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 and Composition from the Eastman School of Music (2005), University of North Texas (1995), and University of Toronto (1992, 1993), Dr. McGowan is a faculty member in the Music program at Carleton University. He also holds an A.R.C.T. in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto).
Dr. McGowan is a passionate educator and has been recognized with multiple university-wide awards for his teaching (two-time recipient of Carleton Residences Favourite Faculty Award, CU Teaching Achievement Award ($15,000 research in teaching award), CU New Faculty Teaching Award, CUSA Teaching Excellence Award, and McMaster University Student Union Teaching Award for Humanities). At Carleton, he is 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, gospel, 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 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 his Process Jazz Trio/Quartet, Modasaurus, EvenSong, Michael Curtis Hanna, and others; in the last few years he has released three albums as leader or co-leader, with another on the way: "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; Canadian University Music Society Composition Competition), James has composed in most genres including choral cantatas, orchestral music, chamber music, songs (singer-songwriter and art songs), 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), and the Atlantic Voices Choir of Ottawa.
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 a Suzuki music program, 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, and mentored others to develop their skill sets in community music.