Pat Sheridan is a beautiful, insightful and inspired musician, and he likes to share! A born showman from Minneapolis-St. Paul who auditioned into Northwestern University as a freshman to study with Arnold Jacobs, Sheridan became the youngest tubist in “The President’s Own” Marine Band at 20. He is co-author, with Sam Pilafian, of the best selling Breathing Gym and an accomplished businessman with an MBA. Now in demand as a tuba soloist, clinician and conductor throughout the globe, Sheridan shares his perspectives on life, music and the big bell. Enjoy!
1. When you look back at “Bill Bell and his Tuba” and hear the strains of “Yuba”, do you feel a kinship? What did he mean to the tuba as a musical force?
Interesting question. I started to play the tuba in 1977, and Harvey Philips had already replaced Bill Bell (after his death), at IU a few years prior. When I was young – I thought “When Yuba Plays the Tuba” was super cool. Bill Bell inspired the generation that inspired me. It was the playing and stage personas of Sam Pilafian and Chuck Daellenbach that captured my imagination early as a young tuba player.
Empire and Canadian Brass traveled through Minnesota’s Twin Cities regularly during my formative years as a musician. I couldn’t get over Sam’s range and bass playing on jazz tunes. Chuck’s humor and Canadian Brass’ antics made it OK for me to be ME onstage.
My tonal heroes were Harvey Phillips and Floyd Cooley. My musical style hero was Sam. My stage hero was Chuck. My teaching hero was Mr. Jacobs.
2. BBb, CC, Eb, F, Sousaphone…
For the non-tubist, there are more different tubas than forks at a 12 course meal. Which “fork” do you use
when? (Best all around?). What does flying do to the equation?
Let me start by saying that I have heard fantastic performances from fantastic artists on every key of tuba. Let me start there…
Iâ€™ve played Eb tuba as my chamber and solo instrument since I was in 7th grade. While in college, I gave F tuba the old college try. But – the sound in my imagination will not come out of a F tuba, so Eb has always been preferable to F for me. And – the intonation battle that is F tuba-what the hell for? When someone makes an F tuba with piston valves that plays WELL in tune with a great low register-that would be fun to have in the arsenal of tonal possibilities! In the meantime, Iâ€™ll use a smaller mouthpiece and play in tune on an Eb to imitate F tuba rather than go to war with an actual F tuba. I remain completely baffled why the tuba community continues to mess with F tuba with its bad low register and horrible intonation when Eb tubas don’t present these problems. Tradition is a bitch, I guess.
CC tuba – I use this axe in large ensembles. For me – this is the instrument that I play the least in my current mix of playing. When I was a member of “The President’s Own” United State Marine Band, I used CC tuba. Same, in Brass Band of Battle Creek.
BBb Sousaphone – When I was a member of the Marine Band, I HATED sousaphone. (Ask Tom Holtz how much I hated the sousaphone.) I hated the sousaphone so much that I refused to play one for more than 10 years after leaving the Marines. THEN – I helped Jupiter Band Instruments with their sousaphone designs and a funny thing happened. I fell in love with the sousaphone. I love it so much that now I own TWO sousaphones. For playing bass lines, there isn’t a better axe to create the “pull and the weight” of a Ray Brown quarter note. Funk, Swing, Latin, Rock – sousaphone is now my instrument of choice when my job is bass function in commercial music.
Last year – when the community band I lead, The Salt River Brass, made a CD with Harry Watters, I did all the rhythm section playing and soloing on sousaphone. Pilafian pointed out that my jazz thinking head was definitely BBb sousaphone even though I play Eb tuba 95% of the time as an improviser.
Never say never-right?
3. What are the most outrageous costumes you have worn? What does it add? Kilt?
Most outrageous on stage?
Or in life? : )
I think I’ll pass on the latter. On stage – I do the bee suit. Occasionally – I’ll appear as Carmen Miranda. Pineapple pumps and all. My skirt is hot! (My mom made it for me.)
Last fall – I did a half-time show for a Montana State University football game. The marching band show was The Wizard of Oz. They dressed me up as a wizard and then clipped a ‘Z’ to my sousaphone bell (spelling ). Crowd went ape shit. (or was it flying monkey?)
Not sure I’ve met a costume I wouldn’t try.
What does it add, you ask? Answer this….
How would a Broadway show be without costumes??
4. What is the biggest musical nightmare you have experienced?
I conducted an honor band once for a district of private wealthy schools. I entered the gig thinking, “Wow! This is going to be awesome. Everyone will be a great player. Everyone will be super disciplined. We’re going to have the best time. Can’t wait-YES!!!
It remains, hands down, the most miserable gig of my career. I’ve never run across a group (this band was 75 strong) of students more entitled and checked out of life than this. I figured myself to be fairly creative in classroom management and motivation. On that gig – I failed spectacularly. After a very long two days of trying to inspire and motivate this crew, their “trust fund” attitudes beat me.
I asked the teachers, “How can you stand working with these types of spoiled, entitled, rude humans?”
Teacher’s response, “The money is so good, it doesn’t matter how they treat us.”
5. Walter Mitty: you take the tuba to any three musical scenarios and replace one player. Which ones?
Number 1: Prior to the invention of the bass “pickup”, the sousaphone was the instrument of choice in the bottom of a big band. I would like to see what would have happened to the last 100+ years of sousaphone playing had it remained a viable choice for bass function in commercial settings. Tuba as the bass for Benny Goodman. For Count Basie. For Art Blakey. For Frank Sinatra. For Tower of Power. For Michael Jackson. For Pat Metheny. For Bruno Mars.
I’d like to hear Nat McIntosh play with T.O.P
I’d like to hear Sam Pilafian play with Count Basie.
I’d like to have heard Rich Matteson play sousaphone for Benny Goodman and Clifford Brown.
I’d like to sit in with Led Zeppelin and Prince.
Where would the tuba have gone if the bass pickup hadn’t been invented? OR – if when the bass pick up was invented, a viable tuba microphone was invented at the same time.
It is the WHAT IF that I ponder the most as a “bass-cleffer”. WHAT IF the tuba had remained the instrument of choice for bass line playing?
Number 2: What if Jascha Heifetz played the tuba the way he played the violin? What if Glenn Gould played the tuba the way he played the piano?
Number 3: What if Mozart played and wrote for the tuba? Same of JS Bach?
6. Who are your bass clef musical inspirations?
Bass Clef or otherwise:
and Ray Brown
Barbara Conable – author of “Structures and Movement of Breathingâ€™ and “What Every Musician Should Know about the Body” (www.BodyMap.org) I’ve never met her, but her books have helped me as much as the teachings of Arnold Jacobs. Application of her techniques have helped me to help hundreds players through difficult issues.
Bikram Yoga – What I’ve learned from this exercise/meditation about teaching, practicing and my own patience has informed my musical performance and teaching in many ways. (subject of another interview)
7. What was so special about Jacobs and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) brass from the vantage point as their student, and the vantage point of today?
As a teenager, going to the Chicago Symphony was akin to going to see Muhammed Ali box, or Babe Ruth play baseball or Michael Jordan play basketball. AND – I got to go hear this every week for 2 years.
The names of the members of the brass section were more familiar to me than any political figure, historical or modern day. And – because there weren’t social media channels for people to display their personal lives’ or even websites to view, MUCH of what I learned about these players was accompanied by great imaginative scenarios in which these players were imbued with super human qualities.
While I studied with them, they began to treat me as at least one of their own, albeit, maybe as the annoying little sibling. I can still remember sitting in Civic Orchestra sectionals with some of these giants and when they would recognize you and use your name…whew, that was acknowledgment that had momentum!
Today – it is watching my friends at the top of their game fortunate to be in a situation that allows them to focus almost entirely on artistic expression as their job. That is a beautiful thing.
8. Who are the greatest instrumentalists of all time?
I donâ€™t know. Material is too subjective to provide an objective list.
Besides the ones already mentioned:
Glenn Gould, Jascha Heifetz, Michael Rabin, Roby Lakatos, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Anna Moffo, Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Shirley Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, Thelonious Monk, Carl Fontana, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Chet Baker, Bobby McFerrin, Clark Terry, Frank Zappa, Astor Piazolla, Edgar Meyer, Bill Evans…
(“That’s the short list!”)
Z. How do you select repertoire?
Audience, audience, audience.
Does the literature evoke strong, visceral emotional reactions? If yes – then program.
If not – then avoid.
Repertoire usage varies based on audience profile and, secondarily, based on acoustics of the performance venue.
For example – triple tonguing variation type pieces don’t portray well with non-musical audiences. They hear the repeated technique of triple tonguing as uneven tone and therefore not impressive. The SAME piece of repertoire performed for a musically educated audience will evoke a very enthusiastic response as they can appreciate the difficulty of the technical display. So – there are certain pieces I only perform at instrumental or music educator conferences.
Same for acoustics. If the hall is boomy, Arban stays home. If the hall is dry, ballads be gone.
9. What are the three things you learn in an MBA program that would help musicians most?
Music is a product that needs the correct pricing, placement and promotion. (Music is not an art if you want to work.)
Finance is not a theory.
Hire an accountant. (unless tax code is your hobby)
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy patsheridan.com youtube.com
The Fourth Valve tm is an up-close, shoot-from-the-hip interview series dedicated to musicians who play the tuba or euphonium. We at davidbrubeck.com are delighted and grateful to share the musical, professional and personal insights of some of the world’s great musicians and masters of low brass. The interview series was launched with an interview of Deanna Swoboda as a tribute to our first published article-an interview with Connie Weldon. For now, let’s just focus on tuba, and leave the fantastic euphoniums for another post. You wouldn’t believe how many terrific tuba interviews we have, so we’ll tell you: Craig Knox, Mike Roylance, Sergio Carolina, Beth Wiese, R. Winston Morris, Aaron Tindall, Aaron McCalla, Chitate Kagawa, Marty Erickson, Oystein Baadsvik, Don Harry, John Stevens, Jim Self, Beth Mitchell, John van Houten and Deanna Swoboda!Enjoy!
Canadian Brass, Windsync, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Spanish Brass, Dallas Brass, Seraph, Atlantic Brass Quintet
Interested in “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
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