James Gourlay

Photo of James Gourlay

Besson International Chair in Brass

Besson International Chair in Brass

Born in Scotland, former junior and solo Scottish National champion Gourlay studied tuba performance at the Royal College of Music, London, but left after a short time to take up a full time position in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Three years later, he became principal tuba of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. Whilst playing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra,  Gourlay became involved with the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. At that time, he was also active in the film industry, performing on, amongst others, the sound tracks of Superman II and III, Batman and Yentl.

After 10 great years at the BBC, working with some of the world’s greatest conductors, Gourlay was invited to become the solo tubist of the Zurich Opera House Orchestra in Switzerland. It was there that he developed his skills as a conductor, attending master-classes with Ralph Weikert, and working with the Brass Band Berner Oberland, with which he won the Swiss National Championship 5 times and the Swiss Open Contest 4 times, a record that still stands.

After nine years at the Zurich Opera, Gourlay was invited by the RNCM to become the Head of its Wind, Brass and Percussion department, following in the footsteps of Timothy Reynish. Gourlay then moved back to his native Scotland to become Deputy Principal (Music) of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Gourlay’s repertoire is extensive, ranging from the avant-guard to rock and pop music. He has commissioned more than 50 solo works for tuba and piano, tape, band and orchestra. As a conductor, he works with some of the world’s leading brass groups, but also with orchestras such as the Sinfonica in Campinas, Brazil, the Orquestra Casa da Musica in Porto, Portugal. He is a regular guest conductor of the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain.

In addition to his world-wide playing as a tuba virtuoso, James is the General Director of Pittsburgh’s River City Brass, the world’s only full-time professional brass band, and Director of Instrumental Music and University Bands at Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia.