Every now and again, whether it be in the world of music, sport or indeed any other field, a new sensation emerges; a burgeoning talent that has just that little something extra, that 'x' factor that marks them out from the rest of the field; a flair that could only be described as undeniably special. One such talent, and currently the source of much anticipation and excitement, is James Fountain.
At just 14 years of age, James has made strides that belie his tender years. A product of a vibrant and healthy music programme at The Salvation Army's Kettering Citadel Corps, where he began his tutelage, James has invariably progressed to the end of the bench of whichever band he has been a member, from The Salvation Army's Territorial Youth Band to Northamptonshire County Youth Band and more recently to the holy grail of the Principal Cornet chair (joint with Ben Hirons) in the National Youth Band of Great Britain, coincidently a feat also achieved at the same age by James' current Musical Director of Virtuosi GUS Band, John Berryman.
In March of this year, James joined the Virtuosi GUS Band, making his debut performance on Repiano Cornet at the Midlands Areas, helping the band qualify for the Nationals at the Royal Albert Hall this October. A performance at the Grand Shield followed, and after impressing in that seat, together with stellar performances for all the other bands for whom he has played, James' form has not gone unnoticed and he has since been promoted to the co-Principal Cornet chair of Virtuosi GUS. Ben Godfrey will occupy the end seat for the Nationals, while James will feature as the Principal Cornet in the band's concert programmes. James looks forward to benefiting from Ben's experience, who himself came through the ranks at GUS and whose talent was, coincidently, first spotted by John Berryman, before he moved onto YBS Band and latterly the world of professional trumpet playing as well as going into the Armed Forces.
At just age three James picked up his first cornet under the guidance of his father, renowned soprano cornet player Gary Fountain. Within a year James was playing his first public solo in front of about 500 people at a Salvation Army Christmas carol concert.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing James play would agree that he possesses a classic, golden tone, allied with an innate musicianship that arguably cannot be taught. Add to this a solid technique and you have makings of a very fine player indeed. However, this would not be possible without the work ethic and willingness to learn that has been instilled in him from an early age.
Following in the footsteps of his father, James has gained valuable experience on soprano cornet and indeed completed his first two courses with The Salvation Army's Territorial Youth Band on that instrument. However, his decision to focus solely, at least for the time being, on his development on Bb cornet will surely pay dividends.
James is keen to stress that he would not be where he is today without the influence of a number of people, namely Gary Rose, Principal Euphonium of Kettering Citadel Band, James' parents, who have always encouraged his development as a young musician and also the inspiration of David Daws, Richard Marshall and Peter Roberts.
This new academic year sees James take up monthly lessons with Black Dyke Principal Cornet, Richard Marshall, as well as continuing regular lessons with his teacher of three years, John Hudson, formerly Principal Cornet of GUS. James is also looking forward to continuing his development under the guiding hand of John Berryman at GUS, whose wisdom and encouragement is bound to inspire any aspiring musician.
One of the challenges for James this year will be juggling his commitments with GUS, Kettering SA Young People's Band and Northamptonshire County Youth Band with his schooling, in this, the first of his GCSE years. A first Nationals contest performance at the Royal Albert Hall this October beckons, where James will provide support to Ben Godfrey from the Assistant Principal chair. Add to these commitments intermittent appearances for the NYBB and SA Territorial Youth Band, as well as an increasing number of solo engagements and it is clear that there are busy times ahead for James. Not that he would have it any other way!
Whilst James is by no means the finished article, it is clear that with hard graft and application he has the talent, and perhaps more importantly the desire, to make it to the top of the banding world. Only time will tell how far this young man will go, but it is clear the seeds have been sown of a potential superstar in the making.