Marty Erickson’s Design for “The Fourth Valve” tm

imagesMarty Erickson served as a concerto soloist with the Navy Band, is an accomplished jazz man with three jazz cds to his credit, and presently finds himself utterly devoted to chamber music (with the improvising Millenium Brass)and to his students. A thinking man’s tubist, Erickson draws upon his rich musical life to explore the chamber music ramifications of the euphonium and the tuba, and to contemplate the future young musicians on those instruments might encounter. Though rooted in firm foundations which reach back to Leonard B. Falcone, Erickson has consistently forged beyond convention. Bold, fresh and visionary is Marty Erickson’s design for “The Fourth Valve” tm.

1. Outside the tuba quartet, where do you think that the euphonium player can find meaningful chamber music expression as a student?
The euphonium player needs to think out of the box for extra chamber music experience. The obvious choices are to use the euphonium in brass quintet settings, subbing for the trombone, but with an ear/eye toward appropriate style, etc. However, this should be done in any setting where the euphoniumist can sub for the trombone parts, simply for the benefits of reading everything possible. There are more and more pieces being written for Tuba-Euphonium duet, as witnessed by the wonderful recording and arranging of the the “Symbiosis Duo” with Gail Robertson and Stacey Baker. There is the wonderful “Dancing With Myself” by Barbara York, and many more. Euphonium players should use the Telemann Canonic Sonatas (and there are transposed editions available), and don’t be afraid to read things like the Poulenc Trio, once again subbing for the trombone player. Purists may not approve, but any opportunity that brings the music of another composer to your experience is important. All music is your music!

2. As a professional?
Outside of the ideas mentioned earlier, be creative. One of my former students has helped organize and perform in a wonderfulnewshead Tango Band called Cuidado in Pittsburgh. Others have added theater to performances, creating characters and a sort of play using the euphonium as a focal point. In a bigger scheme, one of the preeminent euphonium players and teachers in the world, Toru Miura, created “The Euphonium Company.” This huge group of players has done programs like West Side Story with the euphonium players performing as the “Sharks and the Jets” gangs from the Bernstein show, and performing the entire production with soloists, the Maria and Tony duet, and accompanying vocalists. This WAS chamber music in the sense of each section featuring the euphonium in solo/duet/trio/quartet and the large group. Find a musician whom you respect and develop your own chamber setting. People have done it with euphonium and harp and with another instrumentalist and piano accompaniment. You are limited only by your own creative sense or “conjoined creativity” with a respected musician friend.

3. Why is the Eb tuba often overlooked?
What does it do better than other tubas? Naturally, I am a bit prejudiced in this category, since I have championed the Eb tuba for many years and love my (shameless plug) Willson 3400 Eb tuba. The primary reasons I have found that this works for me the following:
–Versatile solo instrument
–My favorite brass quintet instrument because of the way it blends with the trumpets, horn
and trombone and the Eb enjoys a robust low range that many smaller F tubas can find
challenging below the staff
–It IS one the brass band chair instruments of course
–Liked using it to double the BBb or even the CC tubas in the concert band as it tends to
fill out the middle range in much the same way it is used in the brass band
–Surprise! It was an awesome Opera tuba. When I performed several jobs with the Baltimore
Opera Orchestra (sadly now defunct), there were many comments from the conductors
and the string players about how they appreciated the full sound without feeling “over-
powered AND; string bassists and cellists cited it was easier to tune passages.

4. What should the young tuba/euphonium player of today do to seek out 21st century jobimages-1 opportunities?
Play with everyone! Experience everything! Regularly go out of your comfort zone to play with as many different ensembles and people as possible! Take improvisation classes (not only jazz but free improvisation) and sit in with funk brass bands, combos, other brass groups, a gypsy band—-do it all! Learn about what it takes for the euphonium/tuba to make its voice so valuable and interesting that it cannot be ignored.

5. What has it been like to help design instruments? What have you learned? What have you achieved?
I don’t really consider myself a designer, but rather the more mysterious “design consultant,” which simply means someone valued the way I played and thought enough to solicit my input for their instruments, in this case Willy Kurath and son Willi back in 1992. As it turned out, a lot of the thoughts worked for them as design improvements and they were incorporated. It should not be mistaken that I did the horns, the incredible folks at Willson did that! It was very satisfying that many of the thoughts DID work for many players, which was the goal; not simply to sell horns, but to make it easier for people to enjoy results from the hard work they put into practicing and growing as musicians.

6. Please name your inspirations:

My mother, Margaret S. Erickson. She started on trumpet and then played professionally as a french horn instrumentalist and violist. She was an award-winning composer and taught french horn and theory and composition before the Farkas days. She wrote the first music theory books for Blue Lake Fine Arts camp and a scholarship fund is set up in her name for annual scholarships.

My first tuba teacher was Edward A. Livingston. At the time I studied with him, he was the principal tuba with the Grand Rapids Symphony and taught at Godwin Heights Middle School in Wyoming, MI. Later, he became the tuba professor and director of the marching bands at Illinois State University.

My high school band director was Gilbert Stansell, who along with his son William F. Stansell founded Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. He was an amazing musician; fine trumpet player, superb cellist and classical piano player and founded the Old instrument museum at Blue Lake as well.

Finally, Dr. Leonard Falcone, my private teacher at Michigan State University. He was the euphonium and tuba teacher and Director of Bands for 40 years and is honored each year by Blue Lake Fine Arts camp and former students with the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival. We will celebrate THAT festival’s 30th anniversary next year, along with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s 50th.
I was inspired further by so many of my Navy Band shipmates during my 26-year career in Washington D.C. There were so many wonderful performers nobody has heard of who each day not only “did their job” but brought passion and professionalism on a daily basis on the job, whether it was playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” for the 137th time or rendering a transcription of Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture,” or playing “America the Beautiful” and “Eternal Father” at Arlington Cemetery to honor a veteran and their family. I am truly proud of that service, and continue to be fiercely proud of all of our military band men and women today.

Currently, my musical inspiration can come from colleagues or from a special effort from any of my students.

& Non-musical
I find non-musical inspiration in the quotes of many people, in the service of veteran, in the daily sacrifice of those who choose to serve others, and in the bravery of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. My family provides daily inspiration of a very personal nature.

7. How is your warm-up different now than as an undergrad?
I suppose I am more efficient in the way I warm up, but also much more creative in changes things up to keep things fresh for me. The basic things are there; slow, lyrical playing–I love the Concone studies and some of the Bordogni/Rochut vocalises, but more often than not, I’ll pull out a book of Italian Renaissance songs or some bass songs or walk down the hall to my voice colleagues for some of their goodies; most recently some Korngold arias and Butterworth songs got a workout! I DO like playing easy flowing tunes as the above, or sometimes a jazz ballad. Restful things at first and then adding more flexibility, range, etc.

erickson8. What was it like to play a concerto for the first time? How would you describe playing concertos to someone who only plays chamber music?
I was a regularly featured soloist with the Navy Band on many concert tours, but simply because of the way programming was handled on those tours, I was more likely to play a through-composed piece or only one or two movements from a concerto. Of course, there were the college jury concerto performances, but the larger pieces were not a part of my early professional experience.

One of the more significant performances was when I did the Vaughn Williams Concerto for Bass Tuba with the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1982. I treated that experience much like one might prepare for a marathon, starting with good warmups and short runs at portions of the piece, and gradually adding more intensity, playing larger chunks of music and expanding my concentration and energy level. From there, when the notes and music were flowing pretty well; I tend to go deeper into the various interpretations I’ve heard and the whys and wherefores of the composers gestures. Getting up close and personal with the score is essential, including understanding each composers’ body of work prior to writing that piece.

I do consider myself more of a chamber music player now, but the main difference is in the long-range planning, intensity and focus when taking on a concerto. I feel most comfortable when I am able to play through the concerto several times comfortably with major issues, and tweak things as they progress.

images-19. How do you envision the future of brass chamber music?
It is a bright future indeed! Rather then bemoaning what we are losing or may lose, this can be a time of amazing opportunity! I strongly urge all brass students to be a part of a brass quintet/quartet or chamber group if any kind for all kinds of reasons which we can go into another time perhaps. The bright future will be because of the creative young people who are able to find in there OWN area, teachers of great skill and passion. It will happen because young composers are getting more opportunities to have their music heard and students and aspiring professionals are eager to gobble it all up! It will continue because music lifts all of us in ways that cannot always be explained, but as long as we can get instruments into young hands with passionate mentors leading the development, the exploration and creativity and curiosity will continue. Young people want to express their individuality and emotions and music will always be a way to do just that.

10. Whatsoever things..
At this point in my life (67 at this writing) I still can’t wait to pick up my tuba and play with a student or a colleague, or……..just play, and travel and interact with caring musicians around the world. What a gift my parents and early mentors gave me! To be able to enjoy each day so fully because of the music and the opportunities a career in music has afforded me. I wish everyone the same joy!

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Images courtesy of and

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Distinguished Artist Series To Host DUO BRUBECK featuring Mitch Farber

sunfe162The Distinguished Artist Series of The Arts & Medicine Program at The Cleveland Clinic, Weston will host the popular DUO BRUBECK on Wednesday October 8th, 2014 at 12:30 in the afternoon on the clinic side of the Weston Campus.

Original arrangements will be premiered and presented in this intimate setting where admission is free. The duo will feature specially selected compositions from Bill Withers, Chick Corea, Burton Lane, Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol, Miles Davis and Horace Silver in the single set appearance in Broward.

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Stephen Bulla in “The Arranger’s Chair” tm

bulla_new_photoAs arranger for The United States Marine Band for thirty years, trombonist and master arranger Stephen Bulla has been called upon to realize John Philips Sousa’s final composition and work with the legendary John Williams. As one of the leaders and performers in the world famous jazz trombone ensemble Spiritual to the Bone, Bulla’s efforts garnered praise from none less than LLOYD ULYATE (Hollywood Studio Trombone Artist) who commented “What a wonderful album! Great playing! Great arrangements! Great recording!” Hundreds of arrangements and performances ahead of him, and behind him, master musician Bulla takes a moment to share his musical life with as the second installment of “The Arranger’s Chair” tm-our series devoted to the significant number of great composers and arrangers who happen to play the trombone.

What are your chief inspirations, both musical and non-musical?
As a composer/arranger, my inspirations are the great writers of many genres.

Rembrandt Etching, "Raising of Lazarus"

Raising of Lazarus, Rembrandt

I study the orchestration of Ravel and Hindemith, and on the commercial side I marvel at the work of Robert Farnon and Peter Knight, Nelson Riddle and Marty Paich. As a film score follower I listen deep into the work of Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Bruce Broughton, and of course John Williams. There was a band in the fifties whose recordings are now on CD, and they inspire me both as a writer AND as a player; the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra.

To the second part of your question, I study the work of Renaissance artists and the historical masters. My wife and I own Rembrandt etchings, and visit the great art museums of the world whenever we can.

When did you fall in love with the sound of the trombone?
I’m not sure when I fell in love with the sound of the trombone. I do remember playing euphonium in all my early school years, and wanting to make the switch to trombone all along. It finally happened in the 11th grade and I never turned back. At some point I came across Urbie’s “21 Trombones” recordings, and that sealed the deal. On another occasion (when I was auditioning on piano for an Eastman audition), I heard Jim Pugh rehearsing the Creston Fantasy with the orchestra there. That absolutely blew my mind, the combination of the orchestration and the trombone. It was a gorgeous sound, like none I’d ever heard.

public domain via Wikimedia Commons

public domain via Wikimedia Commons

What was it like to be asked to realize Sousa’s final score? What did you discover about the man, his band, and his music by studying his approach to composition and orchestration?
This was one of those rare career opportunities that come along, and I see it as a great honor being asked to do it because of the historical context. It was a fascinating experience studying the Sousa fragments for this march, as well as other scores from his late period. Although I was immersed in Sousa’s music with my position in the Marine Band, this was an opportunity to study his melodic genius as well as the orchestration style that he used (or directed others to use), for the scoring of his works. Perhaps the rarest gift was his ability to portray an idea musically. Think “Stars and Stripes” and you’ll understand how he could convey a feeling.

The process of completing his final march with authentic nuance and gesture was the challenge. Except for one page of full score, I worked from piano sketches and manuscript fragments. I conferred often with my friend Loras Schissel (at Library Of Congress), a fountain of knowledge on the subject. On a separate occasion, I also had opportunity to meet JPS IV who is the great-grandson of the composer. Finally, the Marine Band itself was a world class laboratory for insuring that the completed march had the right “sound”, the percussion used the right rhythmic punctuation style, etc. It is their recording along with the sheet music that is posted at

Stephen Bulla with John Williams

Stephen Bulla with John Williams

Could you describe the experience of arranging for the Marine Band in general, and your long association with John Williams (the man and his music), in particular?
At times, writing for the Marine Band made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. These are very fine professional musicians, many having already moved on to the world’s top ten orchestras, and every note that I wrote was played with artistic attention to detail. The technique and intonation simply must be heard to be believed. I’ve held on to many rehearsal recordings just to remind myself how good this amazing ensemble really is.

I did have the opportunity to work with John Williams on two occasions. Both were for Marine Band anniversary concert events, and he sent ahead multiple scores from his popular films to be transcribed from orchestra to wind band instrumentation. You can imagine how I absorbed the scoring of the original, and made every effort to translate it for the occasion when he would be conducting. It was quite a challenge, particularly when translating multi-divisi string section writing for the upper woodwinds of the Marine Band. But John was pleased and we formed a friendship from that time. His knowledge of music of all styles is staggering. In conversations we discussed everything from violin bowing to the different mute techniques used by the trumpets of the Ellington Band. A real gentleman, and very entertaining both in front of an audience and in a rehearsal setting.


What are some the best arrangements you’ve ever heard?

That question is so wide, I don’t even know where to begin. I love the way Gershwin set his songs in the large scale orchestral works (Porgy, American In Paris, etc). I love the way Peter Knight wrote those beautiful links and orchestration for the Moody Blues (Days of Future Passed, Knights In White Satin, etc). I love the way Claus Ogerman surrounds a jazz piano with orchestral color on his Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra recording.

Which are some of the best ones you have ever written?

It’s difficult to list things that I like best; I tend to move on and enjoy what I’ve written in the moment. Looking back, perhaps some things came out more easily and naturally than others. I suppose those are the ones that linger in my mind, and are performed more often. As it turns out, these are works for brass. “Chorale and Toccata”, “Shipston Prelude”, and “Images For Brass” might fall into that category.

sttb_01_smallHow were you led to begin Spiritual to the Bone? How has this jazz experience enlivened your other musical experience, and how does being a player inform your arranging?

This group came together because I had a number of trombone playing friends crossing paths frequently, all of us working as clinicians at Salvation Army summer music camp programs. We all loved jazz and kept talking about making a recording together. I finally organized the project, and named it. My plan was to pattern it after the “Tutti’s Trombones” recording of the 1960′s and so that became the template. The five CDs became very popular and as a result the group traveled and performed all over Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and North America.

The second part of your question is important. I do in fact switch hats often when I’m writing. That is to say that I will look back at what I’ve just written and consider it from a player’s perspective. Sometimes I’ll do the same from an audience point of view as well. So being a player certainly does have an effect on what I write.

How did your early preparation and studies at Berklee prepare you for a career as an arranger?
Berklee allowed me to learn the structure of creating an arrangement, as well as the business end of marketing one’s work. Plus it didn’t hurt to be immersed in a culture surrounded by great jazz musicians and faculty. My most influential teachers were Herb Pomeroy (composition) and Phil Wilson (trombone).

How important has the piano been in your efforts? Has technology changed this?
The piano was really my road to being a writer. I would take orchestral or band scores as a teenager, and try to learn the transpositions so that I could play them at the piano. Although I wasn’t very successful with those efforts, it did open my ears to a bigger world of music. Although I still write at the piano, without using computer-playback as a crutch, I did have to learn to write instrumentally. Through those efforts I discovered a great love for counterpoint and appreciation for independent lines within the score. That must be the player side of my brain talking.

When did you decide to add educational music to your palette of arrangements?

As a wind band composer the largest publishing market is for younger bands. I was already familiar with those technical limitations from my experience writing for Salvation Army youth band publications. So the transition into the educational market was an easy one. I still enjoy an ongoing relationship with Hal Leonard Music, the largest sheet music publisher in the world.

With Jordin Sparks

With Jordin Sparks

Many of your efforts have been quite prominent including collaborations with famous artists, or for prominent occasions. What have these opportunities and triumphs taught you?
Working with prominent musicians was indeed inspiring. These are usually people that have been around the block a few times, and figured out where they want to be and who they want to work with. The Manhattan Transfer is a good example; wonderful, friendly people that were easy to talk to while at the same time very professional as soon as the microphone went on. Jordin Sparks was another. Lovely young woman with incredible vocal gifts and great ears. She knows all the styles. But all that American Idol TV fame has not changed her sweet spirit.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when considering these famous composers and arrangers who also play(ed) trombone:
Gustav Holst

England. The Planets. A trombonist before the royalties came in! Early work, Moorside Suite (1928).

Sammy Nestico
A friend, a colleague who once held my position with the Marine Band as Chief Arranger. Notable work for Basie.

Nelson Riddle
One of my heroes. Tasteful writer, troubled life. His work with Rosemary Clooney (in her prime) is some of the best, even compared to his Sinatra work. He could write the most clever counter-lines that were themselves melodies inside the score.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Images courtesy of STEPHEN BULLA

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DUO BRUBECK: All You Need Is Love! (And a Little Bit of Guitar….)

It is an epic night for the guitar, as the monsterous month of October brings the fretted equivalent of “Guitarzilla” and “Guitar Kong” to downtown Miami. DUO BRUBECK, featuring both master guitarists Tom Lippincott, AND Mitch Farber will be appearing as part of the prestigious Music in Miami Concert Series at Trinity Cathedral Miami on Sunday October 19th at 6:00 pm. Music of the Beatles (including music from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), will be presented alongside original duo arrangements of specially selected compositions by Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Jule Styne, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Burton Lane, Chick Corea, Miles Davis Juan Tizol and George Gershwin in this eagerly anticipated concert event. DUO BRUBECK helped to launch the Distinguished Artist series at the Cleveland Clinic, and the popular duo has performed in concert throughout South Florida. Admission is free! DUO BRUBECK SGT PEPPER 1

DUO BRUBECK, featuring Tom Lippincott, is an exciting and innovative musical setting which re-imagines the jazz duo!
Inspired by the jazz duos of trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Jim Hall, Tuck and Patti and pianist Bill Evans with Jim Hall, Brubeck and Lippinocott met while playing in the Concert Jazz Band (CJB) at the University of Miami in 1989. Both musicians played guitar and trombone in their youth only to choose different paths. David & Tom’s love of these timbres and their combination have led to the creation of ‘Duo Brubeck’.

A lifelong devotee of jazz improvisation, Lippincott was inspired by the piano, “Although I love the guitar, I’ve often been envious of some of the things pianists can do that guitarists cannot. In my quest to be able to play more extensive contrapuntal ideas and play chords with more notes that cover a wider range, I thought: why not have a guitar built with both?” Lippincott’s solution was to seek out an eight string guitar. The guitar he chose features an additional B, (a fourth below the traditional low E), and another A a fourth above the top string.

Brubeck’s divergence came at the age of 14, when he fell in love with the bass trombone, rather than the more typical tenor trombone. This lower voiced instrument is typically melodic, or provides a rhythmic bass. Inspired to combine both melody and bass lines by alternation, Brubeck created an implied homophony reminiscent of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin. Brubeck’s original solo compositions for bass trombone using this technique have been described as “Bobby McFerrin meets the Bach Cello Suites”and are entitled ‘Stereograms’, and have been performed and recorded around the world. More than 50 Sterograms have been published by the International Trombone Association Press, Cherry Classics, and the journals of The British Trombone Society, The International Tuba and Euphonium Association, The International Double Reed Society and The International Trombone Association.

DUO BRUBECK combines both of these approaches to create a truly unique and seamless weave of melody, chords, and bass lines from instrument toDUO-BRUBECK-featuring-Tom-Lippincott instrument. The glistening sound of DUO BRUBECK is a fascinating and pulsating rhythmic melange of complimentary waves of sound.

Guitar phenom, Mitch Farber, was added to meet the increased demand for the popular duo. Mitch brings hard grooving Latin Jazz, Soul and R & B to his rhythmic infused grooves and solos. A perfect counterpoint to the vast harmonic landscapes of Lippincott, this concert will feature two of Miami’s finest guitarists alternating in the DUO BRUBECK setting.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Images Courtesy of Mrs. Anna Ukleja and David Brubeck

Trivia question?
(Originally formed as a trio with bass trombone, guitar and drums, the first DUO BRUBECK performance (without drums) was of “There Is No Greater Love” and occurred for a Miami Television “Cable Tap” fundraiser. Lippincott couldn’t make the date, and he sent a sub.)
Who was the first guitarist presented in the jazz bass trombone/guitar duo setting?
a. Sandy Poltarack b. Mitch Farber c. Jonathan Kreisberg d. Peter Kienle e. Charley Harrison

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“FIVE!” tm Hosts Boston Brass, and Rip Van Winkle Wakes


Mixing the traditions and styles of different generations, languages and musical backgrounds, the new Boston Brass has emerged a very different group than its predecessor. While the earlier edition of BB drew some influences from the dramatic and musical elements of a drum corps style and featured the notable frequent use of a euphonium in a brass quintet, the new group has taken a fresh approach. With the addition of Sam Pilafian, founding tubist of the Empire Brass, and trombonist Domingo Pagliuca, the group has embraced a more improvised style of music drawing on a mix of authentic world music influences and classical standards. Their dynamic range is compelling, and their fluidity admirable. They are poised and polished and with the combined experiences of Pilafian and Dallas Brass alum Chris Castellanos-the are ready to make an even more profound mark on the chamber music world. is honored to host Boston Brass as the fourth installment of our chamber music inspired interview series-”FIVE!”

Sam Pilafian, tuba

1. How do you approach playing in a touring brass quintet differently with Boston Brass as opposed to when you toured with Empire?
(hahaha)…This is very much a Rip Van Winkle story!!
(“Back in the Pre-Digital Day” with Empire we will call THEN…
I will refer to today’s Boston Brass as NOW :)) :

-THEN:We carried an extra suitcase with “safety music”.

-NOW: we all carry everyone’s parts and scores on laptops, iPads and even smart phones.

-THEN: I went to find a pay phone or a fax machine every time we stopped moving (on a plane or automobile), to check in with the manager, sponsor of the impending concert, family, etc.

-NOW: communication is in my pocket at all times…(Only Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon had this in Empire days!!)… I can fax, email, talk, text, send documents, photos, graphics, etc. from my phone or another digital device!

-THEN: Travel outside the US presented a myriad of communication and financial problems: expensive telephone calls and often daily currency changes-prior to the Euro. Using a credit card was dangerously insecure and subject to up charges by vendors who were waiting for currency rates to go in their favor before processing your transaction.

-NOW: Internet communication allows all of the above-listed activities to be done for free with a Wi-Fi or hard-wired signal. Financial issues are now guaranteed safe with stable rates by using major credit cards!

-THEN: Arranging, a major responsibility of mine in Empire, was also pre-digital. I learned to write and copy parts on a clipboard “floating” on my left forearm and hand while riding in planes, cars, ferries, etc. We often had part copying pizza parties in my room while on tour! (One time we got on a flight from Zurich to NYC with the count Basie Band and we all copied 2 new Frank Foster arrangements and visited…(I miss the social aspect of music copying but hated how slow the process was:)) Whole concerts and recording projects were arranged on the move in this manner for over 20 years!

-NOW: Boston Brass has THREE arranger/ composers
(José, Chris and me). Digital technology in the writing area is one of the great improvements between then and now!!! The speed, instant playback, orchestrated sounds and legibility have changed our lives for ever! I love traveling with my writing colleagues! It’s like an arts colony around Boston Brass these days!!!

-THEN: LP/Cassette/CD recordings and radio production recordings(common outside the US),bio-3398 were recorded and finished (or edited and mastered) by flying to the city where the recording company headquarters was located. I often made several ” post recording” trips to represent The Empire Brass during editing or mastering.

-NOW: Live concert videos and audio are easily made on tour …either self-made or in collaboration with the concert presenter. “Home” equipment is so good that the group may have more hits from YouTube or other Internet services than we ever got from the very well-selling studio Empire recordings. “Post recording”, for studio recording sessions, is done anywhere from cloud based data sent to our digital Internet devices. One only needs professional quality headphones to make critical decisions anywhere! Another strong difference in the present experience is that both José and Domingo are also professional recording engineers. I am a professional audio recording producer and video line producer. We have people from the media business in the group!!!

-THEN: I did the business work of Empire as well (contracts, travel scheduling with an agency, payroll, taxes, etc)…
It was much better to do this when arriving home from tour while surrounded by “business machines” like fax,copy machine, type writer, postal meter,etc. This would routinely take more than a whole day upon returning home.

-NOW: Just about 100% of the business is done digitally (very little mail or express services). All the business devices are available on any Internet device that we are carrying, including the smartphones in our pockets. I am amazed how fluidly Jeff Conner runs most of our business, and Domingo leads the social media/ PR/ advertising campaign….while on the move. My, My…how times have changed!!!

FINALLY, the biggest difference between the Empire and Boston experience is the amazing diversity of the present Boston Brass. They are well-equipped to authentically present improvised jazz and world musics (from throughout their personal experiences and histories) while at the at the same time present concerts at which they are playing wonderfully in the classical tradition. This depth of the diversity in addition to the fact that we are a truly multi-generational ensemble with over a 30-year spread in ages makes our rehearsals, performances and recording sessions very special. I feel like I trained for this diverse moment my whole life. (Kudos to Chris Castellanos, who did the same on horn, making him Extremely rare and valuable to the present efforts of Boston Brass:))

I am so fortunate to have another world class experience in the same career area! Again!!!

2. How do you view the role of a tuba in a brass quintet, and which size tuba do you prefer? How could a bass trombone or euphonium fill that role?
For me, it’s the fact that this kind of music making allows me to be constantly in the nucleus of the activity….I’m in the rhythm section much of the time, creating tempo, feel, impacting dynamic shapes, accompanying and having wonderful solo moments…. But,it’s the constant impactful involvement that makes this so special for “bottom feeders”!

One big difference between the Empire and Boston Brass experiences is the instrument used to participate with these groups. Empire was an orchestral sound approach with the Chicago Symphony Brass quintet recordings as a model. The great recordings by the Borodin String Quartet(USSR), led by Dubinsky and featuring very authoritative cello playing, were also very influential in making sound decisions regarding Empire. I spent my career in Empire playing a rather small rotary valve CC tuba.

From the very beginning of my experience with Boston Brass
I have used a piston valve F tuba. Before joining the group, I was writing and producing for them. I had always wondered what this wonderfully diverse concept of sounds that they have would sound like with a bass instead of contrabass tuba. The only stipulation was that the horn would have to be able to “be the bass player”. Mouthpiece choices have led me find the sound that is as flexible as I need for such a group as Boston Brass.

As to the last part of this question, about bass trombone or euphonium, the answer is YES!! Being the bottom of any group is a state of mind which I call “Foundation Function”. You listen to and study great bottom players or singers “doing their job” in all kinds of music. You study the sound pressure and attack of these great “bottom feeders”… How they create atmosphere and feel from the bottom…indeed, how they “lead” from the bottom! Well that state of mind can work just as good or better on bass trombone or euphonium! It’s the mindset that creates musical and physical changes in these instrumentalists :)) Good “bottom playing”can happen from any instrument. If you hear it that way, you will find a way to do it! I am reminded of Mark Gould, who spent 29 years playing principal trumpet parts at the Metropolitan Opera, but was incredible at the bottom of any recording session trumpet section!! Also, in my mind’s ear is an arrangement we did in Empire of the Vaughn Williams
Tuba Concerto. Martin Hackleman played the bass lines for most of that selection with amazing authenticity!

3. What new things do you hope that the Boston Brass will achieve while you are a member?
By reading above, one can only imagine the possibilities when a group is enthusiastically Growing in all these directions from a wide spread of life experiences and expertise. I started to try trending this situation and Gave Up !! It quickly became evident that staying in the Present and working on growth in all these directions is the best pathway. Assessing where we are heading every 60 days or so seems to get the compass adjusted properly for what has been continuous growth so far.
What Fun!!

bio-2009Jeff Conner, trumpet

1. Your tone production is remarkable. How important is matching the beginnings of notes?
Thank you for your kind words. In order to have true meltdown of sound we have to start with the same concept of articulation. As second trumpet, it’s my responsibility to match Jose’s style and concept of articulation.

2. How do you focus on the beginning part of the notes in exercises and rehearsals? It is important having everyone on the same page concept wise of articulations. We will also have someone go out and listen in front of the band to listen and make sure everything is lined up.

3. How has having Sam Pilafian in the group changed Boston Brass?
Having Sam in the band is incredible! Sam is one of the greatest chamber musicians and master teachers if our time. He’s getting us to stretch our imaginations and mesh musical concepts with our sounds and interpretations of tunes. Everyone is able to dial into his sound, creating an amazing Boston Brass signature sound.

bio-2010Chris Castellanos, horn

1. Your sound is very present and ringing. Please describe your concept of an ideal horn tone within the setting of a brass quintet and specifically the Boston Brass.
First, thanks for the compliment! I’ve been playing with quintets full time for 11 years now and have come to realize a few things about the concept of horn sound in the quintet setting. Many people think we are at a disadvantage, that being the bell faced the wrong way and all. This does not have to be the case. I choose to turn it into an advantage by standing on the end of the quintet with my bell semi-facing toward the audience. It allows for clear distinct articulation and better projection. If I want a more soft lyrical sound for a particular song or passage, I turn my bell in or away from the audience. If I we are playing jazz and I want more direct sound, I angle out towards the audience-essentially becoming a bell front instrument. Playing in a chamber group is teamwork and you should always be aware of the role you are playing at the moment. Choosing one particular set up and sound and using it all the time is, in my opinion, a mistake.

2. You really have a masterful command of commercial playing. How hard was this to come by as a horn player? What paths would you recommend to young horn players?
I grew up in Las Vegas and a lot of my early professional playing was in showrooms. Playing in big bands or production shows requires a different mindset than an orchestral setting, of course, but not only that; it requires a skill set that horn players are not commonly familiar with. You need to know how to interpret articulation, how to play with style, who to listen to and how to read. You only learn these things by doing them and listening to people who do them well. I would tell any young musician to step outside of the box, play by ear and listen to everything they can get their hands on without bias. As a musician you want to be able to step into any situation and be comfortable, not just the “I am a classical player” mentality.

3. Dallas Brass and Boston Brass are both excellent groups. You have played in both. How would you characterize the different approaches.
They are two top-notch groups and it has been a privilege to play with both. There are several gleaming differences I can think of. The main difference between the two groups is ownership. Dallas Brass is owned by the founder, Michael Levine. Everyone else in the group are employees of the Dallas Brass. They can give input on programming, business issues, choreography, scheduling, marketing and so forth but the final say is with the owner.
In the Boston Brass, we all own 20 percent of the group. Everyone has a role in the group and we vote on the final say in everything. With the BB, we are constantly tweaking the show and all bringing much more to the table than just simply showing up and playing to the best of our ability. When the group succeeds, that success goes straight to the 5 guys making it happen. The motivation to do everything possible to make the show better is built into the fact that you are an owner and want the product to be amazing! The Boston Brass is a passion and collaboration of all 5 members.

Jose Sibaja, trumpet

bio-20131. You wear a lot of hats in the group. Please describe your approach to jazz improvisation in three different tunes with different styles.
Jazz improvisation for me is no different than any other style of music. The vocabulary, feel and style is what changes from tune to tune. Your ideas and the development of these ideas are a part of your musical experiences. Listening to music and singing are the principal tools to improvising, then all the technical aspects follow. It’s like any other musical style, the bigger your ears are the better your solos will be, therefore; working on ear training is a must.

2. How do you approach ‘lead trumpet’ type playing in a brass quintet, as opposed to a big band or salsa group?
Lead playing in a brass quintet (when playing commercial music), is very similar to that in a big band or a salsa band. The level of awareness and the commitment to rhythm is a bit more intense in a quintet since the sole role of groove falls within the players, without the help of a drummer or a rhythm section per say. Also, the dynamics are more extreme; especially when playing softer. Chamber music applied to all fields and styles of music makes a better experience for the performer as well as for the listener.

3. What is your favorite performance mute, and why?
I really enjoy all mutes depending on the style. I would probably have to go with plunger and cup mutes.

Domingo Pagliuca, trombone

1. Your predecessor in BB played a good deal of euphonium. What challenges hasnews-4407 playing euphonium parts on trombone presented?
The first challenge that was presented was the technical one. I needed to be able to play what was written in the arrangement. There are very difficult passages that involve a great deal on technical development. Fast notes that needed to sound like a horn in some points and like a trumpet in others. Another challenge is to be able to play as legato as the euphonium. I needed to sound like I have valves instead of a slide and that is when the challenge comes. To be able to play different kinds of legatos. Articulation is another challenge.

2. How did you solve those challenges? Any special techniques, concepts or exercises?
First of all I started to play the passages very slowly and at the same time I used different articulations to be able to hear if the notes were coming out clear and even. I needed to make sure that they all sounded equally played. I normally would play any exercise in glissando. I do that to make sure that my air is even, steady and has direction.
It is a great challenge to any brass player to be able to play any passage with a different articulation and have that same passage to sound equally beautiful within the style that the music may require. Scales are a great help to maintain a good air stream and as well as articulation and slide technique. The Rochut (Bordogni) etudes are another tool that is always helpful to check the different aspects in playing that a trombone player needs to have at all times.

3. Describe how you blend with each of these instruments?
Tuba: In my opinion, to be able to blend with the other instruments of the quintet or any other particular ensemble, you need to really open your ears and be able to hear what the others are doing and figure out how you can fit into their sound. With Boston Brass it is amazing how “not so difficult” it can be. Here, you have 4 excellent musicians where each one knows what to do and are masters of their instrument. There are moments that I need to sound like a tenor trombone. Others, like a bass trombone and in many cases, like a second horn or a 3rd trumpet. One really needs to listen and make the best effort to sound and blend within the group.

Horn: To be able to blend with the horn, I have to change the color of my sound. In many cases become a 2nd horn and I need to play as a horn. That means that I even have to articulate like a horn player.

Trumpet: to blend with the trumpet I have to even change the speed of the air. My sound needs to be full and I might even say brighter. Match their articulation and get into their sound.

Every piece is a challenge since, as a trombone player, I need to be versatile enough to change the way I play and sound. In some instances, I have to play with different articulations and sound, and in others I have to change the style as well as the character.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Images courtesy of BOSTON BRASS

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FIVE! tm Hosts The Canadian Brass!CanadianBrass

Since their founding in 1970, The Canadian Brass have been the greatest ambassadors for brass and one of the premiere chamber music groups in the world. Their refreshing approach to the brass quintet was that of virtuoso soloists. This, along with the Canadian Brass trademark showmanship and enjoyment of their craft have been hallmarks of the groups live performances, and have been imitated by legions of musicians, chamber music and otherwise. A “masterpiece approach” espousing the greatest literature available has been a guiding principal of the legendary ensemble, along with outstanding recordings, and the constant development of new concert literature in the form of both arrangements and compositions for brass quintet. FIVE! tm, is undeniably excited to present the Canadian Brass.

Chuck Daellenbach, Tuba images-1
As a tubist, what do you owe to Harvey Phillips and the New York Brass Quintet and Arnold Jacobs and the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet? How would you trace the origins of the modern brass quintet?

The Chicago Brass Quintet set the tone and structure for brass quintets, having started in 1947. Their recording from the early 50’s was a remarkable model for young brass players — the Beethoven String Quartet movement is still unparalleled, exhibiting exceptional tuba playing. With Arnold Jacobs setting the base and “Bud” Herseth on top, they were instrumental in establishing the format, sound and direction for brass quintets. They spent a lot of time playing for, and workshopping young people in the 50’s, which certainly helped ground the brass quintet as an important part of the classical music industry. Since they were all orchestral musicians first (notably: except Renold Schilke, whose first love was the brass quintet), the ensemble did not become a full-time professional organization. The New York Brass Quintet was next, starting in about 1954.groupwallThey were primarily freelance musicians in New York City making it possible for them to tour more extensively during the concert season. Their contribution was building the quintet repertoire and making the quintet known as a serious entry, particularly at colleges and universities. These are definitely the two quintets that handed down the seeds of development for Canadian Brass. The Canadian Brass was the first ensemble to become a full-time brass quintet. In order to do so, the repertoire needed expansion and the concert presentations needed to take the audience along for the musical journey the musicians has set. By taking a masterpiece approach, only the finest music from our “western music” culture was selected, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, etc., along with listener-friendly new music.

What new directions do you see it taking?
We are in a wonderful period of transition, much like the movies went through with “talkies.” Electronic music fills the airwaves, pop music totally dominates the press, halls are filled with dance music, rock-and-roll audiences are pushing classical artists out of the concert halls. So now the brass quintet, which has an audience enlivened for forty years by Canadian Brass, needs to bring that audience into this new era. Electronic distribution of music has been very helpful in getting this started, with a group’s music being available worldwide at any given moment. No longer does a fan need to wait until the group shows up in Japan or Munich, or Toronto for that fact. The repertoire needs to continue to develop so that an enduring body of music demands performance.

gazing-chris1-e1397501134126Can you imagine how it would have affected the tuba if there had been no outlet in the brass quintet? Tubas need ensembles! The tuba a bass instrument. Sure, there are a few soloists, Roger Bobo having been the exceptional best of them, but the opportunities are so limited, much like string bass for example. But, as the anchor for any conceivable grouping of instruments and/or voices, the possibilities are limitless! The proof of this is how often one sees the tuba player being the contractor, business brain, organizer of musical events.

Achilles Liarmakopoulos, Trombone
imagesYou have studied trombone in both Europe and North America. Which are the best parts of each tradition that you try to incorporate in your playing?

Nowadays, both styles of playing are more similar than they used to be. I think that the North America style is focusing more on sound when European playing is focusing more on style.
Both styles are beautiful though, and both have influenced me equally.

How would you contrast your approach to articulation when performing in a section of slide trombones, to playing in a brass quintet where each other instrument is valved?
I don’t think about this; in every situation I try to play as precisely and beautifully as I can.

Why is a solo career such a high priority for you?
Solo career is not my priority. Working with the Canadian Brass is my priority. But, I always love doing other things on the side like playing with different type of music groups, solo recitals etc.

Chris Coletti, Trumpetchris
How does singing influence your trumpet playing and teaching?

Singing is everything! Brass instruments have so many similarities to the human voice. It may be obvious, but when you hear a voice or a brass instrument, you are hearing the vibrations of that person’s actually body—for a singer it’s the vocal chords and for a brass player it’s the lips—but its essentially the same mechanics at work producing the sound. I constantly remind students that the sound we produce on our instruments is merely a reflection of the sound in our imagination. Of course, it can take years to develop an external sound that even closely resembles our inner sound which, too, is always evolving. For both brass players and singers alike, the connection between our imagined sound and our external sound is a strong one as our external sound is our body. Additionally, brass players must be able to hear a note in his/her head before playing it—just like a singer. There isn’t a teacher in the world that can tell someone how to play a C on trumpet if that person can’t hear it themselves. In my opinion, the way most instrumentalists are taught an instrument now a days (including me) is a little backwards. Instead of learning by ear as we as humans do best (i.e. how children learn to speak), we are handed sheet music just as we are handed an instrument for the first time; it’s like learning how to read and how to walk at the same time. We systematically sidestep our innate ability to learn by ear until our playing and reading skills dwarf our ability to play be ear (the way we were intended!). As a result, most classical players can barely play anything by ear, even as professionals. To me this is strange! I enjoy watching my student’s gain confidence as they get more in touch with their strongest gift—their ears :)


Is there a New York Trumpet style? If so, how would you describe it?
That’s a tough question, partly because the answer is “yes and no”. NY is unique in that it has SO MANY types of live music going on at a really high level; 2 trumpeters going to the same school studying with the same teacher may have very different interests and influences. At Juilliard, I had colleagues that were into styles ranging from jazz to Renaissance cornett to contemporary composition to free improv (me), yet we all had the same teacher, played in the same orchestras and quintets, and all loved classical music. Of course, NY has really fantastic orchestras with particularly stellar trumpet/brass sections. My teachers made a big impact on me and a lot of NY players (Mark Gould and David Krauss of the MET Orchestra and Phil Smith of the NY Philharmonic). The MET and The PHIL are very influential orchestras with two totally different but, paradoxically, uniquely New York trumpet sounds. I also had the pleasure of studying with Laurie Frink before she passed away—she was famous for being an incredible player AND teacher. She performed with (and taught) some, if not most, of the best players around! If anything, the “New York Trumpet Style” can be identified not by generalities, but an eccentric amalgam of sounds interpreted uniquely by each individual.

calebCaleb Hudson, Trumpet
What is it like to tour with the Canadian Brass?

I’m fortunate to inherit the legacy of the legendary Canadian Brass, to be a member of an ensemble of virtuosic players who travel the world, meeting old and new fans across the globe, and I am extremely proud to be a part of the ongoing growth of the group. It’s my honor and responsibility to contribute my part to its creative and musical integrity. There is no such thing as a finished product, but the constant journey towards a higher standard is paramount. When I see young kids filled with inspiration in the same way I was, it reminds me of our purpose as musicians.

Bernhard Scully, Horn
How would you compare playing in a chamber music orchestra with strings to a quintet with brass.

Playing in a chamber orchestra is quite different than playing in a brass quintet. In a chamber Orchestra, you never play above a forte. The repertoire of the chamber Orchestra goes all the way back to the baroque times until the modern times. In the chamber orchestra there are a few opportunists to be a soloist, but not many. Most of the playing is in the background and happens in the softer dynamic. There is, on the other hand a huge wealth of smaller chamber music that includes horn as well, like wind quintet, wind serenades, etc. There is a vast array of styles of music to master in the chamber orchestra and we are lucky as horn players to get prominent parts in music all the way from Bach up to the most modern composers.

bernhardIn the Canadian Brass, you are on stage as a soloist for the entire time! We play music in the jazz idiom often as well as all other styles. The dynamics are louder than the chamber orchestra. We move around, dance, interact with the audience, and assume the role of performers to a much higher degree than in the relatively reserved and conservative concert manner of the chamber orchestra.

Do you approach certain things differently?
In the chamber orchestra, everything is taken very literally in terms of performance, plus there is usually a conductor which changes the dynamic completely. There is much less flexibility on stage because of the greater number of people in the orchestra as opposed to the give members of the quintet.

If so, how?
The rehearsals in the quintet are much more open and relaxed than the highly structured nature of the chamber orchestra. In the orchestra you must take your cue from the management on when to show up for rehearsals and concerts, when to leave, and what to play. The conductor gives instructions as to how to play the music. There is little if any negotiation on any of these matters.

In the quintet, we decide when we rehearse, what we play, how we play, and with whom we collaborate! It is more work in this regard but in many ways much preferable to not having as much freedom. Also, when we do perform with ensembles, we are the soloists! It is a VERY different thing to be the soloist as opposed to playing in the band;-)

The Road: Favorite thing?
I love the camaraderie of my colleagues for one! We have so much fun on the road! I love traveling in general and all it entails. I love all the wonderful people we meet.

Least favorite thing?
It’s challenging at times trying to balance my busy schedule as a university professor, father and husband, and international touring artist…but so far it’s working OK! I really have no complaints and feel so fortunate to do what I love for a living.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.
Images courtesy of THE CANADIAN BRASS

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Sackegasse by Juan Calderon


Juan Calderin is a gifted former student of mine, and a promising young composer. He was kind enough to turn a composition assignment exploring the capabilities bass trombone from a “dead end” to a thing of beauty for the noble instrument in an unaccompanied setting. Juan’s further generosity has enabled me to present this work to you here-enjoy!


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From The Berlin Philharmonic, Stefan Schulz Translates “Seven Positions” tm

Stefan Schulz plays bass trombone in one of the finest orchestras in the world, and shows no signs of being satisfied just yet. An active recitalist and chamber musician, he has emerged as one of the finest classical soloists of his generation and a gifted recording artist. is elated to host Stefan Schulz as the 6th installment of the third collection of “Seven Positions” tm, and to publish the interview in both German and English. Enjoy!


1st Position
What do you look for in an instrument?

In the past I played many instruments and I always hoped I would find one that played by itself. Unfortunately, again and again, I realized I have to practice and play myself.

A good instrument makes me feel like I can talk to it and like it is the extension of my breath. It should speak easily and allow great flexibility while being easy to address or to “talk to”. A great instrument should make it easy to produce different tone colours and timbres.

I have been working with the COURTOIS Company for a while now on the development of a bass trombone that would meet my requirements. I am very much satisfied with the prototype that I am currently playing. This instrument should be on the market soon.

2nd Position
How do you conceive of an ideal tone quality?

I think there is no single, ideal tone. Even what might be considered a “bad” tone might be right, if it is appropriate for and blends in to the music.

3rd Position
What is your secret to a beautiful legato?

If I knew that, I would not hesitate to let you know. I think my own legato is not “a dream of a legato” yet.

4th Position
What helps you achieve musical expression?

I sing a lot, in my mind, but also aloud. In genera,l I record when I practice and then take the time to listen critically to my playing. This helps me a great deal.

5th Position
Name two inspirations.
One musical.
One non-musical.

This question does not translate well.

6th Position SS
Please discuss the care and attention that you and your accompanist give to each note in a phrase. How long do you spend experimenting and have you sought out coaches-(as have many of the prominent violin and piano soloists)?

I take my time to prepare myself. My concerts are prepared well ahead of time. But I am really working for the rehearsals. I am lucky to work with excellent chamber musicians. This is the real fun. We experiment with the notes until we are happy with it. This is how music makes you happy. When I play “Haendel in Harlem”, I can create sounds, that are very different from those in a classical recital. You will hear that on my new CDs.

7th Position SSstefan-schulz-pressefoto-01
The Germanic people are intensely musical; how does this great tradition inform you, and what is it like to play in one of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world
To play with the Berliner Philharmoniker is, of course, a dream. This orchestra has a huge potential and it inspires me a lot. I am grateful that I have had the good fortune to play with them.
“Tradition” is a different story. I think Leinsdorf said, “tradition is a bag full of bad habits”. There are so many excellent musicians as well as orchestras in the world! I do not think, there is something special about the music in the German-speaking regions.

What is the best trombone playing you have ever heard?

I have heard so many good trombone players. There is not enough room to list them all.

What was the best trombone playing you have done?

I am still waiting for it.

What are some of the adjustments that you make to your playing when switching from symphonic playing to soloing? From soloing to symphonic playing?

The music gives the answer. I do not make any technical changes during my playing. For me, the answer is to look into the “epicenter of the music”.

Stefan Handel
Erste Lage
Was erwarten Sie von einem Instrument?




Zweite Lage
Was verstehen Sie unter einer idealen Tonqualitaet?


Dritte Lage
Was ist Ihr Geheimnis fuer ein traumhaftes Legato?


Vierte Lage
Was hilft Ihnen, die musikalische Ausdrucksweise zu erreichen?


Fuenfte Lage
Bitte nennen Sie zwei Eingebungen/Erleuchtungen (musical/non-musical)

die Sie erlebt haben.

Sechste Lage SS
Bitte erlaeutern Sie die Sorgfalt und Aufmerksamkeit, die Sie und
Ihr Begleiter jeder Note widmen.Wie lange experimentieren Sie?


stefan-schulz-pressefoto-02Siebte Lage SS
Man sagt, deutschsprechende Menschen seien besonders musikalisch; in welcher Weise hat diese Tradition Sie geformt, und wie fuehlt man sich in einem der besten Symphonie-
orchester der Welt zu spielen?


Welches war das beste Posaunenspiel, das Sie je gehoert haben?


Was war Ihr eigenes bestes Posaunenspiel?


Wie veraendern Sie Ihre Spielweise, wenn Sie vom Gruppen- zum Solospiel wechseln und vice versa?


c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Photos courtesy of Stefan Schulz

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Only The Beginning! The Dutch Bass Trombone Open

-5Many tenor trombonists are unaware that the International Trombone Association was initially conceived as a society for Bass Trombonists only by founding president Tom Everett, founding treasurer Tom Streeter and others. As the idea progressed, it eventually included tenor trombone players as it became the impressive world-wide association that we know today. The bass trombone is found in every major orchestra. It has has been a fully functioning instrument for hundreds of years as evidenced by the beautiful writing by Heinreich Schutz (1585-1672) in “Fili Mi Absalon“. Despite this, the bass trombone often does not receive the same recognition as an independent instrument as has its orchestral counterparts the tuba, the piccolo, or perhaps even the English horn. A ground-breaking instrument in big band jazz, and found in wind and brass bands of all types, the bass trombone has often been viewed as secondary, complimentary or optional by many and is still invisible to some. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the trombone choir. Here, it seems as though the general ratio with tenor trombonists of 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 continues to be the norm-(while Viento Sur and others have made progress, the typical trombone quartet remains three tenors and a bass as well).

All of this was set upon its head in the year 2006, when the bi-annual Dutch Bass Trombone Open became the greatest gathering in honor of this independent and beautiful instrument and put the all-bass trombone choir on the map! Begun by two friends who aspired to have a lesson with their bass trombone hero, the DBTO has become
THE worldwide event in honor of the instrument whom its’s advocates believe to be the most compelling instrumental solo bass voice-bar none. Since its inception, the impressive array of featured artists have included the likes of:

2006 : Csaba Wagner, Bill Reichenbach and Ben van Dijk

2008 : Phil Teel, Douglas Yeo, Ben van Dijk

2010 : Brandt Attema, Jos Jansen, Martin van den Berg, Ben van Dijk

2012 : Charlie Vernon, Csaba Wagner, Mattis Cederberg

And the upcoming Dutch Bass Trombone Open (DBTO) which takes place on September 5th, 6th and 7th will feature another renown assemblage of the finest bass trombonists and enthusiasts in the world.

2014 : Matyas Veer, Denson Paul Pollard, Ben van Dijk , Guest : Erik van Lier

How and when did the idea and name for the DBTO first come about?
(MARCEL) A Friend of mine, Erwin Dijkstra, wanted to have a lesson from Ben van Dijk during a workshop in Germany, and asked me to join him because it was a long drive. Thinking out loud, I told him it would be easier to call Ben up and ask for a lesson or to arrange a trombone workshop for ourselves in the Netherlands……, OR what about just BASS trombones? This is how it started-almost 10 years ago now. Just how I am telling it now, with a conversation of just a few minutes the DBTO was born.

(BERT) Marcel talked to me about this idea when I visited his repair shop. I fell in Love with the idea and started to work with him about the way to accomplish it. I began to think of the right name as well. Marcel first talked about a “Bass Trombone Boot Camp” and I came up with the idea to give it a name in such a way that nobody knew what to expect-(so we avoided the words Festival, Master class, Clinic, School, Academy etc.) For us, it was also clear that we did not like competition or level differences; it should be OPEN to every bass trombone player.

We loved the idea of this event being something only for BASS trombone players and immediately we came up with the phrase “No tenor trombones will be used, permitted, harmed or damaged in any way during this event!” Humor should be an important item during this event, because we bass trombone players like to laugh a lot!!

We wanted to make it a special event it and decided that we would host only (!) 50 players in a nice environment with good food-very important. With all the Bass trombone connections Marcel has, we soon found Ben van Dijk who was among the first enthusiastic players who wanted to be involved! Since he was more or less the reason it all started, we also agreed fairly quick that Ben should be involved in every DBTO as a the “Artist in Residence”, and were delighted to consider the enormous network of bass trombonists he had assembled from all over the world!

(BEN) This all comes from the contributions of Marcel, Bert and in the first year Erwin. Marcel presented the idea of this event during one of my visits to his atelier and it resonated like a perfect, in-tune Pedal chord! At the same time, I realized that I was accepting a challenge.
Marcel and Bert have done a great job in getting this event on the map, every single time. They have great ideas, are super motivated and accomplish everything in their spare free time. Bravissimo!

What did you hope to achieve?
(MARCEL) Our first intention was to meet our bass trombone heroes, at first it was, “Can we do it?”-bring just bass trombone players together? We never thought it would grow to something so internationally recognized. About 15 nationalities have joined each DBTO.

In addition, we hoped to achieve a great a motivational boost for DBTO members, to provide them with enough inspiration, technique and even some tricks from some of the best teachers in the world to inspire them throughout the year.

Luckily, I had already met several players, so it was easy to ask them. Bill Reichenbach and Phil Teele are truly-6 my love for soundtracks. In fact, I made a website about brass players in film music ( ) and went to LA I 2004 where I met Bill and Phil. It was apleasure to see Bill later when he turned up in the Netherlands for a gig. Ben van Dijk lives in Den Haag and I happened to work in the local brass shop he visited all his life. So, as a long time customer and friend, Ben was easy to ask. Our faculty has been most impressive, still we have a wish list of Bass trombone artists we would like to invite for 2016 DBTO. These include: David Taylor, Stefan Schultz, Rodger Argente, and Jim Markey to name a few…

(BERT) We had no idea what to expect to be honest. It began just for us to meet our heroes and we hoped that we could find some more bass trombone players who thought the same way! (And we did!! Ha ha.) Our goal at first (and actually still is), was to provide the great experience while covering all expenses. Now we have more or less two goals! The first is that every bass trombone player be made aware of the DBTO. Strangely, we have come to find that some bass trombone players have still never heard of us! :-)
And secondly, we think every bass trombone player should attend at least one!!!! Although we have had a lot nationalities sign up, we are very excited if we see players sign up from a country we have not had before HAHAHA It’s like saving soccer cards! HAHAHA

You would not believe our excitement when we encounter such a subscriber. On the other hand, it makes us feel the responsibility to redouble our efforts to make everything worthwhile for this player to make such an effort to come!

(BEN) The first thing that comes to my mind is to have a gathering of people who all share a common interest and passion, the bass trombone. To meet these people, amateur and professional players from all over the world, and have a weekend full of exchanging ideas, experiences and listening to each other-that is what I hoped for and I can say, that is what we have achieved..

What was the first year like?
(MARCEL) We had set some goals to start: 1) 50 bass trombones 2) A nice venue. 10 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter and the internet was not so big. I sometimes wonder, how did I promote it in those days?? Despite these challenges, we always got the 40 plus players in.

Finding a Venue was hard, because we wanted a complete setup where we could make music, eat and drink and sleep in one place and that was also affordable. We set the goal that the DBTO should cost not more than €300.
For two nights, all the food and the DBTO program it’s almost the same price as if you would stay in a normal hotel for two days! Making a budget was the other thing. How are we going to pay for this? We really needed the support from companies to sponsor the teachers. From the start, Michael Rath and Thein brass were very supportive, and we also had contributions from Gary Greenhoe, Michael Davis, Marcus Bonna and the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw. They helped out to make it happen for Bill Reichenbach to come, with Ben van Dijk and Csaba Wagner who were the first teachers. Yamaha contributed in 2008, and Conn-Selmer did in 2012.

2010 was a bad year, planning was terrible getting all the teachers on one date, was impossible. Money was ac hallenge, but some of the funding we were hoping for but did workout. Then Ben van Dijk stepped in and arranged a all- Dutch team of teachers with Jos Jansen (Royal Navy Band), Martin van de Berg( Metropole orchestra), and Brandt Attema(Radio Philharmonic). Even without a international Artist, it was the most successful DBTO ever!

As I recall, all the other things went okay and true to my experience with many other music projects I did most of the logistics and promo. Bert is the program guy and our creative on the spot trouble-shooter. Our bass Trombone friend Erwin Dijkstra helped out, because the DBTO idea started with he and I.

After the first year, I was floating on air for several days. We did do something nobody has ever done before, that gave me a kick. I had the same rush in 2008; getting Doug Yeo and Phil Teele together was something special. The review Doug wrote on his website makes me proud and emotional.

(BEN) All previous years have been amazing and for me personally. It is so nice to be on a team of teachers with great bass trombonists. The first year, we had Bill Reichenbach and I remember that on the openings evening I played some Tommy Pederson duets with him-A dream come true! Bill is just one of the best players I have ever heard and besides that, he is also such a nice person.
We also had the young Csaba Wagner from Hungary who played in the Opera of Berlin. What a talent this guy is! and also a very nice person. Actually, all the people we have had as guest teachers-artists were just amazing during these events. It is so important that the team is open to the participants and that they can work, listen and talk with all who attend this event.

(BERT) AWSOME! Again what Marcel wrote we were floating!! We got the meet and work with (Besides Ben!) Bill Reichenbach and “new Kid on the block” Csaba Wagner!! We had no idea what to expect and were delighted that the things we worked out before came to a good ending! I remember one of my ideas of an open discussion did not worked out the way I planned but at the end we learned some personal issues from players we worship… maybe not at all the worst idea….

Who decided to have a bass trombone choir?
(MARCEL) No tenor trombones will be used, permitted, harmed or damaged in any way during this event!

(BERT) No tenor trombones will be used, permitted, harmed or damaged in any way during this event! I think Marcel really wanted that we also came to play with each other so……since we allowed only bass trombone players to attend, the choir setup was pretty clear!! haha

(BEN) I think I can say that this probably came from my mind. I think a trombone ensemble is one of the nicest brass combinations possible. It was a challenge to try to make a bass trombone choir sound interesting. It isn’t easy to make this a success, but I can tell you it is a lot of fun!

Are you aware of any previous all-bass trombone choirs?
(MARCEL) No, not that I recall

(BERT) No, even we searched for it! In the end, we even asked Bill Reichenbach write something for us! With the only remark that this pieces can only be played by bass trombone players!! (Meaning that, in every part at least a note where you need to use the valves :-) haha) So he did, and we still use that piece in every edition!

(BEN) Never heard of it in this big set-up. I already had some experience with my bass trombone students but never more then 6 or 8 players together maximum. Here, we are speaking of a 40 plus member all-bass trombone choir.

What have been some of the most memorable moments?

(MARCEL) For me, it has been meeting some of the greatest bass trombone players in the world in such a special environment. They didn’t attend because we paid them a lot of money, but just because we asked them for this unique event. Asking new artist/faculty is easy. Who wouldn’t want to be on our Alumni list with Bill Reichenbach, Phil Teele, Douglas Yeo, Csaba Wagner, Denson Paul Pollard, Jos Jansen, Charlie Vernon, Matyas Veer, Mattis Cederberg, Martin van de Berg, Erik van Lier, Brandt Attema and Ben van Dijk. An amazing list it is!

(BERT) I am also very proud of the alumni list! Having, for instance Phil Teele, is huge, considering Phil has never left L.A. for this sort of stuff before! Thanks to the talk Bill gave him when he came back to L.A., Phil decided to join us. I asked Phil to bring a list (if he had one), of all the movies that he played on. I had hoped to put it down in the reception area for for people to look at, just for fun. He did bring this list. I was overwhelmed-the list was a stack of 32 sheets of paper with small print and double-sided! Hahaha I could not find a movie I had seen and was NOT on the list!! Unbelievable….

(BEN) Too many to name but to name a few:
Hearing Bill Reichenbach improvise on a Bach cello suite, unbelievable.
To play the contrabass trombone presentation during the first edition of the DBTO.The 3rd version of DBTO, where I was together in the team with 3 of my former students, Brandt Attema, Jos Jansen and Martin van den Berg.

(MARCEL) The Marching Bass trombones with Big Chief Jos Jansen! Buzzing and Bubbling-we got all 54 bass trombonists buzzing in the swimming pool with Charlie Vernon.
(BERT) O so many! The swimming pool was indeed, The Monty Python march, The Late show and our preparations for this, Ben trying to convince Erwin with his foot while playing a serious part to put on the CD so he could continue in a flow…(seen on youtube), Jos Jansen, and I can go on for a long time…

-4(BEN) During one of the opening evenings I planned to play Frescobaldi, a version of one of his Canzone Basso arranged by Eddy Koopman. Since the accompaniment is on cd, I improvised a sort of introduction and asked one of the organizers of the event to start the cd at my signal. After my improvised interlude, I gave him a clear sign but he didn’t react. Even after a second and third sign no reaction so I had to tell him to push the bottom. The situation was quite humorous, especially when he told me the reason. He was in a sort of Wow-feeling and simply didn’t think of his task.

What three things stand out in your mind that you have learned about the bass trombone from the DBTO?
(MARCEL) It’s the best brass instrument in the world. 2) It is hard work to master. 3) We should promote the bass trombone even more.

(BERT) It is an unbelievable instrument with power and gentleness in one instrument! It can make you laugh and cry. Despite of being a “lonely” instrument (even in the biggest orchestra’s there is mostly only one), the players are very sociable and many have a similar sense of humor as Marcel and me. Every time I think that I can play pretty ok on the bass trombone, I keep in mind the enormous amount of moments during DBTO that I am not even close…..So still a lot of work to be done!

(BEN) How difficult it is to play in front of so many bass trombone aficionados. In the beginning I always feel so terrified but after a short while it becomes easier because everybody is so nice!

About bass trombonists?
(MARCEL) The best. Mostly there is only one in a band or orchestra. But if you put 50 together,man it feels great. At all levels, from beginners, students and professionals we all share the love for this instrument. Bass trombone players come in all colors and sizes.

(BERT) We all struggle with the same problems!! (Life, Career and Level)

(BEN) The differences between players is striking. I mean having so many together you can hear so many different ways of playing the bass trombone. Sound-wise, style-wise, articulation-wise etc. and despite the different approaches, still many sound just awesome.

Which musical performances of your own stand out?
(MARCEL) For me, it has been playing with the Holland Big band for ten years. We are now playing some amazing projects, n addition to the last 6 years with Amsterdam Brass.

(BERT) Playing in The Charlie Green Big band (where I sometimes sit next to T.S. Galloway, an alumnus of the great Count Basie Orchestra), and The Convocation Big band is what I like to do. I really enjoy it when people comment on the parts I play during intermission. Conducting my own orchestra and having accompanied David Taylor was a very memorable moment.

(BEN) I liked a lot the duets I played with Martin van den Berg during the 3rd version.

Of others?
(MARCEL) Live? tThis should be th Mnozil Brass. I have heard them now three times and consider them to be best brass group ever and 200% entertaining.

(BERT) Ther are too many to list. Dave Taylor in the Bob Mintzer Big band comes first to mind, I never new I would get to know him personally!

(BEN) Like I mentioned earlier, Bill Reichenbach but also Doug Yeo, Jos Jansen and Brandt Attema with Brass Band. To be honest, I am always so impressed by what my colleagues accomplish on stage-so inspirational.

What do you feel DBTO has accomplished? And has yet to accomplish?
(MARCEL) Every group, if it’s a chess club, or a photo club, every group needs a Mecca, a center or a point of gravity in the universe. I’d like to think that the DBTO has become that for bass trombone players. We always say, that every bass trombone player in the world should have been to the DBTO at least once. I think we are doing okay, there are some players who are visiting us for the 5th time, so we must be doing something right

We hope to meet many bass trombone players in the future and we keep on improving the dbto. Yes we are bass trombone players, but we also try to be the best host and give everybody an amazing experience

(BERT) We have definitely accomplished a unique place in the world! I really like to think that! I feel fortunate to have a friend like Marcel, whose enthusiasm is always pushing me. DBTO has made our friendship even tighter, and it seems to me that it is something special if you are a DBTO member. We know that Marcel and me are not the only ones who feel this way. Ben feels it, as have more and players who have joined us every time during the last 10 years! I would like for every player who has attended the DBTO to feel as though they are part of something special-sort of like being part of a family! So you bass trombone players over the world: Just picking up a bass trombone is not enough!! :-)

(BEN) DBTO has accomplished an absolutely unique repeating event that in my opinion should get much more exposure. As a serious bass trombone lover, this is a weekend you should witness at least twice in your life.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Photos courtesy of DBTO

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Don Harry Enlivens “The Fourth Valve” tm

I first met
Don Harry at a recent tribute to Bill Bell held at the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference at Indiana University. An illustrious teacher in his own right, Harry seems to embody the Bill Bell-Harvey Phillips line of tuba excellence in his current duties as Eastman faculty, member of the Eastman Faculty Brass, tubist with the Buffalo Philharmonic and as a soloist. “The Fourth Valve” tm is overjoyed to enjoy the enlivened discussion with such a distinguished guest.

images-11. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
There is no one tuba sound except in the practice zone; the literature determines the color. Sometimes, and primarily, we are a 5th horn in the big German pieces. Sometimes, we are like a bass trombone in certain pieces of Stravinsky, Bernstein or Shostakovich. At other times, we arte a euphonium surrogate (Berlioz), or a woodwind voice (Mendelssohn and other Ophicleide parts). Primarily, we are a Lyric Baritone ‘wannabe’ or a Bass voice. My personal concept is a very intense core in the mid-harmonics surrounded by a corona of sound. Depending on the volume, the two things can vary; the core can become over powering, or the corona can be required to be the thing that fills certain colors at the bottom of ensemble (and the choir), involved.

Does your cultural heritage inform your approach to tone or interpretation?
There is a small connection to sounds I have heard and made in relation to my Delaware, Caddo and Kiowa relatives-great power and focus with a very intense projection.

2. The brass quintet is almost ideally suited to Conservatory and University Settings, one seat for each studio-plus another trumpet. How do you view the history and development of the faculty brass quintet, and which are some of your favorites?
Certainly one of the most critical outlets we have. There were many influences for me: The New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet (with the old players), The Boston Brass Quartet (with Robert King on euphonium and Herb Ludwig on trumpet), the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet with Arnold Jacobs on tuba and, in the modern era, the NY Brass Quintet with Harvey Phillips on tuba, and the Empire Brass in its first incarnation

3. Which tuba concertos do you feel have the best mix of high musical content and audience appeal? Do you prefer tuba concertos most with orchestra, band, or brass?

I am very impressed with the Samuel Jones Concerto. It presents extremely difficult experiences, but is accessible and worth the effort. The Songs of Ascent and Journey are close runner-ups.

4. What was your typical warm-up routine like as an undergrad asUnknown compared to when achieved your career?
My warmups at that stage on the tuba were dogmatically required by Bill Bell. His routine, labeled “Warmup”, was a refresher of scales and chords that involved all of the key signatures. If you could play it, you were wasting your time and unprepared to play the piece at hand sometimes. On trombone, the Remington Warmups were a requirement and, for me, personally not very helpful. I was influenced by Joseph Novotny and his use of the Schlossberg exercises and by Bill Adam the great trumpet teacher at IU. I played for a number of years with his students and was always aware that they could sound great and play all day and all night. Eventually, I got to my idea that most warmups are too long and too easy! So I made my own versions which start with upward slurs, rather than comfortable downward things which feel good but don’t get to the main issue, the gig. I combined these with specifically gearing each day to a basic miniature of all the things I needed to be able to do and with specific things for the specific I was performing. I will eventually have a small book addressing these ideas.

5. Some have addressed the struggles and rewards of being “on the road” with a brass quintet. What are the joys and pitfalls of “teaching on the same faculty”-sharing students, and performing together? Any special consideration due to the legacy of previous brass faculty?

I have been fortunate to be in Eastman Brass since 1990 and on the Eastman Faculty for 15 years. This is my only quintet experience at this level and has always been unrelenting at all levels. It is a joy for us to get together and a tremendously therapeutic experience musically. The membership has changed over the years with the new player always fitting in like a glove. A true joy.

6. Who has influenced you most as a musician?
I was at the Gunnison Music Camp from 1959-1961 where the faculty included Earle Louder, Armando Ghitalla, Bill Bell, Arnold Jacobs with visits by Roger Bobo and Harvey Phillips. Musically, I was and still am influencedimages by Bill Bell’s sound and musicality which, even late in life, had qualities which were beautiful. Primarily, I was influenced though piano players like Walter Gieseking, Horowitz,Ernst von Dohnanyi, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and George Shearing…. (on and on.) I spent years playing piano for my own access to music when I had no access to a tuba.

7. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
Joseph Novotny, New York Philharmonic, with Bernstein conducting Prokofiev Symphony No. 5.

8. What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?
Difficult to say; still working on it.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

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John Stevens Tackles “The Fourth Valve” tm

A bracelet inscribed with the motto “Been there, done that!” was said to be among the possessions most prized by the then recently retired opera star Beverly Sills. When asked if she might not miss some of the excitement of her former career, she was reminded of her accomplishment by the response inscribed on the bracelet.

While comparing a soprano to a tubist may seem a sonic stretch to some, few things could be more apt than the motto of Sills’ bracelet in describing the recent retirement of tubist, composer and educator John Stevens.

From a solo feature in Broadway’s “Barnum”, to performances with the top Brass Quintets and more-tubist John Stevens has “been there”. As a celebrated professor at distinguished universities, and a composer of a rich body of work which includes a concerto for tuba commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra-John Stevens has “done that”! “The Fourth Valve” tm is privileged to present the amazing John Stevens as the first respondent of our second set of four interviews on

1. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
A given note should be about 98% tone and 2% articulation. Articulation is created by consonants (just like in speech) and tone is created by vowels. We tend to use “T” for our articulations, but I’m a big fan of “D” on the tuba, especially in the lower register when we usually want our tongue to be a bit lower and more rounded (less pointed) – which is most easily achieved by simply thinking “D” rather than making the mistake of trying to think about and micro-manage the tongue. Any vowel syllable that results in an open oral cavity is desirable. I prefer “OH”, with a gradual shift more to “OOH” as we move into the upper register. Very important to use a “small” but precise articulation even when playing in a loud dynamic range. Thus, the syllable “tOH” (small “t”, big “OH”) helps us get the kind of sound we want.

Here are some words I like to think of to achieve the ideal tuba sound (in no particular order): round, rich, resonant, thick, warm, ringing, singing, big, dark… I use hundreds of analogies in my teaching, and one I’ve used for years is chocolate bunnies. We all know the disappointment of biting into a chocolate bunny (usually around Easter) and finding it to be hollow. It’s much more satisfying to bite into a solid chocolate bunny. Try to sound like a solid chocolate bunny looks and feels (see many of the words mentioned above.) A sound should always be projected, regardless of dynamic (dynamics are more of a quality than a quantity anyway). To maintain a good sound in softer dynamics, add intensity to your sound as you get softer (think about a stage whisper). Quality of sound is about the most important thing for us. No matter what else you do well, nobody is going to want to listen to you if you don’t “sing” with a good sound.

How far from this ideal have you traveled (on purpose), during performances?
Occasionally one is required, or desires, to make a sound that is edgier, nastier or has other qualities. Multiphonics in a variety of styles (Encounters II, Fnugg, etc.) are obvious examples. When playing jazz a “grittier” sound is sometimes desirable. I think that players should solidly establish their ideal sound as a kind of home base so that they can divert from it when appropriate but always return to it for “typical” playing.

2. What did you learn from composing “Journey” and how much did Eugene Pokorny’s musical personality inform your choices?
I always learn a great deal from composing every piece of music. JOURNEY was an exceptional opportunity and collaboration, primarily with Gene of course, but eventually with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the conductors involved. I sat down with Gene and had some substantial conversations before I began to compose JOURNEY. I wanted to know what was important to him for the piece, favorite composers and works of his, and other musical considerations. But beyond that, even though I knew Gene pretty well already, I wanted to have a better idea of what made him tick. The last thing either of us wanted to do was to create a work that would only be suitable for him to perform, but I wanted to make it a piece that he would really love and embrace. Via the collaborative process of working rather closely together throughout the compositional process I believe we accomplished that.
john-stevens-writingA few specifics that I learned or that were reinforced by composing this work:
- The collaborative process (the human element, if you will), of any composition project is the most important thing.
- Leave an orchestrational “window” for the solo tuba, keeping the instruments of the orchestra higher and lower than the soloist (range-wise) so that the solo tuba can always be heard clearly.
- Use a lot of dialogue between the solo tuba and the sections of the orchestra (or the whole orchestra) – again, so the solo part can be clearly heard. The tuba produces a diffuse sound and is not really as “loud” as people imagine, so clarity of the solo part to the audience is a big consideration.

JOURNEY was my first commission for orchestra, and I still pinch myself that it came from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As I said earlier, it provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime – to create a major work for one of the all-time greatest tubists (and one of my favorite people, by the way) and one of the world’s great orchestras. I will always be grateful for that opportunity!

3. What recollections do you have regarding the ABQ, and being in New York during a time when brass quintets became so popular?
Well, first of all, as an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music, playing in a brass quintet was one of my primary musical activities. As a freshman I played in an excellent group with older students. Then 5 of us formed a quintet that remained very active together for the next three years under the guidance of horn professor Verne Reynolds. We performed regular recitals of all the big works that were around at the time – Arnold, Bozza, Schuller, Etler, Verne’s Centones and other early music arrangements, etc. – and also did quite a lot of “Young Audiences” work in the schools. More than I realized at the time, Verne was also providing me wight the role model of the performer/teacher/composer that I later became.

Then I went to Yale for my MM and played in another very active quintet for my two years there, working to some degree with all the members of the New York Brass Quintet. By the time I moved to NYC in 1975, I was a very avid and experienced quintet player and chamber music had firmly established itself as my favorite performing medium.

Right about this time the American Brass Quintet began performing Civil War era brass band music, and theytu92 really needed to add a tuba to make the group a sextet to successfully render that music. They were also making the Boehme Sextet a staple of their repertoire. At any rate, they invited me to join them for both of those endeavors, in part because I got to know them very well because I had already been one of the professional tubists performing in Aspen during the summers. I played many concerts with the ABQ in and around NYC during the year and in Colorado during the summers. What a joy that was – in every way. We also did two LP recordings of Civil War era music. The first was just the six of us, recorded in the middle of the night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We scheduled the sessions then in part because it was quiet, but mostly because we were all busy and that was the only time we could count on everyone being able to be there. A couple of years later, the ABQ put together a larger group (14 or so players – brass and percussion) for a recording that would more closely depict the band size and sound of the era. Toby Hanks and I were the two tubists. I should mention that we performed all the Civil War music on period instruments. Those that weren’t owned by the players were borrowed from either the Metropolitan Museum or a local private collector. I was always playing an over-the-shoulder Eb bass. They were great fun to play but a real challenge to play in tune!

Rehearsing, performing and recording with the ABQ was one of the real highlights of my New York years, not only because it was so musically satisfying but because it created lifelong friendships with wonderful people.

4. What was your typical warm-up routine like as an undergrad as compared to later in your career?
As a freshman at Eastman in 1969, I immediately came under the spell and indirect influence of the great trombone pedagogue Emory Remington. Although I never worked directly under his guidance (and he passed away midway through my junior year), my teacher Donald Knaub had been his student and certainly espoused the same fundamentals. I am, by nature, a pretty organized and methodical person, so I quickly got into a routine of doing a regular, Remington warm-up to begin each day. I would actually differentiate a bit between “warm-up” and “daily routine” – both of which are important. The variety of exercises in my daily routine take some time to get through, but I am really warmed up long before I complete them. Some days I would work on the routine, taking perhaps 45 minutes or so. Other days I would just play straight through it (maybe 20 minutes) and move on to etudes, solos or excerpts. That has been the approach I have encouraged my students to use throughout my teaching career.

IMG_6717As I got older, and life got busier with teaching, composing, administrative work and other career issues – not to mention family life in general – I had to become more efficient with my practice time. I eventually boiled my warm-up down to a routine that would prepare me for the performing day as quickly as possible. Constants over the years for me have been long tones, flexibility exercises and pattern scales. I have also remained religious about starting in the middle and lower register before moving into higher playing. I would also say that, over the years, I learned that extensive work in the low register is important for both low and high range playing.

5. When did you really begin to devote yourself to composition, and how has it informed your tuba playing?
I never really studied composition. I studied jazz arranging with Rayburn Wright at Eastman, but when I got to Yale I didn’t really have an outlet for that and decided to begin composing for my own instrument. This was largely because I felt we had a great need for new repertoire for the tuba. I wanted to compose music that performers would find meaningful to play and audiences would find meaningful to hear – and that is still my overriding goal with each work I compose. During graduate school I composed SUITE NO. 1 for unaccompanied tuba, and POWER, MUSIC 4 TUBAS and DANCES for ensemble. I didn’t really realize at the time that, along with my tuba colleagues at Yale, I was kind of on the cutting edge of creating chamber music for tubas. By the way, I premiered DANCES on my Masters recital and it was the solo public performance on the F tuba of my entire career.
I always say that as a composer I think like a performer, and as a performer I think like a composer. It has always been very important to me to be as complete a musician as possible, and composing has been a huge part of that process. When composing a piece of music, I am thinking about every aspect of the work – from the big picture to the smallest details. That approach certainly translates to how I think as a perfumer.

john-stevens-with-tuba-16. What do you see as the major pedagogical points which:
a.) need the most attention yet &
b.) have had the greatest impact?

Without question, RHYTHM!!!! I feel strongly that rhythm, and what we jazz musicians would call “time” is very underemphasized in the teaching of young students. I always say that the right note in the wrong place is a wrong note. Counting, subdividing, pulsing (the heartbeat of the music) and grooving are all so important… By grooving, I mean that it is not enough to just play “correct” rhythms in steady tempos. Players should strive to be “in the pocket”, with rhythms being correct and steady but also having the right feel (or groove), which changes a bit depending on the style of the music. This is an especially important issue for tubists because we so often play a rhythmic role.

The other big one for me is the need to emphasize music first, then playing. Focus on the product and the technique will evolve to create the music in a successful way. Focusing on the technique will not necessarily result in good music making. I always tell my students that if someone sees them after a performance and says “That was really great playing.”, that’s certainly fine. But if they say “That was really great music.”… then you’ve done something…

7. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
Oh my, I’ve heard so much wonderful playing from so many people in so many styles. I shouldn’t name names, because I’ll surely leave out some folks who I really admire, but I’m going to take a chance and do it anyway… by trying to put them into a context and perhaps focus a bit on players of my own age or older. The big early influences on me are typical of my generation – Roger Bobo and Harvey Phillips. Orchestral playing has been epitomized by Arnold Jacobs, Gene Pokorny and many others. Toby Hanks was a huge influence on me, not only as a teacher, but as a tubist I wanted to emulate – especially as a chamber musician. Great jazz playing… Sam Pilafian and Marty Erickson stand out. As a soloist, I must mention Pat Sheridan, who has played many of my all-time favorite performances – but there are many others who I could name as well. The level of playing just keeps going up, which means there are so many fantastic players out there “today” that I don’t even want to get started. Actually, I’ve been fortunate to have many students over the years who have made a big impact on me with their music. With one exception I’m not going to name names – you know who you are. That one exception is Nat McIntosh. The creative work that Nat has done, especially on the sousaphone, stands out as some of the most incredible and innovative playing it’s been my privilege to hear.

8. What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?
Oh man… you should have heard it in the practice room!!! :^) I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever been asked this question. Like most of us, I feel that my prime as a player was probably when I was pretty young-during my NYC years in the late ’70′s. Again, I think most of us become better musicians as we age, evolve and (hopefully) mature. For me, the most important thing has always been to “say something” musically – as opposed to focusing on the tuba playing as the primary thing.

I guess I would have to say that my 2005 “Reverie” CD is an example of that. I guess I feel that my greatest skills were oriented toward “getting the job done” in a wide variety of styles and media – chamber music, orchestral, solo work, jazz, Broadway and other commercial styles, improvising, sight-reading. As I said earlier, for me, being a good tuba player has been one part of being a good musician.

Now I’m comfortable with putting that part largely aside and focusing on my life as a composer.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Images from the University of Wisconsin and

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Jim Self, LA Studio Legend, Solos on “The Fourth Valve” tm220px-The_Legend_of_Zorro_poster…….Jim Self, Tuba Solos In Major Film Scores: (John Williams) Jurassic Park, Home Alone I&II, Hook, & Close Encounters of the Third Kind; (James Horner) Casper & Batteries Not Included; (Marc Shaiman) Sleepless in Seattle; (Jerry Goldsmith) Dennis the Menace

You would be hard pressed to find many musicians on ANY instrument as versatile and talented as tubist Jim Self. From top Hollywood studio dates, to playing principal tuba in The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, playing the John Williams Tuba Concerto under the composer’s baton to being nominated by DOWNBEAT, Jim Self is remarkable and unique. His endeavors stretch to more than a dozen solo recordings and numerous compositions as well. What would you expect from the protege of Harvey Phillips and Tommy Johnson? “The Fourth Valve” tm is honored to host Jim Self for our Fourth interview of our first set of four interviews!

1. Do you remember how you felt on your first motion picture soundtrack session?
My first session was a TV show–2 weeks after I moved to LA (don’t remember name of show)–subbing for Tommy Johnson. I had a tuba solo and the 1st horn (Dave Duke), came up to me and said, “Hey kid, you are going to have a good career in the studios”.–Wow! I don’t remember my 1st movie but my 1st BIG movie was Taxi Driver with two tubas (Tommy and me) for the great composer Bernard Herrmann. We finished on Christmas eve 1975 and Herrmann went home and died that night.

Can you compare that to how you felt on your most recent one?
The last film I did was in May. It was X Men 3, Days of Future Past with composer John Ottman. It had a huge brass section with Doug Tornquist and I on tubas and cimbassos.
After more than 1500 movies I don’t get too excited anymore. The composer in this score, like so many in this age of Pro Tools, wanted a lot of the cues recorded with striping (tracking)–recording the strings and woodwinds then overdubbing the brass–so they can mix it separately. I really hate this kind of recording and much prefer it when we all play together on the same take. Alas it is the way things are done today–especially in big, loud action movies like X Men.

2. How do you conceive of, describe, or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
My ideal sound is clear, big and warm and projects a lot of feeling, in tune, even timbre in all registers and a solo flare when needed. Great rhythm is a must!

3. What was your warm-up like when you were 22 as opposed to11168882_800 now?
I never had a consistent warm-up routine. Most of my life I worked every day and was usually in shape even with out a warm-up. Often my work required making a “take” immediately with out rehearsal-so I learned to be my best “in the moment”. But I still recommend a warm-up to my students that includes long tones, tonguing and slurring, range from low to high-all to get everything working. I play less now so I need to practice more.

4. What are your inspirations?
My inspirations are so many from my teachers Harvey Phillips and Tommy Johnson to Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Placido Domingo, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme,Arnold Jacobs, Roger Bobo, Winston Morris, John Stevens, Tony Plog and many many other composers and arrangers.

5. How would you describe the relationship between the tuba and the bass trombone?
About as close a a marriage–both musically and personally (hopefully without the sex). Rhythm, pitch, style and balance HAS to be shared. My job is to make the musician next to me sound better by listening and sharing–not leading.

6. What is the best tuba playing you’ve ever done?
Impossible to say–there have been so many from James Horner and John Williams solos in movies, i.e (Close Enbcounters “Voice of the Mothership) to the Wagner Ring Cycle. But my 12 jazz and classical CDs are collectively the best representatives of my sound, passion and art.

Ever heard?
Certainly Harvey Phillips, Tommy Johnson, Roger Bobo, John Fletcher, Dan Perantoni, Chester Schmitz, Arnold Jacobs, Sergio Carolino–and many many more.
7. How is playing a movie soundtrack session in Hollywood different than other types of sessions, or sessions in another location?
“A gig is a gig” — you always have to play well but a studio session requires more perfection because a microphone is right over the bell and every error is noticeable. One bad performance can mean the end to working for that composer or contractor–or even the end of your studio career. Studio work often require solo or brass overdubs–where you have to be perfect. Extra “takes” cost money and too many will cost you a career. These things are true in all recording jobs: movie, TV, records, jingles. Movies are the best paying gigs and often have the best musicians, so there is a pressure for perfection knowing that billions will hear your music–forever!

8. What do you think the high points have been for the tuba in jazz? What direction would you like to see?
The tuba in jazz is still relatively new. Red Callender, Howard Johnson, and many dixieland players have been the pioneers. I hope I have added to the idiom with my concerts and recordings as have Marty Erickson, Janos Mazura and several younger players. The GREAT star jazz tuba player on the level of Art Farmer, Stan Getz, JJ Johnson, Bill Evans (and on and on), is still in the future–maybe a teenager is out there now. The euphonium, of course, reached it with Rich Matteson-but even Rich struggled to get the recognition that the great artists on other instruments received.

9. What was it like playing for Don Ellis?
Don Ellis was like “put on your seat belt and hold on tight”. Fast, complex arrangements all in odd meters was a real trip. It sure made me a better reader and comfortable with odd and shifting meters. The tuba parts were either doubling the bass or ridiculous complicated solo and ensemble lines. My greatest joy was just listening to the great rhythm sections turning the time around in a myriad of ways and always coming out on one. Don’s writing style is a BIG part of the way I compose myself.

Jim Self-Los Angeles-June 3, 2014

Some Solo Recordings of Jim Self*

I. Children at Play (Discovery-Trend), l983-Jazz tuba and harmonica. (Chosen by High Fidelity magazine as one of the top ten jazz albums of 1983.) Re-released on Bassett Hound Records for digital sales only.
II. New Stuff (Discovery-Trend), l988-Jazz Fusion. Re-released on Bassett Hound Records for digital sales only.
III. Tricky Lix (Concord Jazz), 1990-Jazz featuring Gary Foster and Warren Luening.
IV. Changing Colors (Summit), 1992-Classical
V. The Basset Hound Blues (d’Note Records), 1997-A jazz C.D. with Pete Christlieb on tenor sax.
VI. The Big Stretch (Basset Hound Records), 1999-A classical recordingOddCouple which features some Self compositions.
VII. My America(Basset Hound Records)-Folk Music
VIII. Size Matters-Jazz Standards featuring Bill Scarlett on tenor sax.
InnerPlayIX. Inner Play (Basset Hound Records),2006-Jazz and strings featuring Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb and Dan Higgins. (Chosen by Jazz Times magazine as one of the top 50 jazz albums of 2006.)
X. The Odd Couple(Basset Hound Records)-Jazz CD featuring Ron Kalina on harmonica.
XI. Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, Bill Cunliffe(Metre Records).
XII. ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly-12 piece tuba ensemble.

c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

* List derived from, where many of Mr. Self’s recordings and publications are made available in addition to being available on iTunes, CDBaby and!

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