Ranked among the first call tubists in the top recording city of Los Angeles, John Van Houten is no stranger to playing on a variety of instruments and in a number of different styles. Best known as a tubist, contractor & orchestra manager, and teacher, Van Houten has performed on several major television shows and popular movie soundtracks including “Family Guy”, “The Simpsons”, Hulk, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, the award winning UP, and Ratatouille. He has taught at prestigious institutions throughout Southern California, and has performed with some of the finest musicians in the world. davidbrubeck.com is delighted to catch up with John Van Houten for the second installment of “The Fourth Valve”, tm.
1. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
(On ‘Bb’, ‘C’, ‘Eb’, & ‘F’)
With the exception of the Eb Tuba, I use all these tubas. They all have a certain Colors and moods one can achieve in different ranges, high or low. The Composer’s writing has a huge influence as well as the size of group and genre.
2. How do you achieve more musical expression?
I like to get in the mood of the music. For me, I’ve always drawn on life experience, Books, Sports, Paintings and Film as inspiration to “Tell a Story”. I’ve been doing this since I was @ 15 years old.
3. Name two types of inspirations:
If have to say Tommy Johnson. He played the Tuba like a Cellist. And what an incredible sound. It was amazing how he always keep sounding better.
Have to say the World Champion KickBoxers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Benny “The Jet” Urquediz and Erik Paulson. It’s an art form, but for those moments of sheer violence. Hard to explain. Like a Mahler Symphony.
4. What was your typical warm-up routine like as an undergrad?
As a Undergrad I would always start with Long Tones, Bach Cello Suites 1 and 2, Flexibility, Scales, Bordogni/Rochut and Ã‰tude books.
Now I start with the Jimmy Stamp Mouthpiece Routine (usually in my Car along with a CD) Lone Tones, Bach Prelude No. 3, (from the 6 Suites for Solo Cello) , Hip-Bones 20 Minute Warmup or Arnold Jacobs Studies. Rouchut, down an octave and down two octaves. And then what kind of music I know that is coming up.
5. When did the LA Brass musicians first achieve a higher level, and who are the players who stand out in your mind as having established the highest levels of playing?
I’m under the impression that the skills in LA have always been High.
The musicians that come to mind, Vince De Rosa (Horn), Malcolm MacNab (Trumpet), Phil Teele (Bass Trombone), Dick Nash (Trombone), Bill Reichenbach (Bass Trombone), and of course John “Tommy ” Johnson (Tuba)
6. What have you learned pursuing solo tuba, as apposed to ensemble playing?
As a Soloist, it’s up to you, the Performer, to entertain the audience. Roger Bobo had this down to a science.
Ensemble playing, is all about your role in the music. Team work.
7. How and how much do you change your playing from a purely acoustic situation, to one largely dependent on microphones?
Not much. It depends on the size of the group and what the Conductor or Composer want and again the genre of the Music, Film or Symphonic.
8. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
Tough question, but I’ll just say in Order of who I was exposed to: Tommy Johnson, Roger Bobo, John Fletcher, Arnold Jacobs and Gene Pokorny.
9. What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?
Playing on Soundtracks with Tommy Johnson and playing with Norm Pearson , of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Mr. Van Houten is an artist sponsored by Kanstul musical instruments.
c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of: johnvanhoutentuba.com
Interested in more “The Fourth Valve” tm Interviews?
John Van Houten
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