The River City Brass has been part of Pittsburgh's cultural landscape for nearly 30 years. In that time, it has taken its place not only as an artistic leader among American brass bands, but as a multifaceted cultural organization with a mission to enrich the communities of Western Pennsylvania and serve the people who live there. The band's 56-concert, eight-location regional concert series is unique in the performing arts industry. Each year, tens of thousands of people at home and on the road enjoy River City's special blend of American tunes, Big Band swing and jazz, music from Broadway and Hollywood, classical and contemporary masterworks, and traditional marches.
In 1981, something special happened – a musical renaissance took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Under the baton of conductor Robert Bernat, the River City Brass took to the Carnegie Music Hall stage for its inaugural concert on November 21. It was an evening of musical excellence and determination – determination to bring about the revival of the grass-roots tradition of the American brass band.
The mission of Pittsburgh’s own River City Brass (RCB) 28 member band founded in 1981 is to entertain, educate and engage citizens locally, nationally and internationally in the American musical culture. Locally, RCB’s annual tradition is to present 51 regional concerts over seven months to citizens at seven regional venues, and to maintain an acclaimed youth band and Saturday Music Program. Nationally, RCB has routinely conducted concerts at venues including Pennsylvania’s Musikfest, New York’s Chautauqua Institution, Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts, Indiana’s Conner Prairie, and North Carolina’s Thalian Hall, and has appeared on The Today Show and NPR’s Performance Today. Internationally, RCB tours every several years, most recently in Italy last summer. RCB has produced 15 commercial recordings, the latest of which are ‘River City Brass 30 Years’ and Christmas Brasstacular.’ Over its history, RCB has had three maestros. The astute selection of Dr. James Gourlay three years ago was a watershed moment for American brass band music. James, a Scotland native, is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest brass band conductors. An acclaimed tuba soloist, he began his career at age 18 as the principal tubist of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra of the Zurich Opera. James also conducted Great Britain’s Grimethorpe Colliery Band, leading one of the most internationally lauded and prominent brass ensembles in the world on a touring schedule throughout the British Isles, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
River City Brass Band
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Member: Conductor: Drew Fennell
Assistant Conductor: Matthew Litterini
Percussion Ensemble Conductor: Phil Webster
Horn & Trumpet Coach: Jason Allison
Trombone Coach: Bruce Lazier
Euphonium & Tuba Coach: Ross Cohen