James McGowan is a pianist, conductor, composer, arranger, educator, and music theorist equally at home in many genres of music. With degrees in Music Theory from the Eastman School of Music/University of Rochester (PhD 2005) and University of North Texas (M.M. 1995), and degrees in Composition from the University of Toronto (M.Mus 1993, B.Mus 1992), Dr. McGowan is an Associate Professor of Music at Carleton University. He also holds an A.R.C.T. in Piano Performance (first class honours) from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto).
Dr. McGowan is a passionate educator and was awarded the honour of serving as Carleton University Chair of Teaching Innovation in 2020 (a three-year term). In this capacity he receives an annual grant to promote community music and arts education across the campus with his PLACE initiative
and conducting research in its impact to Teaching and Learning. He has also been recognized with multiple university-wide awards for his teaching (CU Teaching Achievement Award ($15,000 research in teaching award), CU New Faculty Teaching Award, two-time recipient of Carleton Residences Favourite Faculty Award, a Raving Raven for Teaching Excellence, a CUSA Teaching Excellence Award, and McMaster University Student Union Teaching Award for Humanities).
At Carleton, he is also the Supervisor of Performance Studies, Assistant Director of the Carleton Jazz Camp
, and has previously served as Supervisor of Ensembles, Masterclasses and Practica, and Undergraduate Supervisor. As a choral conductor, he has directed choirs at McMaster University, Laurentian University, Carleton University, as well as several church and community choirs. He has served as a performance and composition clinician and adjudicator for different arts organizations (Junos, Kiwanis, Lions, City of Ottawa, etc.), and given workshops on topics ranging from introductory improvisation, to topics in choral singing, to popular music theory, to managing performance anxiety.
Finding the hybrid space between classical, jazz, and contemporary improvisation, James has given piano performances in Canada, the United States, and Sweden, and has collaborated with ensembles including the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, James Madison University Jazz Ensemble, and individual musicians from Jesse Stewart to Ian Tamblyn to Dong-Won Kim to Jamaal Jackson Rogers, and Heidi Melton to Barbara Hannigan. He has performed frequently in the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, as well as the Stewart Park Festival, Merrickville's Jazz Festival, and Skylight Festival. He currently performs with Modasaurus, James McGowan trio, EvenSong
, Michael Curtis Hanna, and others; in recent years he has released four albums as leader or co-leader: 4K
, Two Intents, Over the Mountain, and Songs from the Bridge.
As an award-winning composer and arranger
(including First Prize PROCAN Canada-wide Young Composers Competition; Glenn Gould Composition Scholarship, UofT; John Weinzweig Composition Scholarship, UofT; Canadian University Music Society Composition Competition), James has composed in most genres including choral cantatas, orchestral music, chamber music, songs (jazz, art songs, and singer-songwriter), and compositions for jazz ensembles, including music for his jazz-fusion quartet Modasaurus. He has had commissions by various groups including the Etobicoke School of the Arts choir and orchestra program, Alexander Singers and Players (Toronto), the Atlantic Voices Choir of Ottawa, and Carleton University Choir. His works have recently been performed (or accepted for performance) by the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Rocky Mountain Symphony, Coro Vivo, and other ensembles.
James is also active in community music leadership, in which he has directed several amateur church music programs (recently serving as Director of Music for Trinity United in Ottawa from 2012 to 2019), conducted school-age choirs, coached school-age instrumental music ensembles, taught musicianship for all levels of school-age programming, accompanied music theatre ensembles, led a musical group for those living with mental illness, performed in nursing homes and palliative-care facilities, developed and taught a course in Community Music at Carleton University, and mentored others to develop their skill sets in community music.