As near as we can tell, TROMBA has done it again! The TROMBA Plastic Trumpet is a hit. Known as the Allora in the United States, these surprisingly resonant instruments meld plastic and valves to a whole new height.
These quality plastic trumpets are great for beginners because they are not only less expensive and more impervious to abuse, but lighter as well. This will no doubt bring them into younger and younger fingers, as has their older brother-The TROMBA Plastic Trombone.
This calls for a new set of 5-minute Lessons which will not start too high nor too low, and restrict the initial valve considerations to the simplicity of just two valves. Using melodies that are sung and buzzed, and a relaxed approach to breathing AND playing, The Brubeck 5-minute Lessons for Bb Trumpet will help little ones sound their first notes. An early focus on ear training via a “chromatic tetrachord” of just a minor third, builds listening and embouchure strength more securely. Engraved by Michael Nunez, each is part of a 26 page method that comes free with each TROMBA/Allora Trombone or Trumpet. Enjoy!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Striking. Fresh. Bold. Innovative. Like the first recordings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet, or the Initial engaging performances of the Canadian Brass, MNOZIL BRASS has set brass chamber music on its ear and changed the course of history. Born as a quintet in 1991 with friends from the university in a local bar named Mnozil, they added two members in 1996, and stage direction in 2001. THOMAS GANSCH, ROBERT ROTHER, ROMAN RINDBERGER, LEONHARD PAUL, GERHARD FÜSSL, ZOLTAN KISS, WILFRIED BRANDSTÖTTER-three trumpets, three tenor trombones and tuba, Thomas Gansch speaks for the group as “FIVE!”tm (ahem, plus TWO!), is delighted to welcome the revolutionary Mnozil Brass to our theatre- the curtain rises!
1. “Applied Brass” is where the rubber hits the road. Please talk about your relationship with your audiences and how they may differ from those of traditional concert ensembles.
Music is the most direct art form. You get back what you give immediately, but the relationship between musician and audience is defined by the player. I, for example, am always looking for eye contact with audience members. It encourages me to see peoples’ reactions to our show. With a brass instrument, it´s just great fun to use the whole dynamic scale and watch the audience reactions to that. You can make them cry, cheer, cover their ears or dance in their seats-it´s like telling stories. The difference for classical audiences is that they never know what´s going to happen in our show, and I think they like that!
2. The chemistry (or positive interactions) between the members of Mnozil Brass seems extraordinary. How did you meet? How do you keep it going ?
Wilfried, Gerhard and myself met around 1991 and started the group in the fall of 1992 together with some friends from the music university. In the beginning, we were playing mostly as a quintet. The septet line up happened in 96; that was also the time when the group got more “professional”.
in 2001 we did our first show with a director and choreographer. As you can see, everything developed very slowly and maybe that is one of the main reasons why we´re still having fun. There was never a “hype” about us; everything developed very naturally. As a matter of fact, we had already had made a living with the group for some years, before the media in Austria discovered us. Everything happened within the brass community, and by the time we became known to a wider public, we had already worked together for about 13 or 14 years.
3. “See our Music”, your additions to brass presentations go way beyond the traditions of simple blocking, and even beyond choreography. It is Theatre! How did you arrive at this amazing break-through of presenting bras concert music as theatre?
We achieved this by working with an actor/director named bernd jeschek, who had come to us after seeing one of our early, very wild performances. Our first shows were very free: a set list and a lot of “improv” on stage-some good, some bad. The main problem was our lack of timing. Seven jokes at a time; he showed us that less was more. 4. “Smell the Stage Performance” How much time have you spent training and developing as actors? Anyone with a drama background prior to Mnozil?
It´s all learning by doing;no special background.
5. “No note too hot” How do you approach jazz, and who likes to improvise?
Everyone in the group comes from a different direction and adds his favorites to the group repertoire. The jazz specialists are Leonhard and myself. For me, I can say that i grew up with mostly Czech brass music and i had two more, huge musical awakenings as a teenager. One was when I heard Queen for the first time. The second, was seeing Dizzy Gillespie on television. That changed my game completely!
6. Do you have any favorite arrangers? Any in house?
Arrangers in general? Well, Thad Jones, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Frank Foster, Henry Mancini-mostly big band and film music specialists. 7. Arrangers in the group?
7. “No Music Too Inferior”. While you present a variety of styles, the quality remains exceptional. Which styles seem to offer a wealth of unexplored music?
The more styles=the more fun. that way it doesn´t get boring too soon. It´s as simple as that…
8. What does the bass trumpet add to the group? Does euphonium figure in your plans?
In terms of sound, it´s the larger brother of the flugelhorn, and it fits in a suitcase, so it´s relatively easy to transport. Easier than a euphonium anyway…
9. Three trombones, all tenors; why no bass trombone?
We´re more flexible like that. 10. Mnozil’s tavern? What’s it like to start a brass group in a bar? How has it influenced you?You learn very quickly how to not bore the audience. (‘Cuz if you do; you´ll get nothing to drink!)
11. What are your favorite recordings of brass?
Some of my personal favorites:
all of the soundtracks to the old Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies,
because of the incredible combination of the brass section of the London Symphony Orchestra in the 70´s and 80´s (led by Maurice Murphy on first trumpet), together with John Williams incredible scores. These are still some of my favorite music from the 20th century.
Also, the old recordings from the Czech Army Central Orchestra or the Subraphone orchestra. These are the two wind bands i grew up listening to, and they still leave me in awe with their perfect phrasing and musicianship.
And all the great big band brass sections: Basie, Ellington, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Billy May, even better with Conrad Gozzo, Al Porcino or Snookey Young on lead!
12. Whatsoever things= All the best! C U on tour!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Sergio Carolina was raised in the century old band traditions of Portugal and has dveeloped into a world class soloist who is equally at home with Bach, Funk and most everything in-between. The Fourth Valve sails the Atlantic to boogie with master tubist Sergio Carolina. Enjoy! 1. What does your homeland mean to you, and how does it inspire your music?
First of all, thanks so much for considering me for this interview. Well, my homeland has had such a great influence on my development, not only as a musician but also as a man. I come from a small city 100km north of Lisbon, named Alcobaça. It’s near the Atlantic Ocean, the beautiful beaches of Nazaré and São Martinho do Porto bay. It’s a very beautiful region where the culture and tradition of the amateur wind bands are alive and have been for long time. Some of these amateur wind bands have existed for more than a century!! I was lucky to have in my town a very nice amateur wind band “Banda de Alcobaça”. I was very interested in learning music as a child. I joined the wind band’s school of music in order to learn an instrument with hopes to try to become a member of the band. These were my first steps and contact with the music and this wonderful and very special instrument – the TUBA.
2. When did you fall in love with the sound of the tuba, and why?
I’ve tried some instruments before the tuba: the trumpet and the bassoon but with no success. Then a professor told me: “Sérgio, there’s an old King EEb tuba in the corner, lets try it!” Since I already knew the fingerings from the trumpet, I immediately began to make some good sounds and could make a scale right way. So, it was like “Love at the first Sound!” ☺
3. What is it about jazz that makes you want to play it? What are the most satisfying ways that you can imagine a tubist playing in a jazz group?
Since I was a little boy learning tuba to play on the wind band, some of my closest friends and I discovered jazz, funky, Dixieland and second lines bands like Louis Armstrong (and his Hot Five and Hot Seven), Bob Scobey Frisco Band, Dukes of Dixieland, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy and Sam Pilafian’s Travelling Light.
We all started to catch on to this music, and wrote down on a paper some of these tunes. By making our own arrangements and starting to trying to understand how to phrase like them by spending thousand of hours listening and listening, imitating, trying to understand (so many hours, uffff!!!!)
Many of these friends are today professional musicians and I have been privileged to create bands and special projects with them!
I think that the most satisfying way that a tuba player can have playing in a jazz group would be to making the bass line, to imitate a double bass or electric band and make people forget that they are listening a tuba… Be a part of a great rhythm section with drums, guitar, piano, accordion or vibraphone it’s just amazing! Feeling that you are like the brain of the ensemble by knowing that the bass defines the tempo, harmony, style and controls the dynamic it’s just fabulous!
4. How is your warm-up different known than it was as a college student?
To be realistic, I warm up my body and brain and not my instrument.
When I pick the tuba it’s to make some technical, physical or muscles exercises or to play music. Over the years, and because of playing so many styles of music (and with different musicians coming from different cultures and styles), I become more practical. I developed a strong concept about what kind of sound I want.
Quality of Sound, Tuning, Rhythm and Phrasing/Style are the most important to me and I try to keep developing it Everyday!
5. Which tuba sonatas and concertos do you think are strong enough that a cellist would consider performing them as transcriptions?
I think that a cellist will have difficulty in choosing some good tuba music to play and include in their repertoire, BUT I think that we as tubists are finally beginning to have great music for our instrument that would fit on any string instrument! And many of that music it’s composed by tuba players who become better and better composers and … conductors! Yeah!☺
I think that the future is with us, but I’m always a very positive guy (at least, I try!).
6. What do you look for in an instrument?
Any instrument of music and in particular, the tuba, should try to imitate the voice – which it’s the most perfect and the most natural of all instruments!
We should strive to make audiences forget that we are playing a brass instrument and make them listen the sound, the music and (most importantly), make them understand the message that we have in our mind!
Being a musician is something very special and unique so, we should be happy and enjoy this gift every single second!
7. How did you develop your range and flexibility?
I could simply say that it was only due to so many hours of practice and study of the instrument in a very analytical way, but this not the only thing I have made in order to develop my range, flexibility and elasticity.
In fact, most of what I do is aimed towards getting the most information possible to the brain through my eyes. As with all brass players, what we do when playing the instrument comes from the inside of the mouth and body and can’t be seen. Many times, we are not really sure of the way we are doing most things… we need to be very creative in order to make the brain understand what we are doing, and how we are doing it so that we can do exactly the same thing the same way with no mistakes-everyday!
In order to change my playing and elevate my musical level, my philosophy in this matter needed a huge change! I started to visualize music and its processes through my eyes as much as possible so that the information could be grasped by my brain as clearly as possible!
Any problem or difficulty that a brass player that comes, at least most of the time, is from inside the body so we can’t see it! We are like blind people! If you compare our situation to that of a cellist, their problems and difficulties in playing or posture are much easier for them to see and to correct them. Why is that? Because they can see it! They simply need to look with their eyes and an not only see what needs to be changed, but change it quickly! The visual information goes to their brains very quickly and very clearly so the brain can understand what to change! I have been able to do the same thing in my playing by using my imagination, and have begun to get much better results while exerting much less effort.
For those who might be interested, my writings on this subject will soon be available in a book of mine, which has been edited by the Portuguese Musical AVA Editions (www.editions-ava.com). The focus is on Muscles, The Mind and Mechanical Exercises. The working title is “Mind & Lip Benders”. At the same time, another small book will be also released named “Itchy Bass Lines”.
8. Which music inspires you? Other things?
I like and enjoy any kind of music that is made with artistry and artistic integrity, whether from New Orleans Street second lines brass bands to Australian aboriginal natives or African percussion ensembles!
I listen to several hours of music everyday. For me, this is like putting vitamins, proteins, magnesium, calcium… in my brain and my body!
Some of my main inspirations in music include: Johann Sebastian Bach, Béla Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Olivier Messiean, Miles Davis, Hermeto Pascoal, Ella Fitzgerald, Pablo Casals, Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Big Band, Clifford Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Albert Mangeldforff and Gyorgy Ligeti.
9. Whatsoever Things…
To end this little interview, I think that the most important it’s to give always our best in any kind of things we do in life. Be generous, humble, open minded, kind and honest. If you do these things, your life will be much better and you will feel the respect from others around you.
You will feel your to your very soul the richness of life and the peace relaxation.
Peace, Love & Groove to all of you who read this interview!
Principal Tuba | Porto Symphony Orchestra Casa da Musica Professor at the Porto Superior Conservatory of Music and Arts, ESMAE International Yamaha Artist
E. email@example.com https://www.facebook.com/sergio.carolino.3
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Pick your favorite tenor valve man. For those who have left their mark in jazz, the list must include the legendary valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, who was a co0l jazz sideman turned leader, composer, educator, and master of the jazz duo. Perhaps the earliest “Titan of Tenor Valves” was the solid valve-trombone playing sideman of Duke Ellington-the composer, soloist and studio musician Juan Tizol.
The greatest exemplar of the craft of tenor valve jazz on euphonium was Rich Matteson, whom emigrated from playing bass horn(tuba), in the Dukes of Dixieland, to trading it in for the tenor horn as a sideman with Clark Terry, Phil Wilson and others. A leader and world renown educator, Rich established the jazz programs at the then North Texas State University and The University of North Florida. The current occupant of the “Rich Matteson” Chair at UNF is the hard-swinging Marc Dickman. A longstanding and well known advocate of euphonium, “The Fourth Valve” tm Bops with Marc. Come along for the ride!
1. How do you conceptualize the ideal solo euphonium sound?
It depends a little on what playing situation I am in. Brighter for jazz, but still sounding like a euphonium. Darker for classical. Too dark and you can sound tubby. Listen to great players and emulate their great sound. You will discover that it takes a lot of air!
2. As far as we can tell, you are one of only about five full time tenured professors who are euphonium players nationwide. Why is there such a disparity in numbers as compared with tuba?
I have also doubled on trombone most of my life. I would not have this job if I did not play and teach trombone. You may be surprised to find that some of those other guys double some as well. The common college set up is to have a faculty brass quintet with the traditional instrumentation. That leaves us out of luck. Just this year UNF formed an excellent quintet with bass-trombone on the low part and I play the trombone part on euphonium. It sounds great! Your colleagues need to be open minded about instrumentation. Great players will find a way to blend and sound great on any instrumental combination.
3. What did Rich Matteson in particular and Jack Peterson mean to you?
Everything! Rich hired me at the age of 26 to come to the University of North Florida. Jack is the Yoda of jazz education and a great friend. Rich set such a high standard, few people will ever achieve it. That doesn’t mean we can’t try!
4. Clark Terry used euphonium as a complimentary instrument with trumpet in the place of saxophone or trombone. Where can euphonium work best in jazz?
I think it is up to the leader! The possibilities are out there. Everyone that hears a jazz euph says what a great sound it has.
5. It seems that the Trombone Studios at Indiana University, The University of North Texas and Northwestern University have popularized the “team” approach to teaching. How do you handle it at UNF? How does it work best? What are the pitfalls,
It is great to have some great colleagues. We talk about teaching a lot and everyone is a team player. Everyone has a total commitment to the students.
6. What is the best jazz euphonium playing you have done?
I had a great time playing with my friend Joe Dollard (video of Joe at ITEC below),at the ITEC last summer. The rhythm section was amazing. Jazz seems to be a little more of a team sport than soloing with a piano or band. It is cool knowing that after my solo, the pianist will kick some butt, too.
8. How do you view Bob Brookmeyer’s playing, and do you ever use valve trombone?
I love Bob and have a bunch of his records. If Rich was the Clifford Brown and Frank Rosolino of the euphonium, Bob was the Chet Baker and Miles of the valve trombone. I used to play valve bone when I soloed with the UNF Jazz Bones, but other than that I don’t play it anymore.
If you are a euphonium player and want to play in a jazz band and don’t want to play slide, it is the way to go. Bass trumpet anyone?
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Beth Wiese is an award winning soloist, an accomplished orchestral player, and innovative chamber musician. A forward thinking entreprenuer, she is about to become Dr. Wiese, and takes a moment to reflect and look ahead. “The Fourth Valve” tm is proud to present Beth Wiese. Enjoy!
1. How do you conceive of the ideal tuba sound?
Ultimately, I view sound as a vehicle for musical expression. Which isn’t to say that it’s not important, but that the concept of my “ideal tuba sound” is fluid. In a great sound, what I hear is musical integrity, character, class and presence. In effect, the goal is that the sound should not undermine the musical idea. I am often influenced by the idea of the “artisan” vs. the “artist.” The “artisan” represents the technical work that goes into playing our instrument, whereas the “artist” represents the musical expression. The relationship is symbiotic, and work on one aspect often leads to improvement in the other. Ultimately, however, I want people to hear the “artist,” not the “artisan.”
With specific regard to the tuba, I think a good sound is achieved through a balance of depth and clarity; namely, tone vs. articulation. A good tuba sound should consist mostly of tone, but the articulation is what provides the clarity, brilliance, and definition to our sound. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in achieving a good sound was from Rex Martin, who always emphasized the same characteristics of depth and clarity in our minds and on the mouthpiece. This invariably led to producing a richer, better sound on the instrument.
2. What helps you be more musically expressive?
Listening. Before I started playing the tuba, I played the violin and really developed a love for string repertoire — Brahms sextets, Mendelssohn trios and octet, Borodin quartets, Ravel, Debussy, Elgar…you get the idea. Whenever I hit a musical “road block,” or simply am struggling for inspiration, that’s where I turn. In great performances of those works, the phrasing is this beautiful balance between creativity and logic; it sounds completely fresh, but also like it couldn’t possibly be played any other way. That kind of conviction is inspiring and what I think we should all aspire to in our musical endeavors.
From a practical perspective, I have a few ideas that I enjoy using in my practicing. The first is playing with recordings — whether it be whatever I’m practicing or sight-reading. This is my favorite part of the day — sticking in a pair of headphones and playing along with the CSO/Martinon Nielsen 4 recording, or the Britten/Rostropovich recording of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, or whatever else…it’s impossible to not be inspired musically, and to feel that musicality from such an intimate perspective is a great learning experience, in my opinion.
Lastly, thinking about music in the simplest units possible — literally note-by-note — helps me achieve an organic musical expression. I think there are only two types of notes — those that lead somewhere, or those that are arrivals. In effect, pick-ups or downbeats. Understanding how each note operates within a phrase gives it a sense of purpose, and can be a great musical exercise — especially with lyrical studies such as Bordogni-Rochut etudes, etc. As a former string player, I used to put bowings into my Conconne etudes, and that is a pretty similar idea, and a really fun exercise!
3. Who and what are your inspirations? (Musical & Non-Musical)
My teachers have been a great source of inspiration: Marty Erickson, Mike Roylance and Rex Martin. They’ve all been tremendously successful, but with very different approaches to their craft. I couldn’t have asked for better mentors in this field, personally or professionally. As tuba players, I think we’re pretty lucky to have so many genuinely good, generous and talented people at the top of our field.
Non-musically, there are all sorts of inspiring people in this world — though I might be disinherited if I didn’t say my parents first (kidding!). But I’m truly lucky to have parents that have been so supportive of me while also setting a great example of pursuing their own passions with great conviction. I’m also really into food (…said every tuba player, ever), and find the parallels between a well thought out and executed menu or the philosophy behind modern cuisine to be applicable to music, as well.
4. You have had some extraordinary experiences and are very well educated. Have different approaches to the tuba more often become false paths or different perspectives from which to choose the best?
Some combination of both, I think. Having been on the “school path” for quite some time now, I’ve worked with a number of tuba players — all of whom have been tremendously successful and have a very clear, well-thought out approach to the tuba and music in general. In some cases it’s been really helpful, inspiring and affects the way I approach music or tuba playing. In other cases, it’s been a lesson that what works for some people doesn’t work for others. Ultimately we all learn differently, but the teachers that have had the most profound effect on my playing are those that have been able to teach in the subtlest or seemingly simplest of ways. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the course of studying with a number of different teachers is not to go searching for the problem, but the solution. Simply hearing a phrase in your heading, buzzing it or imitating someone else’s sound can greatly improve one’s playing without dwelling on the “problem,” in my opinion.
5. Which concepts have you been taught to achieve results in seemingly oppositional manners?
The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of improvement by “taking something great, and making it even better.” When working with a student, I believe in finding whatever it is that student did best, and then working on it until they achieve a level of excellence. From there, you can work backwards down into the most problematic areas. What is seemingly opposition, I suppose, is the fact that the collective level of everything else almost always goes up, too — a by-product of essentially “teaching” or inspiring confidence. For me, confidence has rarely been intuitive and learning this way has helped innately improve the overall level of my playing without addressing many of the most negatives aspects of it. This is also very relevant in my own practice — I make it a priority to start every day by playing something that will sound good, before moving into the weaker areas of my playing or those that need more attention on any given day.
6. With Rex Martin, you have been very close to the teachings of Arnold Jacobs. As you travel, how have you found his message afar from Chicago?
I never met Arnold Jacobs, so I can really only speak to the things I’ve learned from his students (mainly Rex Martin) as well as that I’ve learned second-hand from books, recordings, etc. That being said, it’s pretty amazing how far that message has traveled, and how it has meant different things to different people — especially non-tuba players. Being a student at Northwestern, we were sort of indoctrinated into this idea of the “Chicago” style — an idea centered around the playing and pedagogy of legends like Jacobs, Herseth, Cichowicz and the like. As we move into a new generation of brass players, and become further removed from this prior generation, it will be interesting to see if and how that message — and that specifically of Arnold Jacobs — might change.
7. What has the New World Symphony experience meant to you as a musician, a person and an entrepreneur?
The approach to learning at the New World Symphony is very “hands-on”, and reinforces the concept of the 21st century musician as a truly multi-faceted individual. What inspires me at New World is the fact that everyone embraces this idea of reinvigorating and inspiring a new generation of audiences and performers alike. The collaborative atmosphere is inspiring and safe at the same time — as a musician, I feel inspired to work hard, but also comfortable enough to take risks. I couldn’t ask for more; however, a free apartment on Miami Beach isn’t bad, either…
As a musician, one huge benefit of the New World Symphony is the guest coaches they bring in on a weekly basis. These coaches work with us for a couple of days at a time — teaching lessons, leading studio classes and sitting in on orchestra rehearsals. Unlike a school environment, the feeling is more “collegial” — personally, these experiences have taught me how to target what I can learn from each artist in the short amount of time they’re here, what I can glean from their personal experiences, and how I can use their teaching and experiences to my benefit and that of our section.
8. Tuba is incredibly strong and influential in a supportive role, but the setting has to be right for it to capture the listener’s ear with concurrent timbres.
Good point, and the question I think we have to ask our egos sometimes is, “should we be heard?” What does it mean to “capture the listener’s ear”? Sometimes our goal is exactly that — to be the center of attention, I guess. But sometimes, I think that means turning the listener’s ear subtly towards somewhere else. It reminds me a bit of being in front of a soundboard in the way one adjusts the balance by turning one knob up, one down, etc.
9. The topic for Seraph Brass seems to be well thought out, refreshing, and salient. Can you take us through it?
Seraph Brass started sometime back in 2013/14 with the idea of finding like-minded women who wanted to form a brass quintet. I talked about it with a few friends, and then was contacted by Mary Bowden, a trumpeter who lives in Naples, FL and spear-headed the meeting of the five of us. Forming a group with women from — literally — around the country was a leap of faith, but couldn’t have turned out better.
Looking at the direction that classical music is headed, having a great product is no longer enough in this industry. In addition to being great performers, groups need to have a clear purpose and salient message in mind when reaching out to their audiences. Seraph’s mission is to bring a fresh perspective to a wide range of quintet repertoire, including a number of arrangements we’ve procured and commissions in the works. Personally, I don’t often feel comfortable drawing attention to the fact that I’m a female tuba player in a mostly male-dominated field. However, as female brass players, I think we do have a different perspective that is worth sharing. Moreover, if putting ourselves out there as a group can inspire other female brass players to feel more confident or inspire other young girls to take up the instrument, I’m all for it — and that is really the core of our group mission.
10. How have the impressive non-musical skills of Seraph’s members influenced its course?
Starting a group like Seraph Brass from scratch has been a great lesson in business savvy and real-world skills. You begin with this lofty, exciting goal of starting a chamber group with people who are equally as excited as you are, then try to balance that with the practical realities of time, logistics, money (!), opportunities, ideas, opinions and whatever else might crop up. Cyclists often talk about training in terms of finding their “sweet spot,” which is the optimal balance of intensity and volume to achieve maximum power, or results. I see many similarities here — the goal is to find a balance of resources that work best for us as a group and will yield the best results. With Seraph Brass, I’m very fortunate that each of us brings a different strength to the group, and shares those skills so selflessly and with the best interest of the group in mind.
11. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
Great tuba playing has meant a lot of different things to me at different times in my life. I’ll always love the first tuba CD I ever bought — Eugene Dowling’s “The English Tuba” — the one and only tuba CD I ever found in a store in Davenport, Iowa. I tried to emulate everything on that CD, from the repertoire to the phrasing and evening the breathing. Other great recordings that come to mind are the CSO/Martinon recording of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Michael Lind’s “Virtuoso Tuba,” anything with John Fletcher and the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, John Fletcher’s recording of the Vaughan Williams Concerto with André Previn, Roger Bobo’s recording of the Galliard and Madsen Sonatas, Stephane Labeyrie’s CD “Recital,” and many, many, many others.
12. Any thoughts on European as compared with American approaches to music with the tuba?
I think the divide between “European” and “American” styles of brass playing is slowly closing, especially as the Internet brings this generation of musicians closer than ever. With things like the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall, or the Met broadcasts, we can listen to many of the same recordings. Having played only a little bit in Europe, I notice a few small things — like instrument choice — but otherwise the concepts and approaches to the tuba seem very familiar and universal, I think.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
With dozens of albums, legions of successful alumni, Carnegie Hall recitals and countless premieres of new works and arrangements for tuba, The Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble (TTTE), has done everything a college group can possibly do-short of facing Ohio State in The Rose Bowl, and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them! At the heart of the TTTE is the Sargent-General, a man of unequaled accomplishments in the realm of tuba ensembles, a founder of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association (T.U.B.A.),an accomplished tubist and legendary teacher and molder of young men and women, R. Winston Morris. It was he and Connie Weldon who shaped the modern ensemble, and Morris’ many contributions to tuba literature are unsurpassed. “The Fourth Valve” tm Rocks with Winston Morris!
How do you conceive or describe the ideal tuba sound?
I can’t describe the ideal tuba sound. I can hear it… I can’t verbalize it! And of course there are many different “ideal” sounds. Is the tuba playing with the bass section? The horn section? The trombone section? Doubling bassoons? Playing jazz, playing quintet, playing an F, E flat, CC or BB flat tuba? Etc. This really identifies why we musicians are dealing with ART and not SCIENCE. I guess science could tell us a perfect tuba sound.
Of course the tuba “sound” is one of the most complicated brass wind generated “sounds” there is anyway. When you’re starting from the bottom there is much more potential for generating overtones/partials at different strengths than higher instruments.
After over 50 years of teaching and performing with virtually half the tuba/euphonium population on the planet and documenting most repertoire and recordings ever done for the tuba the answer is there is no simple answer. I STILL learn something virtually every time a student walks in my studio.
If there is anyone out there in brass land who thinks they have all the answers they are wrong! What works for one individual may well be the exact opposite of what “works” for someone else. I know many successful performers who are great but you would not have someone else emulated the way they play the horn because it simply would not work for someone with a different physical configuration which is a minor consideration relative to concept of sound. I’ve known players who could pick up a plastic Sousaphone and sound better than other players on a $25,000 state of the art brass instrument! Mind over matter really does exist!!!!
2. When it comes to jobs, you certainly aren’t a “tire-kicker”! What are some things that you can only find out about yourself and a place when you are in it for the long haul?
Well as I conclude my 48th year of teaching at Tennessee Tech University I guess you could consider that a “long haul.”
What a lot of people don’t know is that I was a high school band director (Martinsville, Virginia) for two years in 1962-64 before I studied with the late great William J.(Bill) Bell at IU in 1964. I also spent a year teach at what was then known as Mansfield State University in Pennsylvania before coming to Tennessee. This provided a fairly broad background of music education/performance/higher education experience which I have found valuable in dealing with a diverse population of students over the years.
To the specifics of your question, “what do you find out about yourself,” you find out that you cannot depend on any outside influences to motivate your professional aspirations! If you don’t have an inner drive and motivation you WILL burn out! I have two rules that I have followed since graduate school which I guess I can share with you which may or may not seem “indelicate” but nevertheless it’s the way it is! One: Nobody gives a S%#t!!! And, Two: There Ain’t No Justice!!!”
If you sit around waiting on other people to inspire you to excellence it ain’t gonna happen! If you think it ain’t fair that someone else who works less than you and is less competent makes more money and gets more attention than you do AND you let that upset your applecart, then you’re out of business.
There’s nothing greater than colleague support, and I’ve had immense support all my professional career. I am extremely thankful for this on a daily basis and I truly love all my fellow colleagues, but they have their own agenda (as it should be), or they will not be successful. Find a successful person in ANY walk of life and, whether they realize it or not, they must adhere to this philosophy or they simply will not survive. All of us know colleagues who have “burned” out way before their time. Bottom line, they simply did not have that inner self-motivation and were not getting enough pats on the back to hang in there. Maybe harsh, but that’s the way I read it 50 years later.
3. How do you stay hungry? And keep after it year after year?
I can only speak for myself. I LOVE what I do… I LOVE MUSIC… I LOVE making music… I LOVE hearing music… I LOVE teaching music… And by the way, I don’t teach TUBA and EUPHONIUM… I try to teach others how to make music on the tuba and on the euphonium. The cart is really ahead of the horse if the primary goal is blowing a horn. There is very little intrinsic value in just blowing air through a hunk of brass to see how loud and fast and high you can make a sound go. This is what the burnouts did/do. If you are making MUSIC you never burnout! Chops may go physically but you are still highly motivated.
If I were not doing what I’ve been doing for over 50 years I would have literally have no purpose in life! That’s how important it has to be, or forget it! If you don’t have that kind of commitment, then please get out of the business and quit exuding negative energy around your colleagues. Whatever the heck you’re doing, in or out of music or whatever other field, do it to the best of YOUR ability and that’s all that YOU or anyone else can possibly ask of you. If this is what you’re doing, regardless of what it is, you are a SUCCESS!!! Be the best damn garbage man you can possibly be, and you can hold your head high!!!
4. What is essential for a good warm up? Daily routine?
Any Bill Bell student can tell you about the “warm up from HELL” that he required of all his students. It was a total workout in every key from top to bottom that just wouldn’t end. Just ask Paul Krzywicki or Don Harry or any other Bell student what I’m talking about!
I DO believe in a good “warm up” routine. I do believe that each individual, after a lot of work and exposure to many different ideas, should develop their OWN best warm up. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another; therefore once a player has become their own person, I don’t believe in imposing any particular set of ideas on them. BUT, I do believe we need a good “warm up” simply to determine what kind of day we’re in for.
Everyone knows how inconsistent blowing a horn can be. You can have a “great” day or a “terrible” day and frequently with no discernable justification either way. If it’s a great day, just sit back and enjoy the heck out of it and blow that horn. If it’s a terrible day, you gotta dig in and that much harder. NO ONE cares if it’s a terrible day but YOU. (And you still have to do the gig!) But knowing what kind of day you’re dealing with is extremely important, and the best way to determine that is with a warm up of some kind which could last a minute or an hour. And then there are those days the car pulls up and you have 3 minutes before a quintet gig! We’ve all been there.
My approach to warm ups AND my primary approach to teaching the horn (gotta learn the horn first, then we can make music) is exhaustively dealing with FUNDAMENTALS. Starting with posture, respiration, articulation, etc. I drive my students crazy because I will not allow them to proceed in their attempts to make music with faulty fundamentals. This is another story that could go on and on. It’s like-don’t get me started!! If you don’t clean up the garbage NOW it will bite you in the ass sooner or later. AND it can happen in the middle of your professional career!!! I can name names of numerous people who, in mid-career, “lost it.” All kinds of reasons are given, and I’m sure valid for various individuals, but I have a sneaking suspicion that VERY early on there was a flaw in the fundamentals that were NOT dealt with at that time, but painted over-which years later came crumbling down. You’re building a 20 story building and there’s rust on the beams in the basement which were painted over. It all comes down, sooner or later.
5. How have you found such great success working with composers?
I learned early on that as a tubist we could never be any better than the repertoire we had available for the instrument. Generating new music for tuba and euphonium via compositions/transcriptions/arrangements has been a priority in my professional life. It would be difficult for me to give you an exact number, but through my personal career, studio and with various student and professional ensembles I have been involved with (we’re talking easily), over a thousand pieces generated. I have a huge number of large file cabinets filled with such works.
My basic approach with established composers has been to approach them as an equal partner in generating this or that new piece of music. It might involve a promise of a Carnegie Hall premiere (we’ve done 8 Carnegie appearances with my Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble, and are always premiering major new compositions), a promise that the piece will appear on the next recording (the 27th, yes, that’s twenty-seventh, recording project by the TTTE, EVOLUTIONS, appears this month, January, 2015 via Mark Records and Naxos on Amazon and all other outlets), a promise of other recordings (with SYMPHONIA, EUPHONIUMS UNLIMITED or our more recent jazz group, the MODERN JAZZ TUBA PROJECT, etc.), or a promise to be premiered at some important performance of regional, national or international significance, or, finally, as a promise of a commission!!!
NOTHING pleases me more (I guess other than any of my students being successful in “the” business) than premiering a new piece of music for tuba and euphonium. That has been one of my major driving forces for all these years. I still get a kick out of a new piece. I won’t go into the specifics but Mr. Bell and I wrote a book in 1964/65 documenting ALL the tuba repertoire we could identify at that time. It was published by Charles Colin in New York. Years later with the help of a lot of wonderful colleagues we have released a couple editions of the Tuba Source Book through Indian University Press. This documented the incredible growth of tuba/euphonium literature thanks the the efforts of many many like-minded colleagues who dedicated themselves to generating new music.
6. How has the specific (numbers of each instruments), of the tuba ensemble over the years?
This has been a very evolving picture. Without a doubt, the standard instrumentation is the “Tuba Quartet”, which usually involves two euphonium and two tubas. From group to group, this can vary and the use of F and CC tubas is flexible depending on the requirements of the composition.
The LARGE group can and does from one year to the next and one situation to the next involve various numbers of 4 to 10 euphoniums and anywhere from 8 to 16 tubas-(with or without a mix of F and CC tubas, once again).
We do it all at my school: from quartets, to sextets, to octets to the large ensemble. The large group is best known since it has existed, more or less in it’s still current instrumentation, for 48 years now. We’ve done a LOT of pieces featuring solo players on many different instruments.
Are there any complimentary ensemble timbres that composers added that worked particularly well? Solo timbres?
We’re looking at a couple new arrangements we will perform this spring featuring solo oboe and solo trumpet. AND yes, they work!!! Of course, we perform pieces that feature a solo euphonium or tuba all the time. My basic approach to programming over the years is that I want as much variety of timbres and literature as possible. Since it’s difficult to change the timbre too much, I look for pieces on a program with a lot of stylistic differences: from jazz to Baroque to pop to contemporary to avant garde. You name it, we need the experience performing it. 7. What is the best chamber music you have ever heard?
I performed with the Brass Arts Quintet, the resident professional faculty brass quintet at TTU, for 47 years. Due to extenuating personal commitments relative to my wife’s condition I decided a year and a half ago that I could no longer continue to promise the best playing possible. At that time, I turned the tuba chair over to my graduate assistant. Prior to this, we performed all the major pieces for quintet and this is great repertoire no doubt. The tuba ensemble repertoire at this point doesn’t quite compare with the quintet repertoire
8. Where can you envision the euphonium in a chamber ensemble (other than the tuba/euph. ensemble), so that the euphonium has an outlet equal (similar), to the outlet that the tuba has with the brass quintet?
Bottom line, euphoniumists MUST exert more effort into exploring professional options. With military bands being more or less the only game in town and with personnel being whacked with those bands it’s more critical than ever that dyed-in-the-wool euphoniumists explore every conceivable opportunity.
Years ago with the beginnings of T.U.B.A. (Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association, now International Tuba Euphonium Association) I had to insist with my tuba colleagues that the euphonium be an EQUAL partner in the formation of this organization. Not that the tubists involved were against the idea, it’s just that they weren’t thinking along these lines.
As Robert Ryker from the Montreal Philharmonic, Leslie Varner, Tuba Professor at Ball State University and myself worked tirelessly in Muncie, Indiana night and day constructing the initial constitution for T.U.B.A. this was debated and decided without equivocation that the euphonium, as a tenor tuba, MUST be included in everything T.U.B.A. During the First International Tuba Euphonium Symposium Harvey Phillips organized at Indiana University these same three people made necessary revisions to the initial document to submit to all attending to vote on to officially establish T.U.B.A. If I remember correctly it was the all-time-supreme-euphoniumist and Bill Bell’s favorite-the great Earle Louder who stood up! He offered an amendment correcting the language identifying the “tenor tuba” in constitution to specifically refer to instrument in this regard henceforth as “euphonium.” Thus, the die was cast and has been since that time up to the change of the name to include “euphonium” in ITEA.
In all honesty, as a non-euphoniumist, I don’t know that there has been anyone else who has supported and pushed the instrument to the extent that I have during the past 50 years. Of course I don’t include greats like Paul Droste, Brian Bowman, Ray Young, and all the great military euphoniumists who have existed over the years.
That being said, unfortunately it is currently a relatively sad state of affairs for the euphonium and the instrument needs much more exposure. I am speaking primarily of the status of the instrument in the United States. “Thank yous” are due the champions of the instrument: Brian Bowman, Adam Frey, Marcus Dickman (jazz) and others out there who are promoting the euphonium, but we need much more inventive thought and direction.
One of my former students, Darin Cochran, was perhaps the first full time euphoniumist to perform with a professional quartet/quintet, TOP BRASS, in the mid-late 1980s. Darin played the HORN part on a Mirafone (correct spelling in those days) five-valve rotary oval Kaiser Euphonium. He played the horn part where written! It worked and sounded great as attested to by their recordings. Norlan Bewley was the inspiration and tubist with that group. Recently Lance LaDuke, during his tenure with the Boston Brass, was known to pull out the ole euphonium from time to time.
So, there are these and other precedents involving the euphonium in brass chamber situations. Then we can go back to the all-time incredible Rich Matteson for jazz euphonium! That was as good as any jazz artist alive on any instrument. But what’s new??? Other than the usual chamber opportunities, brass bands, wind bands, vintage instrument bands, the euphonium players out there have to start shaking up the joint and exploring opportunities. Bottom line for me: the euphonium is the most versatile beautiful brass instrument there is! I want more…
c.2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved davidbrubeck.com
James Markey, virtuoso bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has recorded a suite of three Stereograms by David William Brubeck, for unaccompanied bass trombone on a new cd! On the heels of his performance of the suite in recital at the International Trombone Festival, Markey has added the selections to his already impressive and growing repertoire of solo material.
Stereograms have been described as “Bobby McFerrin meets the Bach Cello Suites”, and are rhythmic etudes which contain self accompaniment and give the aural illusion of two or three separate parts within a single melodic line.
Over 50 have been published by the International Trombone Association Press, Cherry Classics, and on line.
Aaron Tindall is a rare tandem of a sensational tuba virtuoso and accomplished euphonium player; he is both an expressive chamber musician and a solid orchestral performer. He possesses the heart of a student and the reflection of a teacher. The Fourth Valve is doubly pleased to welcome Aaron Tindall to respond as for both-tuba and euphonium!!
1. How do you conceive and describe the ideal tuba sound?
The ideal tuba sound/tone to me has an evenness of core and resonance/space in the sound. Having a symmetric space in the sound from the core/center of the tone is paramount to me. This is the place where other instruments within the orchestra are able to join “into” our sound, and find a resting point in the middle of the tone where our core should lie. The ways to achieve this delicate balance of “sound” are by learning to control various elements of our playing such as: volume of air/velocity of air and the appropriate mixture between the two based on register, aperture size, contact point/where a person’s lips meet, tongue position (front and back), soft palette height, oral cavity size/shape, teeth position, and the list goes on etc…
I never seem to be bothered if a student has a bright or dark sound. What is important to me is that he/she has a tone that is symmetrically even in all registers, and that along the way we are continuing to develop a broad spectrum of sound that can change at the drop of a hat when called upon to do so. Learning how to do this is where the rubber meets the road!
Euphonium – The ideal euphonium sound to me is as described above, but I would have to say that I tend to “prefer” more brilliance in a euphonium sound.
2. Doug Elliot is generally an advocate of keeping the same rim and changing cups when switching amongst different sized trombones. Bones Malone has advocated the concept of concentric circles, with the rim size changing around a fairly constant center. Which resonates more with you?
I prefer to keep the same rim size, while altering the other aspects of the mouthpiece such as the cup, throat, venturi, and backbore. I am all about muscle memory as the way we do anything-it is ultimately how we do everything. With this in mind, I like to keep the rim size exactly the same whether I play CC or F tuba. I have a new line of tuba mouthpieces, the Aaron Tindall Ultra Series, scheduled to launch next month with Denis Wick. I designed each of the eight models in consultation with Warren Deck in order to meet the challenging variety of situations facing tubists today.
We feel that upon trying these new models, the performer will immediately notice an increased sense of improved articulation, intonation, greater endurance, and significantly enhanced power in both the high and low registers. Along with these comes an ease of playing accompanied by a richer, broader, truer sound that we believe is currently unmatched by many of the other competitors in today’s market.
3. What has Aspen meant to you? How is it different as faculty vs. fellow? Being at Aspen for three summers changed my life! Having the opportunity to study closely with Warren Deck for nearly four years was a game changer for me. The way that I now approach music, and specifically brass playing, I certainly owe to him. Before my time at Aspen I had no “orchestral” experience, and had never touched the CC tuba. I had been labeled as a “solo player”, and mostly played the F tuba and euphonium. I had won a scholarship for that first summer via the Minnesota Orchestra’s annual WAMSO solo competition. After the competition, I remember Osmo Vanska distinctly telling me that going to Aspen would enhance my playing- he was right.
It was a unique experience for me during that first summer to show up to a lesson and learn “how” to create sound on a new (to me) mouthpiece and instrument. It was actually quite refreshing to take a step back in my playing, and learn how to be 100% fundamentally accurate on something that I believed had little resemblance to my euphonium or F tuba. In essence, it felt like I was learning how to play all over again. I can’t tell you how rewarding it felt at the end of that summer; I felt as though I had control physically, and mentally over my instrument, and now was free to musically express myself.
I became hooked on playing in a low brass section, and auditioned and won the orchestral tuba fellow position. This meant I was to spend the following two summers playing in the faculty-led Aspen Festival Orchestra. What a treat it was to learn the major orchestral rep/symphonies (which were new to me), as a larger version of “chamber music” while being surrounded by players from the Metropolitan Opera, New York, Chicago, LA, Montreal, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. Week in and week out, my mind was being transformed by the players and conductors with whom I had the distinct pleasure to work.
4. How has playing euphonium helped or informed your tuba playing? Vice versa?
I would have to say that my euphonium chops have enhanced my ability to play in the upper register for an extended period of time on the tuba. The muscles that you create, and the ability to move a faster velocity of air on the euphonium certainly comes in handy when learning the more difficult solo tuba repertoire-without a doubt. When I first began to learn the tuba, I remember that the primary thing that changed about my euphonium playing was the width of my sound. I began to move a wider (though still fast), and concise package of air into the instrument.
5. What does your preparation for a solo concerto involve? How far before the date does it extend? What are your goals one day before the performance? On the day of the performance?
This depends on the piece and the difficulty. I am a huge advocate of breaking things down at first. This includes finding similar rhythms, phrases, intervals, etc… and finding out exactly what the composer wants from the performer.
I usually start to learn new concerto anywhere from 1-3 months before a performance.
One day before the performance, I usually will stick to a solid fundamental routine, and then spot check a few “licks” in a piece. At this point I have done several run throughs of the piece in it’s entirety and feel comfortable enough with it both mentally, and physically.
The day of usually involves drinking lots of water to stay hydrated, and a good warm-up routine in the morning!
6. What switches click in your mind and approach when playing orchestral music as opposed to solo repertoire?
I am all about consistency in everything that I do. When things are consistent, things are authoritative. When things are authoritative, people will LISTEN! The way you do anything, is the way you do everything. My goal is to be able to control the horn technically at an incredibly high level, so that when I see a phrase and sing it in my head, I can instantly and effortlessly relay that musical message to the listener. Knowing exactly how to control the instrument allows me to be free musically, and creates the ability to change my opinion about a phrase on a moment’s notice with the confidence that it will happen. It doesn’t really matter to me if a phrase is from an orchestral passage, or a ridiculous lick from a tuba concerto. I try to not think of orchestral playing and solo repertoire as being different from one another. What changes for me are the stylistic demands that a composer may ask a performer to make. At some points within music we are asked to be the leader, other times a follower, and at yet other times a collaborator, etc. This is true for both solo playing and orchestral playing. My job as a musician is to be able to effortlessly execute the phrasing and musical expressions that I want the listener to experience.
7. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
This is a tough question! There are SO many great tuba players nowadays, and the level is incredibly high. I have heard some really fine performances at recent tuba conferences.
I would have to say that one of my favorite solo recordings would be Roger Bobo’s Gravity is Light Today. Roger’s renditions of “The Morning Song” by Roger Kellaway, and “Yellow Bird” by Fred Tackett are still the standard. Roger grabs the listeners attention from the very first note he plays. My favorite orchestral recording is Aaron Copland’s Symphony no.3 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein-Warren Deck, and Don Harwood sound incredible!
8. What is the best playing you have done?
My most recent solo tour of Japan, and particularly the concert in Tokyo wwere very memorable. Another one, a performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No.2″ with Jaap van Zweden will be stuck in my mind for quite a while as well.
9. How do you approach teaching differently than the way you were taught?
I feel as though I have had the opportunity to study with the best of the best in the tuba/euphonium business, and I am incredibly thankful for and indebted to each of my former teachers. They all imparted something distinctly valuable to me. I have tried to meld what I learned from each of these masters into my teaching, and am constantly trying to get better at imparting what I hear/know to be true in order to fix a student’s issues within their playing.
My job as a teacher is to ultimately teach the student how to teach themselves. Like Warren Deck used to tell me, “the hardest part about teaching is getting a student to perceive that which they didn’t before.”
In order to get a perception of what is really coming out of the bell, I encourage my student’s to do A LOT of recording in their practice sessions. I encourage them to aim for consistency, and prefer to give them a checklist to measure all things against, because again, “when things are consistent, things are…”
I call my checklist “Tindall’s 10 Rules of Play” 1. Beginnings of Notes, 2. Ends of Notes, 3. Note Lengths, 4. Note Shapes, 5. Evenness of Sound (depth, character, symmetrical space in all registers), 6. Time, 7. Rhythm, 8. Pitch, 9. Is it Musically Cohesive?,
(does everything make sense in the “context” of music? If it doesn’t, there is usually something lurking in the previous 8 things that has not stayed on course), and 10. Does it have sonic SWEEP and drive through each phrase to take the listener to each and every arrival point within the music?
For me, the tuba and euphonium are sonically distinct as compared to any other instruments. As a result, we must pay attention to these details in order to express and impart what we strive to express to the educated listener. When the student can attain all ten things throughout each phrase, I have found that it is a sure bet that the listener will walk away satisfied with their listening experience.
While Demondrae Thurman is one of the leading euphonium soloists of our day, he is also an accomplished chamber musician, conductor, trombonist, composer and educator. The high level of his work is evident, as are his passion for music and people. “The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to host Demondrae Thurman as our first euphonium playing respondant. Enjoy!
1. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal euphonium sound?
The fact that the euphonium is a conical instrument means that it should be a wide, rich sound. That is sort of the basic or fundamental way that I think about the euphonium. The sound should be wide, meaning that it comes at you from all angles, and very rich.
Secondarily, you have to think about vibrato as a primary component of the euphonium sound, because without it, you are not really making a characteristic euphonium sound.
It seems as though you change timbres sometimes as you play solos. Are there any particular instruments or colors that you try to emulate as an expressive device?
I guess I do not really think about them consciously, but I know that I borrow playing concepts from the saxophone, from the flute and probably mostly from the human voice. Those are my primary ones; I would place tenor trombone fourth on that list.
2. How did you develop the emphasis you have on musical expression? Sometimes, it is something that people do not think about very much.
That’s true. I am a pretty big student of music in the sense that I like to know how it’s constructed. My beginning point in studying a piece of music is trying to analyze the form. I think the form, (just look at the root of the word), it really informs how you can interpret the music. You start with the large scale things, big sections, breaks and things like that and then I try to identify what each major section of the piece of music is trying to say. My expressive gestures and my expressive elements such as vibrato, tempos and articulations all start to make sense once I have decided what the major section wants to be. Once I have that figured out, I break it down to a smaller components: how does this phrase lead into this phrase and how do I make the transitional material fit with the mainstay melodic or motivic material? Those things inform my choices as well, but I think that you start with a pretty detailed analysis of the formal structure, not so much a detailed harmonic structure but try to get a sense about what sort of harmony and what sort of rhythmic elements I need to address and let that guide my interpretation.
It sounds like an architectural approach first.
It very much is. Take a look at what you have, the space available to you, and build within those parameters as opposed to trying to make something different than what is there.
3. Please name two different ways you find inspiration to play music.
For my musical inspirations I really draw on the music and lives of Gustav Mahler and Dimitri Shostakovich. Those are the two composers that I identify with as people and as artists. A lot of times you can dig somebody’s music, but you may feel that you can’t identify with the type of person they may have been, or even are, (for modern composers).
Say with Mahler, I can go back and listen to the third Symphony and re-focus. Similarly, I can go and listen to Shostakovich 10th and sort of re-focus musically which is nice. When I feel like I need a refresher to cleanse my ears, I listen to Bach. I really feel like his harmonic sense is the thing that got me started enjoying music at a really high level-where it became more than something that I was just studying and became a passion. I go back to Bach for that.
For non-musical inspiration, I have always been a fairly spiritual guy. I won’t say religious, but spiritual. I sort of dig deep inwardly to come up with many things, and and that makes me look towards my family for inspiration.
I think about my grandmother, who has passed away, and for a long time I carried a picture of her in my performance folder. I think about my children. Those are the two sources of non-musical inspiration that kept me going.
4. What was your typical warm-up routine like when you were in college, and what is it like now?
I really didn’t warm-up in college. I didn’t at all. I would sort of noodle a little bit and play through a Rochut or a movement of a Bach unaccompanied cello suite. Then I would start to practice. It wasn’t really organized at all. Whereas now, it is very structured. I do three to five sets (that’s how I think about it, as actual sets like weightlifting), of long tones; three to six sets of lip slurs, and then I do some type of scale oriented thing-whether it is scales in thirds or arpeggiation type patterns. Last;y, I play some kind of song during the session. It takes about thirteen minutes.
5. You have an interesting combination of skills. You are not only a conductor, but you have conducted orchestras, which is somewhat unusual for a low brass player in general, but particularly for euphonium players. How has conducting, particularly conducting strings, informed your euphonium playing? And why choose orchestra?
I’ll start on the second part of the question first. I’ve conducted both band and orchestra and I still conduct both. I’m the wind ensemble condtuctor at Samford, and I am the assistant resident conductor for the Tuscaloosa Symphony. I also freelance in both wind band and orchestra, so I’m still doing both as a conductor and a player. My start was with wind band, and I conducted that band for eight years at Alabama state. When I got to Alabama, an opportunity came up to conduct the university orchestra and I took it.
The reason I’m infatuated with the orchestra, maybe more so than band, is the repertoire. I love to be able to spend time working through the true masterpieces in classical music. I’ve mentioned a couple pieces already, but I’ve had the good fortune to conduct Brahms and Beethoven symphonies, works by Sibelius and a whole bunch of other things that I grew up studying and ended up falling in love with. It has nothing to do with the fact that I play the euphonium or any other instrument. I think that it is beautiful music and I want to touch it, to deal with it, and to study it.
5.How does conducting a string orchestra inform your euphonium playing?
I was informed on string playing before conducting the orchestra. I have the good fortune of being married to an absolutely fantastic violinist. She studied at Northwestern University, played in the New World Symphony, and the Chicago Civic Orchestra. She is the concert master for most of the regional orchestras in and around Alabama, and I’ve seen her practicing for the last thirteen years.
The musical idea that I most often take from her is how she uses the bow and distributes it to get the best musical product. She’ll show me a phrase where she needs to take two or three bow strokes and there is only one phrase mark over the line, and I transfer that to breathing. As brass players, and I’m not really sure why, we treat phrase markings almost religiously. By listening to her, I began to start thinking outside the box; not just playing what is written on the paper, but understanding how to present the composer’s best intent.
It’s been really cool to listen to her do that without even thinking about it, while I have a hard time and feel like I am breaking some kind of law by taking a breath in places that it “looks like” I shouldn’t. That’s been really important for me. That’s the thing I’ve taken from her, that the player only has so much bow, so if a composer didn’t take that into account then it is her job to try to figure out what they had in mind. And so, I say, do the same thing with air.
7. One of my passions had been to remedy the situation that bass trombonists and euphonium players are consistently get left out of the chamber music experience. It is nearly impossible for them to have a meaningful musical experience without a conductor in school ensembles, with the exception of a tuba quartet for euphonium or as a bass trombone substitute for tuba in a brass quintet. Do you have any thoughts on giving greater chamber music opportunities to euphonium players, and if you could kind of reflect on the chamber music opportunities that you had as opposed to friends who played trumpet or trombone?
I came into the experience early on. I played both trombone and tuba a in brass quintet in high school and my first couple of years in college. When I started to really focus on euphonium, I formed a series of tuba/euphonium quartets at The University of Alabama and began to participate in what has become sort of the ITEC series-competing and winning with a tuba euphonium quartet. Out of that came Sotto Voce Quartet, the band I play in now. We have taken it pretty serioulsy, as you know, have produced four recordings and have traveled the world. That is one of the ways we have addressed this issue. We approach the medium of the tuba euphonium quartet by taking it as seriously as a woodwind quintet or whatever chamber music ensemble you might imagine.
The other way to do it is to have it created. One of the unique things about euphonium for sure, and I would even put bass trombone in that, is that composers are starting to think about our instruments as solo and chamber music possibilities, especially in the last fifty to sixty years. Take advantage of those people and have them create a chamber music group. For example, on my last cd I had a piece commissioned for oboe, euphonium and piano. This is a trio that is in some ways no different than the Poulenc Trio for bassoon oboe and piano. To find great music like that and have it taken seriously is what I am trying to do. Consider including an instrument like the piano or violin not only to legitimize the piece of of music (at least in the eyes and ears of sort of “lay” classical musicians and listeners), but also to participate in classical music in the way you have imagined.
8. I think that the euphonium and the bass trombone have an advantage in this one respect, they are both comfortable to accompany and to serve as a soloist in a chamber setting. Like the cello, they can blend with anybody, but they can also be a prominent solo voice, which I think is a challenge for some instruments like perhaps the tuba or string bass in a mixed chamber music setting.
Right, and a lot of that, too, depends on who is playing it. You could put tuba back in that mix, depending on the player, and which instrument they choose to play-a smaller lighter horn or one of the bigger horns. It depends on those types of things. Perception is also important. What is blending? Some could say the euphonium doesn’t blend at all, and yet it does-the perception is just not out there. For example, regarding the piece for oboe piano and euphonium both the composer and the oboist felt that we would have trouble discerning the oboe. My opinion was that the oboe would be the most present instrument of the three, just because of the nature of the other instruments. Once we began rehearsals, they both commented that I was right, and the composer said that he could have written anything for euphonium he had wanted. The oboe is loud, so of course it wouldn’t have been a problem. When it’s time for me to play an accompanimental role I can ease myself into the bottom of the piano sound, and when it is time for me to play solo, as you mentioned earlier, I can change my tone color and achieve that as well.
It was amazing to watch the composer come to the realization that, “Wow, I didn’t believe that this could be this good of a piece when I wrote it because I didn’t realize what the euphonium contribution could be.
The cliche with brass, of course, is that it is the composer’s volume knob, and people sometimes entrust us with only the louder dynamic registers and do not often realize that we can contribute at any dynamic; we simply possess a wider dynamic range. These are the two hardest questions: 9. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever heard? &
Those both are hard.
I thought about that first question for quite a while when you sent it to me. I am not one to necessarily grade performers or performances, but the euphonium performance that left the biggest impression on me was hearing Steven Mead play the Ellerby Concerto at the 1998 International Tuba and Euphonium Association Conference that was held at the University of Minnesota. I think it was a combination of things. First, I absolutely love the piece! It is one of my two or three favorite things to hear on euphonium and I knew that it would be the moment I first heard it. Secondly, Steven Mead was fantastic. I felt as though he was playing at the top of his game at the time. He turned in an unbelievable performance. At the time, I had just finished my Masters Degree with John Stevens. I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t want to go to school. After that performance I was s left with “Wow, I certainly don’y sound like that yet, and I don’t have a job yet, so-am I doing the right thing?” It caused me to rethink what I was doing. I asked myself if I were really doing everything that I could to be great and to be viewed as one of the top players. I remember thinking to myself, “could I ever play this piece?”, which was easily the finest 20 minutes of euphonium playing I had ever heard. It didn’t make me change anything, per se, but it really made me rethink what I was doing and served as a reality check for me; Steven Mead’s performance served a great purpose. That is a performance I will always remember, because it came at such a great time for me, and I have given him credit with keeping me honest with that performance.
10. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever done?
The best playing I’ve ever done, I don’t know, I’m not sure that I’ve really played great yet. Certainly my performances with Sotto Voce always give me great feeling of accomplishment. The music we play is almost all self -generated; we play about 90% of our own stuff or pieces written with us in mind. Our concerts are always really well received, and I love the guys I play with. Those concerts are always fabulous.
This last year, I played several concerts in Japan. There was just an honesty and genuine appreciation of music from the people in the audiences, and I felt it raised my game to the next level. I didn’t feel like there was anybody out there who wouldn’t have given their right arm to be there listening to me play, and it causes you to play at a higher level to know that these people were there to hear you play well. They showed their appreciation with gifts and all sorts of things, so that was a great experience. I am not sure if I played great, but it sure felt like I did.
11. As far as people who are full-time, tenured professors and euphonium players, is that a small club?
Yes. It is possibly a single digit club-maybe one hand of counting. Brian Bowman, me and Jamie Lipton. It’s Marc Dickman and Ben Pierce,-even though he plays tuba just as well as he plays euphonium. (Most people don’t know that I play trombone just as well as I play euphonium.)
A lot of those people are teaching academic classes, and low brass is just a portion of their duties, as opposed to being the meat and potatoes of the job. They all do something else as well.
Emily Noe’s lithe, small frame bounds on to the floor, blonde locks tightly ligatured. As she rehearses Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion in a setting by DUO WINDS tm her frame becomes taught and expands to claim vertical space. As her body gracefully undulates, limbs gesture in to imply the geometric ownership of varied planes of space from within her original stance. The music climaxes, and her feet move quickly and exponentially seize horizontal space in tantalizing rhythms. Before the Solstice brings the waxing daylight, it must face the longest night-an oblivion captured on her small frame by the firey and complex synapses of acclaimed choreographer Emily Noe. See the premiere of her new work “Oblivion” set to the music of Argentinian sensation Astor Piazolla.
The rain descends before the sprout may begin its ascent, and the seed must be covered in complete darkness before it begins it’s ascent to the light. A young woman slumbers and her blanket, once at rest, now glistens opalescent in the captured sunlight of dawn. Awakenings of both plant and girl will be represented by the music of Oboist Erin Gitelssohn in her hypnotic interpretation of Felix Mendelssohn’s Adagio and dancer Laura Prada’s youthfully rhapsodic choreography to “X-Salada #001-Chancha Via Circuito”.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is located at North Bayshore Drive and the Venetian Causeway in Miami, next to the Marriott Hotel and across North Bayshore Drive from the Omni / Hilton Hotel complex. It is also conveniently located one-half block from the Omni Metro Mover and Bus Station.
Trinity Cathedral / 464 NE 16th Street, Miami, Florida 33132
Phone: (305) 374-3372
From the South, take I-95 and exit onto I-395 (SR 836) East towards Miami Beach. Take the Biscayne Boulevard/NE 2ndAvenue Exit and turn left (North) onto Biscayne Boulevard (US 1). Go to NE 15th Street and turn right and go one block to North Bayshore Drive and turn left. The Cathedral is on the right between NE 15th and NE 16th Streets, just before the Marriott Hotel.
From the North, take I-95 and exit onto I-195 (SR 112) East towards Miami Beach. Take the Biscayne Boulevard Exit and turn LEFT onto Biscayne Boulevard (US 1). Proceed South to NE 15th Street, turn left and go one block to North Bayshore Drive and turn left. The Cathedral is on the right between NE 15th and NE 16th Streets, just before the Marriott Hotel.
Parking is available behind the building and may be accessed from either NE 15th Street or NE 16th Street. Additional parking is available at the Omni Garage (across the street) for a charge and metered spaces are available on NE 16th Street. Reduced rate parking is available in the Omni Garage for services on Sundays and at most major events at the Cathedral.
The Naples Philharmonic does it all: from concert orchestral music to accompanying the Miami City Ballet when in Naples to pops and chamber music. Their tubist, Aaron McCalla, goes even further as a featured soloist, recitalist, rock musician, and solo tuba in the virtuoso Brass Miami. McCallastudied at Southern Methodist University, the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory and has held the position of principal tuba for the Colorado (Denver) Symphony Orchestra. His occasional performances include the New York Philharmonic, the Boston, Albany, Vermont, Rhode Island, Jacksonville symphonies and the Boston Pops. In addition to his orchestral duties, McCalla is a member of the band LNE and performs to packed houses throughout Central America.From Tanglewood to funk, McCalla has a the appropriate bass line, and davidbrubeck.com is delighted to host him in “The Fourth Valve” tm.
1. Breathing is key to wind instruments, none more so than the tuba. Can you discuss your journey of awakening with regards to breathing. What did your teachers emphasize, and what have you discovered on your own?
Breathing is absolutely key. I have to be honest though, I have never thought too much about it outside of making sure that I am being efficient. My first teacher in college, Matt Good, was probably my biggest influence. Until I met him, I didn’t know that there are many different types of breaths you have to master. Every breath is different but has to be as efficient as any other. I have always loved sports and running. I feel like the breathing required for sprinting or swimming is not exactly like that required for tuba playing, but it helps tuba in every way in that it requires you to be able to pull in maximum volume of air. When swimming laps, I am not analyzing my breathing, I am only thinking, “I need a breath!” So, when it comes to tuba I just try to take as much in as I would in sports but in a relaxed and musically appropriate way. In the end, I try to not paralyze myself with over analysis of something I have been doing since birth.
2. How do you achieve a more musical expression?
When I play, I am always singing in my head. Not only does this make me feel like I have a better voice than I do, but it becomes somewhat of a collaboration. It is me accompanying and trying to copy the singing voice that I hear. In addition to this, I am always trying new ways of playing the same thing. Many times, the way I practice a phrase is not recognizable to the final product, but without experimentation and failures, I find it hard to really know what I like and want to say musically.
3. Who are you inspirations?
I have been so lucky to have great mentors in my life. Musically, Matt Good of the Dallas Symphony, Warren Deck, and Mike Roylance were my teachers but they all played a much bigger role. With Matt, it was his no nonsense approach that taught me to practice the right way and what the road ahead was really like. With Warren, it was just so special to be in the presence of an absolute master of life. It is impossible to be around him and not learn something, whether it is about tuba or whatever else was being discussed. With Mike, it was learning how to be a better professional and also being in the presence of a man who was at the top of his game all of the time. All three of them not only inspired me musically but also non musically.
My biggest non-musical inspirations were my parents. They taught me you really can and should give unconditional support to your loved ones while they are chasing their dreams, on the condition they are working as hard as possible. It’s probably not most parents favorite thing to hear you might not be going into the medical field and are going to chase after a dream with less prospect of employment than an NFL quarterback and infinitely less income. How can one not be inspired by this love and support?
The Philharmonic in Naples is a special place. Please describe your job. How do you switch hats so seamlessly?
I love the Naples Philharmonic! It is indeed a very special place that I had not really heard of before I took the audition 10 years ago. One of my favorite things about it is the varied schedule. We go from masterworks to ballet to opera to quintet to children’s shows to pops. I think this variance keeps my mind engaged more than if I were in an orchestra that played mainly the classics. For me it is a dream to have a job where I get to do all of those things in one place. What makes it so easy to switch between them is the people I work with. They are world class individuals, musicians and colleagues. When everyone is that way, all you have to do is show up prepared and things work themselves out quickly.
What was your warm-up like during college as opposed to now? Is there a big picture that you try to keep in mind?
In early college I had less of a routine than I did later. Early on, it was a little bit disorganized, but when I met Mike Roylance, things changed. He had a full routine that covers all the elements of playing that need to be practiced every day. I still do it in some form or another now. I know that if I can get through it and play it well, I am still in shape enough for anything I will see on a page.
6. What are your thoughts on each, and when do you use them?
I generally take my F tuba into quintet or solo situations. In orchestra, I use it whenever it makes the job easier! Ha. It’s very true, that I think of my instruments like a carpenter does tools. You use the correct tool that does the job best and easiest.
I have an old, Holton Eb that needs a lot of work done to be playable. One day I would love to bring it into quintet because I think it would add the breadth of tone that F sometimes lacks.
My C tuba is my main instrument. It does find its way into quintet, but is mostly my go to orchestral horn due to it’s 6/4 size. It’s also my daily routine tuba. If I can achieve what I want on C tuba, it’s even easier on F.
I have not played much Bb since high school. I think they are hard to beat when giving a band or orchestra a solid bass, but my training and teachers showed me the ways of the C tuba and they are expensive so I needed to choose one or the other!
Tuba “out-of-the-box”. Which unusual places have you heard or the tuba that are unexpected but good? What have you imagined?
My favorite out of the box place to play tuba was in my old rock bands, LNE and the Kate Priestly Band. We had no electric bass, only tuba, so it was up to me to keep up with the drummer and lay down the grooves. I am biased, but I love the accoustic sound of a tuba on bass lines in a band. The best thing about it was I never felt the need to practice while with the band. 3 sets of constant bass line a night is all you need!
8. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
This is a hard one. I heard Sam Pilafian years back in a Traveling Light show that was mind blowing. Recently I heard Oystein Baadsvik live for the first time. He is just unreal. But, really, the best day in day out playing was from my teachers Matt, Warren and Mike. The chance to be one on one with these masters and hear them demonstrate things exactly as you wish you could play them is special. I felt selfish that it was just me as their audience. Matt has the warmest tone ever. Warren could fill a room of any size and Mike could do absolutely anything.
What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?
This is probably the hardest question. In general terms it is when I have performed a show and feel like I have made it easier for my colleagues to shine by giving them a solid foundation to sit on. In the end, I hope I haven’t peaked!
10. How do you balance your musical and non-musical life?
I am lucky because for me, this is easy. I never feel like I am balancing the two. They just fit seamlessly together. I love the feeling of being on a team. So even outside of the orchestra I play in a soccer league. I have great friends at and away from the orchestra, so I never feel like I am just one thing or another. Being a husband, father, son, performer, etc. is such a fun combination. When it comes to getting the work I need to get done on tuba, it helps to have an amazing wife who not only tolerates tuba practicing but enjoys it. It all comes down to never feeling like I have a job that I have to trudge to. I really enjoy the variety that life presents and never take anything too seriously.