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James Gourlay recognised as one of America's top 30 arts professionals of the year

James Gourlay's work in rejuvenating the artistic and financial success of Pittsburgh's River City Brass has been recognised by one of America's most influential on-line music publications.

jAMES gOURLAY
  James Gourlay has been the inspirational driving force behind the rejuvenation of River City Brass

The inspirational work of James Gourlay in rejuvenating the artistic and business model of the Pittsburgh based brass band River City Brass has seen him gain the prestigious accolade of being named as one of Musical America's 'Top 30 Professionals of the Year'.

Influential

Given by the influential Musical America website publication, it honours the '30 innovators, independent thinkers and entrepreneurs' in the worldwide performing arts industry that they recognise as having 'made the arts thrive'.

The recipients are regarded as leading forces in the arts field in the USA and beyond.

Founded in 1981, River City Brass was facing an uncertain future when the Scotsman arrived for the first time in 2010.

Obituary

With falling concert attendances and financial pressures, James told the Musical America website that "Pittsburgh newspapers already had our obituary in the top drawer".

However, in the next eight years under his leadership, the audiences as well as the finances of the band have been revitalised to such an extent that over 95% of supporters now renew their annual subscriptions and demand for concert tickets is at a record level.

River City Brass now performs upwards of 35 concerts per year — almost double that of when he arrived — all promoted through a remarkable sales motto of, "We can only eat what we kill" — a reference to their move from being what he calls "a pseudo-symphonic art-music organisation into an entertainment organisation."

So much so that long term supporters regularly get that extra level of customer care — with one 90 year subscriber enjoying a personal visit from James to play her 'Happy Birthday' at her Pittsburgh home4BR

Loyal subscriber base

In the past year alone it has seen a hugely successful concert inspired by Bollywood film music linked to the local Indian community — something that has resulted in a huge increase in what James refers to as, "a fiercely loyal subscriber base".

So much so that long term supporters regularly get that extra level of customer care — with one 90 year subscriber enjoying a personal visit from James to play her 'Happy Birthday' at her Pittsburgh home — whilst proactive promotional activity and ticket deals means that demand for concert tickets continues to increase.

Enviable position

James, who is an adjunct professor at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University, added: "We're now in an enviable position."

Brass bands in all parts of the world may want to take note of how the success has been achieved...

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Howard J Evans

MA (Dist), Mus.B (hons), ARCM (hons), LRAM, LTCL, PGCE
Conductor, composer, arranger, tutor and pianist