River City Youth Brass Band
Founded in 1986, the River City Youth Brass Band is open to brass and percussion players from Western Pennsylvania, grades 7 through 12. This auditioned ensemble, conducted by Drew Fennell, meets twenty-five times each season for sectional coaching by River City Brass musicians and for full ensemble rehearsal. Students gain valuable musicianship by playing quality music at a very high level. Two or more concerts are staged each year, and participants in the program have the opportunity to hear and play alongside the River City Brass in performance. Between forty and sixty of Western Pennsylvania's most talented young brass and percussion players participate in the River City Youth Brass Band program each semester, and well over one thousand musicians have come through the program in its thirty year history. Listen to some of the RCYBB's recordings here.
Register Today for Fall 2017
Tuition is waived for students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools and Penn Hills School District.
RCYBB Timeline and Calendar
learn from professional musicians
412.434.7222 x210 | [email protected]
James Gourlay was born in Scotland, where, at the age of ten, he was "volunteered" to play in his school brass band. Being the tallest in class, he was serendipitously given the tuba, an instrument he loves and continues to promote all over the world.
After much success as a solo champion, Gourlay entered the Royal College of Music but left after a short time to become the Principal Tuba of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the age of eighteen. He continued working at the BBC Symphony Orchestra for ten years, then performed for an additional ten years with the Orchestra of the Zurich Opera. Gourlay's career as a chamber musician and soloist continues to flourish. He has been a member of the Philip Jones and English Brass ensembles with which he has toured the world, and also continues to perform as a soloist extensively. He has recorded five solo CDs, the latest being British Tuba Concertos recorded for the Naxos label with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, which has since received international critical acclaim.
Gourlay's early work within the Brass Band Movement forms a vital component of his creative output. After early success with the Brass Band Berneroberland, he became music director of the Williams Fairey Band with which he won the English Masters and British Open contents. Gourlay has also been the professional conductor of the Grimethorpe Colliery and the Etoiles, with which he has won the Swiss National Championships, the Swiss Open Championships, and second place at the European as well as at the World Brass Band Championships.
Gourlay's commitment to music education is a continuing passion. He has been Head of Wind and Percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music and Deputy Principal and Music Director at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Salford University, a Masters degree from Leeds University, a Fellowship of the Royal Northern College of Music, a Fellowship of the London College of Music, and is also a recipient of the Henry Iles Medal, presented by the Worshipful Company of Musicians for services to the Brass Band Movement. Currently, Gourlay is International Vice President of the International Tuba and Euphonium Association and Artistic Director of the River City Brass.
Drew Fennell joined the River City Brass in 1998 as Assistant Principal Solo Cornet, and currently occupies the position of Principal Solo Flugelhorn. He solos very frequently with the ensemble, both as a flugelhorn/trumpet player and as a singer. He also worked as Associate Conductor of the ensemble for ten years (1999-2009), and has conducted the River City Youth Brass Band since 2005. In 2007, he joined the faculty at Grove City College (PA) as Adjunct Professor of Trumpet.
A 1994 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he studied with the inimitable Anthony Pasquarelli. Fennell performed extensively during this time, including several solo appearances with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. After receiving his degree, he served as principal trumpet with the Butler, Altoona and Youngstown Symphonies, as well as a six-month appointment to the position of second trumpet with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, his solo playing has been heard locally and internationally in recital, and on International Public Radio.
In addition to playing, he has built a solid reputation as a fine composer and arranger. He has completed well over 100 projects for the River City Brass, a dozen of which appear on various RCB recordings. He also created arrangements for numerous other groups, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale.
Jason Allison is a native of Western Pennsylvania and is currently a resident of Pittsburgh, where he is an active member of the local musical community. As a performer he can be heard in the French horn sections of the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Orchestras as well as the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Orchestra. He has also been a substitute horn player with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Allison holds contracts with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra as well as Pittsburgh's historic River City Brass, which is the only full time, professional brass band in the United States. He is also an active performer throughout Ohio and other parts of West Virginia, where he appears regularly with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.
As a music educator, Mr. Allison is on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University and the Pre-College program at Carnegie Mellon University. He also works as an instructor with the River City Youth Brass Band as well as maintaining a private studio of horn students from the greater Pittsburgh area.
Mr. Allison holds a BS in Music Education and a BA in Music Performance from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with Jack Scandrett, formerly of the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Orchestras. He also received an MA in French Horn Performance from Duquesne University, where he studied with Bill Caballero and Zach Smith, both of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Originally from Lithuania, Algirdas Matonis started playing euphonium at the age of eight. In 2000 he entered his first ever competition which was ‘Juozas Pakalnis Woodwind, Brass and Percussion Solo Competition’ held in Lithuania. At only 9 years old Algirdas managed to win the 8 – 13 age group. This was the beginning of his active participation in various music events. Algirdas continued to enter and win solo competitions throughout his teenage years. 2009 was his last year as a teen competitor. He was offered to perform as a soloist with the Lithuanian Military Band at the ‘International Band and Orchestra Championships’ held in Lithuania where he received the best solo player award and performed at the prestigious ‘Siemens’ arena in front of over 5000 people at the Gala event.
In 2010 Algirdas Matonis decided that he wanted to pursue the life of a professional euphonium player. He entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where he studied under the guidance of the legendary euphonium pioneer Steven Mead. In 2014 he got his Bachelor degree and was awarded with entry scholarship for his Master’s degree studies.
During his study years at the RNCM he kept actively performing as a soloist. Algirdas was invited to perform as a guest artist at the biggest low brass festival in the world, ITEC, in 2012 and 2014. In 2013 Algirdas won the ‘Fodens’ open solo competition in UK and received a Besson prize award. As a part of prize he was invited to perform as a guest soloist with the only full-time professional brass band in the world, the River City Brass Band in Pittsburgh. In 2014 Algirdas did a concert tour with the band, which led to a scholarship at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a move to the U.S.A. a year later.
Since 2015 Algirdas has been living in Pittsburgh, where he started playing with River City Brass on regular basis as well as continuing his Master’s degree in music performance. At the moment Algirdas is an actively performing soloist with various solo recitals under his belt, having performed at venues in the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Scotland, USA and Austria. Very recently he performed an opening recital in a well-recognized festival in Lithuania called “Sugrizimai”. His performance received positive reviews from music experts and critics through multiple music magazines and public media. Algirdas’ upcoming season schedule is looking extremely busy, filled with not only solo and brass band activities but also many innovative projects which will take place in the near future.
Proudly hailing from Washington, D.C., trombonist Hakeem Bilal is an emerging artist. A highly sought-after musician, Mr. Bilal has performed throughout the world as a chamber, orchestral, and commercial trombonist, as well as a clinician, lecturer, and entrepreneurial coach. Mr. Bilal serves as trombone faculty at Youngstown State University's Dana School of Music in Youngstown, Ohio and is currently the Bass Trombonist of C Street Brass and the Trombonist/MC of Beauty Slap. Since 2013, Hakeem has served as the bass trombonist of the River City Brass. Mr. Bilal has soloed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and has served as a regular substitute with the orchestra since 2014. In addition to soloing (and singing) in front of RCB, Hakeem has also performed and collaborated with various jazz and mainstream artists across North America and several collegiate ensembles. Hakeem feels very fortunate to have taken his trombone to many diverse venues across the globe including Doha, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Bilal began his musical studies on trombone at the age of eight, however it wasn't until the age of fifteen when he began lessons with members of the National Symphony Orchestra and focused on bass trombone. With direct exposure to one of America's best orchestras at his doorstep, Mr. Bilal quickly discovered his passion for music making and began to craft his dream to become a successful artist.
Mr. Bilal holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Music degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Mr. Bilal continued his studies in New York and North Texas before moving to Pittsburgh, crafting a diverse musical experience across many styles of music. While in New York, Mr. Bilal performed with legendary jazz and gospel legends including Bobbi Humphrey, Wycliffe Gordon, Richard Smallwood, Tye Tribbett, and Bobby Jones. During his studies, Hakeem was a student of Randall Campora of the Baltimore Symphony, Dr. Denson Paul Pollard of the Metropolitan Opera, Dr. David Begnoche of Texas Christian University, and Murray Crewe of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Hakeem currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA and is proud to call Western Pennsylvania home. As a fan of slow cooking and an award winning mixologist behind the bar, Hakeem often enjoys barbeque and craft cocktails. In addition to his recordings with C Street Brass, Hakeem can be heard on the Naxos label with the Peabody Wind Ensemble, on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and Spotify with electronic group 'Beauty Slap,' and on several recordings with the River City Brass.
Hakeem is an S.E. Shires Artist.
Philip R. Webster is a percussionist who tours with the River City Brass. He has also performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, the Brevard Festival Orchestra and the Duquesne University Orchestra. He's studied with percussionist Andrew Ramer, timpanist Timothy Adams, and marimba artist She-e Wu. Philip recently received his Master of Music degree from Duquesne University; he received his Bachelor of Music degree from West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.