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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.
Samantha Croach plays cornet with the River City Brass. She graduated in 2012 from Slippery Rock University, where she received a bachelor's degree in Music Education. She went on to continue her studies at Carnegie Mellon University, earning a Master of Trumpet Performance as a recipient of the School of Music Fellowship. She studied with Mr. Neal Berntsen of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Samantha is currently an elementary music teacher in the Ambridge Area School District. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, crocheting, and spending time with her husband, Brian.
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.
Brian Croach, Cornet
Mr. Brian Croach is one of the instructors for the River City Brass Band’s “School of Brass” where assists in teaching beginning brass and percussion students. Brian received his B.S. in Music Education from Slippery Rock University in 2014. As a trumpet and cornet player, Brian enjoys playing the Eb soprano cornet with the Allegheny Brass Band.
Mr. Croach is the instrumental and general music teacher at Laurel Middle High School where he teaches students in grades seven through twelve. He will be entering his 6th year at Laurel at the start of the 2019-2020 school year where his regular schedule consists of seventh and eighth grade instrumental lessons, seventh and eighth grade concert band, seventh grade general music, ninth through twelfth grade chamber ensemble, ninth through twelfth grade beginning theory class, and ninth through twelfth grade concert band. The Senior High Concert Band showcased their talents this past year when they premiered a new work of music on a concert with the River City Brass Band. Brian is also the director of the marching band as well as the jazz ensemble. Both groups perform regularly and the jazz ensemble even opened up for the Balcony Big Band this past spring.