, at the age of 18, James Gourlay won the position, Principal Tuba of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a post he held for four years before moving to London to join the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez and Sir John Pritchard. In London, he was chosen to be come a member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and co-founded the English Brass Ensemble. After nearly 10 years at the BBC, and having performed a large part of the symphonic repertoire, James, wishing to ‘complete the orchestral picture,' moved to Zurich to perform in the Opera there. Working in mainland Europe gave him access to some of the finest orchestras including a period of work with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. James has worked some of the world's finest conductors including Sir John Pritchard, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Bernard Haitink, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington, Lorin Maazel, Klaus Tennstedt, Zubin Metha, and Leonard Bernstein, to name just a few.

In 2008, James left a highly successful career in Higher Education to reconnect with the music profession and has developed himself both as a performer and as an administrator. He is much in demand internationally as a guest conductor and soloist but is currently the Music Director and Chief Executive of Pittsburgh's River City Brass, a non-profit organization serving nearly 90 concerts per season in a wide range of communities.


  • D.M.A., University of Salford
  • Institute of Leadership and Management Certificate
  • M.M., University of Leeds
  • Royal College of Music

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