Chester Schmitz!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

More than any other single human-being, tubist Chester Schmitz etched Jabba the Hutt in our collective consciousness. His tuba embodied the villan for John Williams, but the real man seems more infused by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau than Jabba musically; and embodies Christ more than the force spiritually. Perhaps this Star Wars solo was among the things that inspired the great composer John Williams to write a tuba concerto for Mr. Schmitz. Whether Tubby The Tuba, or a laundry list of great accomplished solos, Schmitz caressed the unwieldy mass of brass to soloistic heights with the heart of an artist. From his perch as retired principal tubist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pops,he has even more to add, with and without the tuba….”The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to share his rich musical legacy, enjoy!

1. What are your most memorable moments with John Williams and his music?
Of course, top of the list was the world premiere of the Tuba Concerto he dedicated to me in 1985. Also, he wrote some nice solos…..Reivers, 1980 his first concert as pops conductor, Jabba the Hutt, and just plain good parts. We rocked in the 80’s with John. It’s all out there in record land…..

2. What are the best solo settings for tuba you have found? What makes them effective?
Tuba solos emanating from within the orchestra are the best. Lots of sounding colors in the ‘accompaniment!’

3. What three things are most important to you?

Which 3 things are important to me?
First, Jesus. Second, Jesus loves me. Third, Jesus has saved me and given me eternal life, because He loves me and died for me, rose from the dead for me, and will come to take me home with Himself.

There is nothing comparable to Jesus. He is the reason I left the great BSO!

4. Who were your biggest musical inspirations? What did you learn from each?
Rostropovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Richter. I listened and studied them during my college years. Eventually I performed with Fischer-Dieskau, heard Richter play 2 recitals live, and played many concerts with Rostropovich. Magnificent musicians!

5. How important is a warm up, and how has yours changed over the years?
Playing properly is almost infinitely more important than requiring a specific warm-up.

Lip slurs are everything, when done properly.

6. How did you develop such a beautiful, non-intrusive articulation?
If that be so, good…and thank you. Proper preparation to play and understanding of breathing. I have put up 3 FB posts on that very subject within the last few days.

7. What reflections on a life in music do you have for a young person starting out today? Would you do anything differently?
If that young person desires to have a career in music, AND…….this is huge…….God has given that young person the TALENT and ABILITY to make it into that fairly small elite at or near the TOP, than go all out!

When I began the tuba, I practiced 4 to 12 hours every day for 6 months, then, all my formative years, I listened to good classical music day and night. (Yes, while I slept!) I love good music!

8. How do you change your approach from solo to chamber to orchestral?
Different instruments for different orchestral music, including the euphonium and contrabass trombone, sizes, keys, etc. I have played cello parts in a string quartet with 2 violins and a viola (bless them!) and the challenge to not overwhelm is fun.

9. How do you see the tuba?
Some artists get to make music through their voice. That is simple. A violin and a cello are also simpler. To sing through 30 feet of metal is a challenge those folks will never encounter, yet the music must be just as good. I got the tuba.

If I were to do it again, and the Good Lord gave me a choice, I would sing and play the violin on the side. However, what I got to do on the tuba was a great privilege. To play with those phenomenal artists who make up the Boston Symphony was a Blessing from Heaven. As I said, Jesus loved me, and He still does. Thanks for the interview, David.

c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.


When preparing to play an instrument, if you are inhaling only through the mouth, you can add approximately 1/4 more quantity of air, and breathe much more quickly and quietly, by adding an “open nose” to the process. Nose-breathing is also the way you breathe — automatically — all day long… sustain your life.

For those of you, particularly tuba players, who drop your jaw and form your oral cavity so as to say, “hooooo,” or, “huuuuuu,” will find that when you inhale using your nose as well as your mouth, that it will be almost physically impossible to form those vowel sounds. This is OK. One should not drop the jaw to breathe, nor should they use those vowel concepts. The correct concept is, “aaaaaaaaahhhh,” with a relaxed tongue and shoulders down.

If you want to inhale silently, and take in a given amount of air more easily, and more quickly, engage the nasal passage (the nose) when inhaling. Doing this then makes it possible to set your emouchure, with playing pressure, before you breathe, top and bottom center on mouthpiece rim, so that you, after your breath, are immediately ready to make that sound…..accurately and precisely…..and musically. Air comes in at “corners” of the mouth and through the nose. It is not only very easy, but it also is the correct way to prepare and breathe in order to play any brass instrument.

c. 2017 Chester Schmitz
Used by permission.

Interested in more “The Fourth Valve” tm Interviews?
Don Harry
John Stevens
Jim Self
John Van Houten
Demondrae Thurman
Deanna Swoboda
R. Winston Morris
Beth Wiese
Aaron Tindall
Marty Erickson
Beth Mitchell
Chitate Kagawa
Aaron McCalla

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.