Photo of James McGowan

James McGowan

Associate Professor; Jazz Camp Managing Director

Degrees:B.Mus. (Composition, Toronto), M.Mus. (Composition, Toronto), M.M. (Music Theory, North Texas), Ph.D. (Theory, Eastman), A.R.C.T. (Piano Performance)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 3735
Office:A818 Loeb Building

James McGowan is an educator, music theorist, pianist, and composer. In addition to teaching music theory, musicianship, composition, Dr. McGowan serves as Carleton University Chair in Teaching Innovation (2020–), in which he administers the PLACE project supporting pedagogical connections between Music and the Sprott School of Business, research in Global Music Ensembles, and arts on campus by administering a Songwriting and Poetry Competition. He has also served as Assistant Director of the Carleton Jazz Camp (2011–), Supervisor of Performance Studies, Supervisor of Ensembles, Masterclasses and Practica, and Undergraduate Supervisor. He was the recipient of a Carleton Teaching Achievement Award (2013), as well as multiple “Favourite Facultyresidence awards, Carleton New Faculty Excellence in University Teaching Award, “Raving Raven Teaching Excellence” award, a Carleton University Student Association Teaching Excellence Award, and MSU Teaching Award for Humanities (2007, McMaster University). He has been a clinician and adjudicator for different arts organizations (Junos, Kiwanis, Lions, Canadian Music Showcase, City of Ottawa Arts Grants, etc.), and given workshops on topics including introductory improvisation, choral singing, jazz piano approaches, jazz music theory, and managing performance anxiety.

His primary research involves the theory, analysis, and pedagogy of tonal music, especially tonal jazz. His work has been published in Canadian Music Educator, Jazz Perspectives, Journal of Jazz Studies, Intégral, Discourses in Music, Proceedings of The Phenomenon of Singing International Symposium V and CAML Review, with other research forthcoming. He was accepted as a Fellow of the prestigious Mannes Institute for the Advanced Study of Music Theory (2008). He is currently Editor of the Jazz Theory Bibliography, searchable online database, affiliated with the Society for Music Theory, Jazz-Interest Group.

As a pianist, he specializes in improvised musics, and has performed in Canada, the United States, and Europe. In recent years, he has released four albums as co-leader: 4K (2020) and Two Intents (2017) with Modasaurus (a jazz-fusion quartet that performs Dr. McGowans compositions), Songs from the Bridge (2018) with EvenSong (a jazz-gospel quintet, funded by a grant from the United Church of Canada), and Over the Mountain(2017) with percussionist Dong-Won Kim, (who performs with Yo-yo Mas Silk Road Ensemble). He is an award-winning composer for voice, choir, chamber ensemble, electronic music, and jazz combos. His compositions and arrangements have been performed (or selected for performance) by the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Coro Vivo, Atlantic Voices of Ottawa, Carleton University Choir, Alexander Singers and Players (Toronto), and others. He has performed in music festivals, including the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Stewart Park Festival (Perth), Skylight Festival (Paris, Ontario), and Merrickville’s Jazz Festival.

Selected music links:

Modasaurus: Funky Pterodactyl” (McGowan 2021).

Modasaurus 4K

Jeff Wiseman with the Carleton University Choir, directed and arranged by James McGowan: Silver Eyes,” “Wading Through the Snow” (arr. McGowan 2015).

James McGowan: The ClimbPrelude and Fugue, composed and performed by McGowan (2012), based on melodies recorded by Miley Cyrus.

Selected Reviews of Modasaurus 4K:

Jazz Journal
All About Jazz
Postmedia Newspapers (syndicated column)
Take Effect

Selected Research Articles:

“Mitigating European-Centric Bias in University Music Theory Curricula,” Canadian Music Educator 62 (2): 12–20. [2021]

“Riemann’s Functional Framework for Extended Jazz Harmony.” Intégral 24: 115–133. [2012]

“Psychoacoustic Foundations of Contextual Harmonic Stability in Jazz Piano Voicings.” Journal of Jazz Studies 7, No. 2 (Fall): 156–191. [2011]

“‘Consonance’ in Tonal Jazz: A Critical Survey of its Semantic History.” Jazz Perspectives2.1: 69–102. [2008]