Music for All

I just returned from a trip to Muncie, Indiana where the Atlantic Brass Quintet played for an audience of 1200 screaming teenagers. It was for the Music for All summer music symposium, which took place at Ball State University’s Emens Auditorium.

We were asked to play a 90-minute program without intermission and to make it interactive; talking to the students and explaining each piece as we went. We also invited to young saxophone players up on stage to join us for a performance of Thelonius Monk’s Blue Monk.

It was a fantastic hall and probably the most energetic and appreciative audiences we have ever performed for. One audience member took a vine video showing their amazing enthusiasm.

Here is a slideshow of some photos I took:

ITEC 2014 – Bloomington, IN

ITEC2014As usual, ITEC 2014 was an amazing and overwhelming experience, for both me and my students. Sam Pilafian called it a “Love Fest”, and the motto, “Where it all began” refers to the fact the first International Tuba and Euphonium Conference was held at Indiana University in 1973.

I was thrilled to be able to bring my students from the University of Iowa. As Collegium Tubum, they performed brilliantly on the last night of the conference and we were all inspired and entertained all week by the many amazing performances.

Collegium Tubum backstage at ITEC Bloomington

It would be hard to single out any favorite concerts, but of the course the big names like Øystein Baadsvik , Steven Mead, Roland Szentpali and David Childs were all incredible. But, my favorite moments of any conference are when I get to reconnect, even if briefly, with old friends. Getting to say hello once again to my old roommates from the Regina ITEC David Silden and Bart Collins, and old friends and classmates from Boston, Craig Knox and Steve Campbell. I was also very proud to see two of my former students, Dr. Kate Wholman and Dr. Chris Dickey presenting at the conference as well.

ITEC 2014 was also my first visit to Indiana University and Bloomington. The campus was beautiful and impressive and it was very special to be attending a conference that returned to “where it all began”.

One of the most memorable moments involved hearing a performance of David Baker‘s sonata for tuba and string quartet by David Saltzman. The performance was impeccable and musical, and although I have owned the piece for years, I had never heard it performed – not even in a recording. Dr. Baker was in the audience and it was an extra treat to be able to shake his hand after the concert and marvel at this man’s talent.

It was very touching to hear Eduardo Nogueroles’ performance of his original composition Harvey’s Tuba. Harvey spent some time in Spain and had a great influence on Eduardo and his students, and it was even more poignant for Carol Phillips, Harvey’s widow, to hear the performance and reconnect with Eduardo.

The inter-connectivity of our close-knit world is truly remarkable, and one of our strengths is the bond we all share and celebrate every two years at ITEC. My students and I look forward to the regional conferences of 2015 and the next ITEC in Knoxville in 2016.

Online Tuba Discoveries

Mademoiselle Tuba

I have recently run across a number of interesting tuba and music related things on the internet lately that I thought I would share:

Limelight the “classical music and arts website” from Australia. This online version of the magazine features news, articles, reviews, events, galleries and more.

Not to be confused with the Meridian Arts Ensemble, the Meridian Brass (Quartet) have a very interesting and interactive website. Be sure to check out their new online interactive promo for their new recording “Once Upon a Time” on Prezi. Really cool interface, but I could do without the birds.

Jesse Chavez has a blog called “Longtones: The Pursuit of a Life in Music“. Check out his Sightreading Sundays posts and his posts on practicing with titles like Why Your Degree Title is Wrong and Well Rounded or Specialized?

Another tuba-centric blog is Mademoiselle Tuba maintained by Rachel Matz, principal tuba with the Tallahassee Symphony. Check out her post I’m using my F tuba, and no, I’m not transposing.

Another fun and interesting blog is Sousa Central with the description “Sousaphone and Tuba news, reviews, pictures, interviews and everything.” It’s loaded with photos, videos, and stories all related to tuba.

If you are interested in “BAT” (big ass tubas), check out Barth’s Brass Blog which has posts on his travels with his company Big Mouth Brass.

New School of Music wins award!

ImageArchitzer recently announced that the Suspended Theatroacoustic System for the new University of Iowa Concert Hall has won their A+ award (celebrating architecture’s relevency) in the fabrication category.

To say we are excited about our new building would be an understatement. Due to open in 2016, the new Voxman School of Music will be a state-of-the-art modern masterpiece uniting once again our faculty staff and students under one roof for the first time since 2008.

View images and information about the new building here at the LMN Architects website. (To scroll through the images, look for the << / >> at the top left of the page.)

Here is a diagram of how the system will work:






Tubas in the News – March 2013 Edition

ImageA great gallery of photos of the “biggest tuba in the world” from the Houston Chron

Check out this story about a Norwegian “Ice Musician” in Turning a Glacier Into A Tuba from NPR.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class by tuba player and business student Andrew Schwartz from CNN.

Read about the new work by composer Michael Daugherty, Reflections on the Mississippi for Tuba and Orchestra from Broadway World.


Atlantic Brass Quintet Recording


Last week, the Atlantic Brass Quintet did a recording session at Enlow Hall at Kean University in New Jersey. We recorded a album of jazz and Balkan music that we are very excited about. The title and label of the recording has yet to be determined, but here is the program, in no particular order:

Jazz Set:
Passages by Patrice Caratini (five movements)
Private Music by Dave Douglas (two movements)
Jazz Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich (three movements)
Kopi Luwak by Alan Ferber
Luteous Pangolin by Ben Monder

Balkan Brass Band set with Jon Wikan on percussion:
Zvonce Kolo

We’ve been performing this music for a while, so we were thrilled to record it in an amazing hall, and with Andy Bove – a fantastic engineer. With the help of Yelp and our friend Jim Leff, we also visited a few great restaurants and bars in the area. (Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House in Jersey City,  and Coppermine Pub in North Arlington, NJ)

The night before our first day of recording, we were in need of a rehearsal space (since our hotel wouldn’t allow us to rehearse there) and we found Wagon Wheel Rehearsal Studios. If you are ever in the Newark/New York City area looking for a rehearsal space, I’d recommend it.

Flood Recovery Funding Secured!


We received some great new today regarding the progress of our plans for our new School of Music. According to this Iowa City Press-Citizen article,

“Federal officials are dropping their opposition to a decision to send million in reconstruction funds to the University of Iowa campus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had committed funds to rebuild a handful of campus buildings ruined by flooding in 2008. But earlier this year, federal auditors called some of that money into question, saying the projects didn’t qualify for reconstruction support. Wednesday’s announcement ensures those projects will move forward as planned.”

“Tuba or Not Tuba” Goes to the DUMBO Festival

Next week, I will be traveling to New York city to perform at the DUMBO Arts Festival . (The acronym stands for Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass, a neighborhood in Brooklyn) I will be performing with dancers in “Tuba or Not Tuba (What is the question?”, which was choreographed by my colleague at the University of Iowa, Charlotte Adams. Two years ago, we performed the work in Santa Monica California at Highways Performance Space.

The work involves some improvising by myself and hornist Erin Vang. We “invade” the dancers space, blasting the dancers offstage, but the work has a surprise ending. Our performance is part of the DUMBO Dance Festival organized by White Wave Dance Company.

If you are interested in attending, the performance is at 9pm on September 29th on the Mainstage at the John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street (Enter on John Street) in Brooklyn.

Tuba or not Tuba goes to DUMBO

Next week, I will be traveling to New York city to perform at the DUMBO Arts Festival . (The acronym stands for Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass, a neighborhood in Brooklyn) I will be performing with dancers in “Tuba or Not Tuba (What is the question?”, which was choreographed by my colleague at the University of Iowa, Charlotte Adams. Two years ago, we performed the work in Santa Monica California at Highways Performance Space.

The work involves some improvising by myself and hornist Erin Vang. We “invade” the dancers space, blasting the dancers offstage, but the work has a surprise ending. Our performance is part of the DUMBO Dance Festival organized by White Wave Dance Company.

If you are interested in attending, the performance is at 9pm on September 29th on the Mainstage at the John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street (Enter on John Street) in Brooklyn.

Random Bits

Here are a bunch of random bits:

Iowa Brass Online
This year, the University of Iowa brass area has created four new online and social media outlets: the Iowa Brass Area Website, a Facebook page, a Google+ page and a Twitter account @UIowaBrass. Check them out!

Droning On
I was recently looking for some kind of tuner app that would play pitches and I discovered these wonderful tuning drones on  Jennifer Cluff ‘s blog. They were originally created by David Valdez for saxophone players. You can download all twelve of them for free and that last for about three minutes and they sound like a combination of a didgeridoo and a sitar. They immediately inspired me to improvise to them, but both Jennifer and David have excellent suggestions on how to utilize them.

Start Making Sense
A student of mine recommended I listen to a new recording by David Byrne and St. Vincent. The recording is called Love This Giant and you can hear the album in its entirety on NPR’s First Listen. In typical Byrne fashion, it’s unique and quirky, but the best part is the horn section. The lines are funky, creative, and minimalistic – but they seem to really drive the entire album, and yes Virginia there is a tuba, and a baritone sax at the bottom of the band.

Clark’s St. Vincent cohort John Congleton, who co-produced 2009’s Actor and 2011’s Strange Mercy, programmed percussion long-distance, emailing files that the pair would pull apart and reconstruct. A few friends came in for overdubs: drummer Anthony LaMarca and percussionist Mauro Refosco, but once the horn parts, arranged mostly by Tony Finno, had been laid down, Byrne and Clark did the rest themselves. Says Byrne, “Often when we could, we didn’t use any bass. The tuba or the baritone sax would do the job of the bass and Annie and I would play guitar. I was more the rhythm guitar guy. And she was the incredible lead guitarist.”

This summer, two of my students participated in the newly-formed Southeast Tuba Euphonium Workshop (STEW). Held at the University of Georgia, the workshop consists of a week of lessons, master classes and chamber music and the faculty includes Ben Pierce, Demondrae Thurmon and David Zerkel. By all reports, it was a stellar program.

Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar Turns 20!

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar, and we have just concluded our first of two weeks. We’ve held the seminar at many places; Boston Conservatory, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, SUNY Buffalo, Boston College, Boston University, and now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This year we have eight quintets with students from across the country. Watch the videos below from our first performance class.

Gene Pokorny Reinvigorates the Vaughan Williams

ImageLast week, Gene Pokorny, principal tubist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performed the Concerto for Bass Tuba by Ralph Vaughan Williams. In fact, he performed it on four separate concerts; Tuesday, May 15th, Wednesday May 16th, Thursday May 17th, and Saturday May 19th.

Due to the disruption of traffic and security for the NATO Summit in Chicago, the CSO’s Saturday performance took place at the Wentz Concert Hall on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, IL. Getting to hear the CSO is a rare treat for me, although it shouldn’t be, as I live four hours from Chicago. But, getting to hear the Vaughan Williams played by Gene Pokorny – on his CC Contrabass Tuba is possibly a once in a lifetime occurrence.

As luck would have it, the only performance of the four that I could have possibly attended was Saturday’s. I was able to get a seat in the front row, just a few feet from the conductor and where Mr. Pokorny would sit for the concerto. Predictably, it was a fantastic performance, but I was not prepared for how overwhelming and jaw-dropping the concert would be. The Chicago Symphony is arguably one of the finest orchestras in the world, and the conductor for the series, Jaap van Zweden gave a brilliant and fiery performance.

The program commenced with Shostakovich’s moving Chamber Symphony for strings, the Vaughan Williams and on the second half, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. To sit that close to such virtuosic ensemble playing is exhillarating, and when Gene Pokorny took his place in front of me, I felt as if I was about to be launched into outer-space.

The Wentz Concert Hall is an acoustical work of art. Designed by the Talaske Group, and built in 2008, this 617-seat hall looks as gorgeous as it sounds. Since the stage is relatively low, and I was seated in Row A, I almost felt as if I were onstage. My eyeline was level with the principal cellists shins. After the concert, I was even able to grab one of the cellists broken bow hairs he discarded onto the stage floor.

There were several remarkable aspects of Mr. Pokorny’s performance, not the least of which was the fact that he played on the CSO’s large, York CC Contrabass Tuba. He remarked in this interview that he only recently decided to use the York. Although it is the instrument he uses 99% of the time in the orchestra, most performers opt to play on a Basstuba in F or E-flat. Unsurprisingly, his tone was dark, controlled, and rich – but it was never overly loud or so soft that it was unclear. For a man capable of such volume in the context of the entire brass section, Pokorny showed incredible sensitivity and tenderness. Beyond all of this, however, his unique and innovative interpretation to the concerto was what really blew my mind.

Even though all of us tuba players have studied and listened to this work our entire lives, Gene was able to inject a fresh and daring approach to the work. He often used rubato, especially at the very beginning of entrances and endings of phrases. He hinted in his interview that he would be making some octave changes, but I only expected that he would take some of the higher passages down an octave to make them more “user-friendly” on the contrabass tuba. Not only did he generally play the higher octave, but, in some cases, played a few measures up a written octave from the original! On his cadenzas, he actually deviated from the written cadenzas – a tradition generally reserved for classical horn and trumpet concertos. They were tasteful, impressive, and appropriate – and above all patient. He took advantage of the silence, allowed the high notes to resonate in the beautiful hall, and made everyone take notice.

What often separates great brass players from good brass players is the ability to control tone, pitch and response in the softest passages. Pokorny, as I mentioned before, never overplayed a note and always kept a perfect balance between his own sound and the orchestra’s, often fading into the texture when releasing for an orchestral passage. Even the brass section – famous for their ability to play louder than any other – tastefully and artistically executed the most turbulent of entrances.

If they are not already planning on doing so in the near future, the Chicago Symphony should plan on recording this amazing interpretation and preserving it for posterity. It was truly an inspirational and miraculous performance.

This is an excerpt from a review by Lawrence A. Johnson of the Chicago Classical Review:

The evening’s centerpiece was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto. Not played by the orchestra in 34 years, it offered a rare solo opportunity for CSO tubist Gene Pokorny. A member of the orchestra since 1989, Pokorny has long provided yeoman duty in a low-profile role, with an instrument whose presence is felt as often as it is heard.

The 12-minute concerto showcases the tuba’s bumptious and lyrical elements and Pokorny conveyed both delightfully, from his rounded, subterranean low notes to his jazz-like swagger in the cadenza and nimble agility in the finale. The central Romanza is one of VW’s most heart-easing inspirations — a virtual emblem of the English pastoral school— and Pokorny’s playing was as nuanced and expressive as any top-flight violinist or opera singer. The soloist received a hearty, well-deserved ovation from his colleagues as well as the audience. (And any musician who puts in his official bio that he is a card-carrying member of the Three Stooges Fan Club deserves applause.)


Byan Carter Quintet

I recently returned from a very busy period of touring and performing, including trips to Wisconsin, California, Missouri and Kansas. After performing at Truman State, I had the great pleasure of hearing the Bryan Carter Quintet. It was a stellar performance, and it’s always a joy to witness great jazz. All chamber musicians should aspire to that level of communication, balance and expression. Bryan’s talent runs in his family, his father is the legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter.


Thomas Leleu, Tubist, Wins the French Grammy

I have to hand it to the French, they are often first. In fashion, food, art, culture, and now the tuba. Thomas Leleu, a 23-year-old tubist from Lille just won the French equivalent to the Grammy’s (Victoires de la Musique Classique 2012) The award was “ Révélation soliste instrumental de l’année ” (which I think means Best New Instrumental Soloist of the Year), and it’s the first time it has been awarded to a tubist. Click here to view a clip from the show, including a performance of the first movement of Convergences by Jean-Phillipe Vanbeselaere. Félicitations Thomas!

One Month from Argentina

One month from today I will be in Argentina, teaching and performing at the Isla Verde Bronces Festival. I am very excited about the festival, and my first trip ever to South America.

Coincidentally, Bueneos Aires was featured this morning on Rudy Maxa’s World, a travel show on PBS. I always new Buenos Aires was one of the world’s largest cities, but I was surprised to hear it referred to as the “most European city in the Western Hemisphere”. The show also detailed the economic troubles that Argentina faced in the 90’s, and I was pleased to hear that counter-intuitively, the arts not only thrived during that time, but boomed despite, and perhaps in reaction to the country’s economic and political woes. Perhaps this is a lesson for the rest of the world?

Since 2007, the small town of Isla Verde – about 5 hours from Buenos Aires – has hosted this festival. From their website, here are the festival’s aims:

• To offer training, motivation and direction to every person, especially children and young people, that wants to pursue the study of a brass instrument.

• To gain national and international recognition for Isla Verde as annual meeting point for brass musicians, by providing location and artistic resources suitable for training and improvement.

• To promote artistic exchange between the participants of this event.

• To continue organizing this International Brass Festival Isla Verde Bronces as an activity that gives identity to our town.

• To enrich the cultural activities in our town and surrounding areas.

The most exciting aspect, for me, will be performing a brand new work I commissioned from the noted Argentine composer, Roberto Pintos. You can hear some of his compositions on YouTube, including this one, Algo insoluble, featuring Adam Frey on euphonium and Patricio Consentino.

Tubas in the News – December 2011

New York Times photojournalist Andrea Bruce feature “Portraits of Iraqi Pride“, including this shot of Isra Saadi.

A rash of tuba thefts at Southland high schools from the LA Times.

No record for Disney Tuba Christmas but still fun from the Orange County Register.

Nice article and some good photos from Akron’s Tuba Christmas from

Ben Thomson appointed Principal Tuba of the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, from 4barsrest.

University of Iowa’s Holiday Tubas 2011 clip on YouTube and a audio slideshow – it was cold this year!

Himie Voxman (1912-2011)

Last week, the music world learned of the loss of Himie Voxman, who passed away on November 22nd at the age of 99. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Mr. Voxman, he was a music educator, performer, editor, administrator, and benefactor. He was a major force in the music world, a driving force in the University of Iowa School of Music, and a great friend to musicians everywhere. He has influenced countless musicians and his contributions will be felt for generations. He will be sorely missed. The excerpt below is an excerpt from the Iowa City Press Citizen:

In 1929, Himie enrolled in the University of Iowa chemical engineering program and continued his study of the clarinet, playing in the University band and symphony orchestra and giving private lessons. In 1933, he received a B.S. degree with High Distinction in Chemical Engineering and then began graduate work in the psychology of music under Carl E. Seashore. After completing this M.A program in Psychology, Himie taught music in the Iowa City public schools, including Iowa City High School where he met and married Lois Wilcox, who was the string instrument teacher there. He encouraged his friend Pearl West, who taught woodwinds in Centerville, to move to Iowa City where West subsequently founded West Music, Inc.

Himie was the principal clarinetist in the Quad City Symphony for many years. In 1939 he joined the University of Iowa School of Music and served as its Director from 1954 until his retirement in 1980. During World War II, in addition to his music faculty duties, he taught mathematics in the V-12 US Naval Officer Candidate Program based in the South Quadrangle at the University of Iowa. Following World War II Himie’s substantial archival research in European libraries, sometimes in conjunction with his great friend Charles Eble, brought to light an extensive, invaluable list of previously unpublished 18th and 19th century wind solo and chamber music works, serving as the basis for many of his widely used publications. Selling in the millions, his various publications have met the instructional and professional needs of countless aspiring and professional musicians, young and old.

Voxman has received innumerable awards, citations, and honorary doctorates. Among them are the American Bandmasters Association’s Edwin Frank Goldman Memorial Citation, the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

In 1995 the University of Iowa School of Music building was renamed the Voxman Music Building in recognition of Himie’s vast influence in the field of music education.

Tubas in the News – November 2011 Edition

There have been several news articles about tubas in the news recently. Here are the latest:

• A wonderful feature in the L.A. Times about the popularity of tuba players in Mexican party music. Make sure to check out the included video.

• New York Times article about singer Andrea Marcovicci that mentions the song “When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba”

• A story from the Chattanooga Times Free Press about 13-year-old tuba player, Hanna Eitzen.

• A review of Dave Douglas (and tuba player Marcus Rojas’s) new recording of their group Brass Ecstasy.

• An article in the LA Times about Ben Jaffee, of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

• An article from Henley on Thames entitled “Playing the tuba, or how to blow a big rasberry”.

Dance Gala 2011

I have been collaborating with the Dance department here at the University of Iowa for several years, including providing improvised music for dancers, to performing live music onstage with the dancers. Last year, my colleague Charlotte Adams, choreographed a work that included horn and tuba improvising onstage in a work called “Tuba or Not Tuba”. It was a lot of fun, and challenging in that it was difficult to catch physical clues from dancers while my creative brain was busy improvising. We spent a week in Los Angeles and performed the work several times at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica.

This year, Charlotte proposed a new collaboration project for the University’s annual Dance Gala, which is a very popular event on campus and showcases the entire Dance department. Charlotte’s new work, “Catch” is a touching and personal expression of her feelings about the loss of her father, and the transition from child to caregiver. Presented in reverse chronological order, the opening scene is meant to convey represent death, and each scene progresses backwards, until the final scene represents a father comforting a crying infant. Other scenes depict catching (both the parent catching the child, and eventually the child catching the parent, both physically and metaphorically); stumbling, and joyful catching.

When we set out to help create the music for this work, we decided to employ more pre-composed and pre-recorded music, and kept improvisation to tonal and blues oriented styles. My partner on horn, Erin Vang, is a multi-talented musician, writer and consultant. One of her current projects is Kaddish in Two Part Harmony. Kaddish is the Jewish mourners prayer, often said each day for a year following the death of a loved one. When Charlotte was looking for something somber and mournful, it was only natural that Erin suggest the Kaddish. The dance begins in pitch black, with Erin lying on her back and playing the Kaddish. The lights slowly rise to reveal the dancers lying down on stage, positioned how they might be in a cemetery. The scene is rudely interrupted with blast of synthesized horns, and a dancer runs and steals the horn from Erin. The dancers commence running backwards in a circle, swarming and accelerating, as a recording of a musical backdrop I composed plays with clock-like ticking and a blend of disorienting beats and synthesized moods. Above that, Erin and I slowly start short scale-like patterns in opposing directions, based on the mode of the Kaddish.

The dancers converge and then dissipate, to reveal just two dancers playfully swinging their arms. For rehearsals and choreography, Charlotte used a recording of Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels, which is a bluesy, tongue in cheek ramble about a near death experience, and an ominous warning to “keep your business clean”. This music was so perfect, we improvised in the same key and tempo of the original with just tuba and horn.

Continuing with the death theme, we use the traditional spiritual “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” for the next scene. The dancers begin moving and crawling slowly, as we play a very slow version of the song, with very little elaboration. As the dance gets faster and more joyous, our tempos and style of the song adjust. This section ends in a frenzy, and one dancer climbing a human step-ladder and falling off into the arms of another.

For the next and final section, Charlotte nicknamed “Lullaby”, as it was to depict the dancers holding each other in pairs and conveying a soothing and calming mood – much like how Charlotte as a baby would only stop crying when she was placed on her father’s belly. For this, I chose to compose a simple, but touching melody recorded on my studio piano (Charlotte’s father played the piano) accompanied by synthesized strings and the sound of crickets. I called the composition “Daddy’s Home”.

“Catch” ends with Erin and I moving downstage, improvising on the lullaby, and after I lie down on the floor, a dancer rolls onto to my belly while Erin continues to improvise on the melody and the lights fade to black.

If you are interested, we have four more performances planned for this week. All of the pieces in the 2011 Dance Gala are fantastic. I am continually impressed and enlightened by our talented faculty and students. For more information on Dance Gala, click here or here.

William Bell Tuba Day

This just in from the Annual Willam Bell Memorial Tuba and Euphonium Day:

To All Area Tubists and Friends:

Come join us for the 33rd Annual William Bell Memorial Tuba and Euphonium Day!

WHEN: 1:00 PM,  Saturday, Nov. 5th, 2011
WHERE:  Perry United Methodist Church, Third and Willis, Perry, IA
REGISTRATION FEES:  $10 Student/$15 Adult  (All registration fees will be collected on site Nov. 7th, 2009.)
FEATURED GUEST: Mitchell Lutch, Asst. Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Central College, Pella

Mitchell Lutch is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Central College in Pella, Iowa and also serves as conductor of the Central Iowa Wind Ensemble. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in instrumental conducting at the University of Washington where he served as teaching assistant for Professor Timothy Salzman. He earned his Master of Music degree from New England Conservatory where he studied with Frank Battisti serving as the graduate assistant for the NEC Wind Ensemble and assistant conductor of the Massachusetts Wind Ensemble. His Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education is from the University of Lowell. Artists he has collaborated with in his teaching career include Donald Hunsburger, Eric Ewazen, Dana Wilson, Ellis Marsalis, Frank Foster, Slide Hampton and Marian McPartland. Mr. Lutch is Past President of the New York State Band Directors Association and has been a guest speaker at several educational institutions including New England Conservatory and Shenandoah Conservatory. Conducting appearances and research presentations include concerts and conferences throughout the United States, Quebec, London, Japan, The People’s Republic of China, the former Soviet Union, and Luxembourg.

1:00-1:30       Registration
1:30-  3:30     Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble Rehearsal (Please bring a music stand)
3:30 – 4:00     Break/Socializing
4:00-5:00       Concert (Free To Public, at Perry United Methodist Church)
5:30-5:45       Memorial Performance at Mr. Bell’s Gravesite
6:00 – ????     Socializing and Planning for 2012

Feel free to forward this e-mail to friends and colleagues who may be interested.  An invitation is open to all. We’re also “Facebooking” – visit our page at:

Please RSVP or address questions to:
Chad Thompson
4420 73rd Pl.
Urbandale, IA 50322

Telephone (515) 999-0268.

All registration fees will be collected on site November 5th, 2011.

Military Musicians

20111016-184023.jpgThe Atlantic Brass quintet recently spent several days working with the brass players of the 399th U.S. Army Band. We coached their two brass quintets, held a roundtable discussion, had some open rehearsals, observed their ceremonial band, and gave a recital. Over the years, we have worked with numerous military musicians at our seminars, but it was especially meaningful to me, since I was a military musician myself. I was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force Band of the Golden Gate from 1986 to 1989. During that time, I grew to appreciate the unique challenges of being a bandsman. Not only do you have the typical musical challenges of any large musical ensemble, you also have to navigate the regulations and command structure of the military.

I was fortunate to be in a fairly large and talented band, and enjoyed playing in the brass quintet, and toured the Western US on a regular basis. The best part for me was taking lessons with Floyd Cooley and getting to live in Northern California.

When I was in college. I had dreams of being an orchestral musician and never imagined that I would enlist in the military. Looking back, I am really glad I made that choice, it was definitely a good experience.

These days, military bands are often being asked to do more with less, so bandsmen must be versatile, professional, and prepared for anything. Not a bad skill set to develop for any musician.

My First Ravinia Experience

Last week, my family and I attended two concerts at Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. My recent positive concert-going experiences lead me to see what the CSO had on the schedule for this summer. To my amazement, they were performing Symphonie Fantastique and Rite of Spring on consecutive nights. I simply had to go. Not only are these two of the most important works in the musical canon, but, as all tuba players know, both of these pieces call for TWO tubas!

We took Megabus from Iowa City into Union Station in Chicago, and walked the two blocks to the Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC), which was our connection to the Metra rail up to Ravinia. We were very impressed with OTC. Housed in a steel and glass Emerald-City-esque sky scraper, the center includes dozens of shops, stores, and services; including a Dunkin’ Donuts, bookstores, a bar, and a Fedex store, which came in handy to print out our tour bus tickets from my email. The Metra seemed clean, efficient, and inexpensive and got us back and forth from our hotel to downtown Chicago. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in Highland Park, which was only a few miles from the Metra and Ravinia.

On Thursday, July 7th, we headed to Ravinia for the first of two concerts; piano soloist Lang Lang playing Chopin and Liszt with Christoph Eschenbach conducting. The second half featured the Berlioz, so I moved from our blanket on the lawn to my seat in the pavilion. Morris Kainuma played second tuba to Gene Pokorny, and they sounded fantastic!

The next day, we rode a double-decker tour bus all around Chicago, and I finally got a good overview of this grand city. I was very impressed by the architecture, the cleanliness, and the friendliness of the city, and we really want to visit on a regular basis.

On Friday night, I really enjoyed my front row seat. André Watts performed Liszt, and I was struck at not only his musicality, but at how relaxed he looked. Listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has always been a very powerful experience for me, and the second half did not disappoint. I got an up close and personal view of one of the most amazing orchestras in the world, playing probably the most important compositions of the 20th century.

TubaHead Alert: Gene Pokorny will be performing the Vaughan Williams tuba concerto four times next season; May 16-19, 2012. Order your tickets in advance!

Hammer Time!

Last month, the Atlantic Brass Quintet appeared at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Minnesota. We had an excellent turnout for our recital and it got a nice review (click on May 26 and wait for the PDF to download) in the ITG journal. One of the highlights for me, though, was getting to hear the Minnesota Orchestra perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. In graduate school, I wrote a paper on this dramatic work, and I don’t think I have heard it performed live in years. The best part of this symphony, are the three hammer strikes. To see one of the percussionists lift this massive wooden hammer up prior to each strike was thrilling to watch, and the rest of the audience loved it too. This “Tragic” symphony was  semi-autobiographical. Mahler, himself, was actually terrified by the premier, and these hammer blows would prove quite prophetic. Gene De Lisa has a great article on his blog, Classical Music Brain Droppings, about this, including some videos of percussionists wielding the massive hammer.

It was a magnificent performance, and due to the seating of the brass, I enjoyed hearing every note of principal tubaist Steve Campbell’s playing. I know Steve from our days in Boston, and remember sitting on a panel with him at Tubonium, and hearing him speak of taking over 30 auditions before landing the Minnesota job – an inspiring example of persistence. I went backstage to congratulate him and Doug Wright, the principal trombonist, and happened to see Doc Severensen, who was in town for the trumpet conference.

I was so inspired by the performance. I sat there realizing that I just haven’t gotten to enjoy enough orchestral performances, so I vowed to attend more. Next month, my family and I will be hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia to hear them perform Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique!

iPhone, Productivity, and NPR Tubas


My New iPhone

Productivity Final Project
This semester, my students and I have focussed on productivity; getting things done, doing them well, and staying organized. I have been keeping a blog on our studio site with posts related to this final project. Many students report progress in the areas of music, academic and personal productivity, culminating next week, when each student presents the details of each of their own paths to improved productivity.

I have wrestled with the digital vs. paper dilemma for years; experimenting with organizing my schedule and tasks both online and on paper. I think a balance of each might work best for me, since neither is perfect. The recent loss of my old “dumbphone” lead me to finally give in and purchase an iPhone, which does everything my iPod touch did and more. Having owned an iPod touch for three years, and having been a Mac person since 1995, it was long overdo.

I have to say that besides the Internet, the iPhone is he single most useful invention of my lifetime. I had no trouble reinstalling all of my favorite apps and music, and I find it really useful to always have internet access. I still use my favorite apps, and have found a few new ones that have proven helpful or might be useful the future. Combined with the fact that it is a phone, has GPS, and a camera, I’d say it is my most valuable productivity tool.

Kirk Joseph of Dirty Dozen Brass Band on sousaphone.

Kirk Joseph

Tubas Featured on NPR
I recently noticed this NPR article Where the Tuba Lives: 5 New Orleans Songs Featuring the Fat Horn about tubas in New Orleans songs one their Blog Supreme. Some of the wording made me laugh (like describing the tuba [sousaphone] as “the monstrous brass instrument worn like a python squeezing its victim” and “Because it’s a wind instrument rather than a string instrument, the tuba gives New Orleans music a bottom that bubbles rather than twangs“. Click on the article to hear these great tunes:

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, featuring Tuba Fats
Blue Monk/Stormy Monday, by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Feel Like Funkin’ It Up, by the Rebirth Brass Band
Stoned, Drunk and Naked, by Anders Osborne
Bayou Betty by Bonerama

I received some exciting news yesterday: I have been invited to teach and perform at the Isla Verde Bronces Brass Festival in Argentina in February 2012! I was honored to be invited, and am very excited to add a new continent to my world travels.

Orchestral Auditions:
A few of my students are busily preparing for auditions for the Iceland Philharmonic and the Des Moines Symphony. You may have heard her Tim Buzbee was recently appointed principal tuba with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, vacating the position in Rekyavik. The Des Moines opening is sadly due to the passing of their long-time tuba player Gene Wibben. I wish my students, and everyone else, good luck in preparation for these auditions – but I wish my students just a little more :)

Icelandic Wonderbrass

Icelandic Wonderbrass

PS – While looking for details, I ran across the myspace page of a group called The Icelandic Wonderbrass. I couldn’t find any recordings, but the photos look really interesting.

Tubas In the News

When I was in Boston, I briefly met up with Mike Roylance and Jim Self. They had just finished rehearsing for the New England Conservatory’s Brass Bash. A few days later, Mike premiered a brand new Tuba Concerto by Gunther Schuller; mentioned here in Tireless Gunther Schuller leads premiere of new tuba concerto from the Boston Globe.

Tuba soloist Patrick Sheridan shares his skills with wind ensemble from the

Some of my students and I attended the Great Plains Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference, and I was very proud of all of them due to the fact that each of them won some type of competition award. You can read more about it here: “Tuba euphonium studio wins accolades” on the University of Iowa School of Music blog.

An article about the lastest YouTube Symphony winner from Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a feature about him and his winning entry on YouTube. According to the YouTube Symphony’s page, the Grand Finale Concert will be be webcast live here on March 19, 2011.

Lauren Veronie, euphoniumist with the Army Field Band has a great blog called Loud Life; odyssey of a low brass lady. Check out her latest post about the Midwest Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference.

Busy, Busy, Busy

It is a very busy time in TubaHead world. I have been working on so many things, combined with a nice quiet vacation, I have neglected blogging here for quite a while. Here is a list of some of my distractions:

• I discovered Tumblr, another blogging site, and created “Tuba Tumbler” which focuses mainly on interesting tuba photographs and links, until I recently realized that there are a finite number of interesting tuba pictures on the internet. I will maintain it, so if you spot any interesting tuba photos, let me know.

• Next week, my students and I will be giving a free workshop in Des Moines to high school and middle school tuba and euphonium players. Last semester, the University of Iowa School of music announced that they were taking proposals to apply for funding for recruiting projects. I asked a group of my students for ideas, and they had a great one. We decided to take our studio recital on the road, and work with students in a day-long format. Since Des Moines has the largest school district in the state of Iowa, I thought that we could reach the most students there. The day will include a warm up class; a masterclass; a pizza party; a Hawkeye Marching Band presentation by my students; free private lessons (all of my students and myself will teach one or two lessons); and the day culminates with the “Tuba Hawks” concert. Like our studio recitals, it will feature student soloists, chamber groups, and Collegium Tubum – our tuba euphonium ensemble. Registration worked quite well using Google forms, and we have over 25 students signed up. I even designed a special “Tuba Hawks” stickers to give each of the participants. Here’s the schedule:

Tuba Hawks Workshop Schedule
Des Moines, IA  – Wednesday, January 26, 2011
9:00am – Warm Up Class
10:00am – Masterclass
12:00 – Pizza Party
12:30 – Hawkeye Marching Band presentation
1:00 – Private Lessons
2:00 – “Tuba Hawks” Recital

• My solo faculty recital at the University of Iowa will be on February 3rd at 7:30 pm in the University Capitol Center Recital Hall. Joining me will be Lee Nguyen on piano. Here’s the program:

- Three Pieces by Leone Sinigaglia, arranged by Tim Olt
– Fantasia a Due for tuba and piano by Alfred Reed
– Concerto for Tuba by James Barnes, Op. 96
– Sonata for tuba and piano, “Shamanic Journey” by Barbara York

• The Atlantic Brass Quintet will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary with a tour of prominent east coast music schools in February. Here’s the schedule:

2/9 – Residency at Centereach High School on Long Island, NY
2/10 – Masterclass and Recital at the University of Massachusetts –  Amherst, MA
2/11 – Masterclass and Recital at the New England Conservatory of Music – Boston, MA
2/12 – Brass and Organ Recital with Ezequiel Menéndez at Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, CT
2/13 – University of Connecticut Brass Festival
2/14 – Masterclass at the Juilliard School – New York, NY
2/15 – Masterclass at Berklee College of Music – Boston, MA

• Right after that, some of my students and I will be attending the Great Plains Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS from 2/18-20.

• The Iowa Brass Quintet will be on tour throughout the Midwest in March. Here’s our itinerary:

3/28 – Bettendorf Family Museum – Bettendorf, IA
3/29 – University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, WI
3/30 – University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, WI
3/31 – St. Olaf College – Northfield, MN

There’s more, but you get the picture. In case I don’t blog in a while, at least you know why. Stay Warm!

You Tuba

Ewe Tube

Cartoon by Dan Reynolds

For the longest time, every time I attempted to type “YouTube” I accidentally typed “YouTuba” – Freudian slip I guess. You Tube is amazing – not only can you view videos of all sorts, from funny and cute, to educational and entertaining –  but it is fantastic for musicians. In lieu of actually going to a live performance, one can view recordings of one-of-a-kind concerts of every genre. It’s especially helpful to jazz musicians who must study the performances of the great jazz musicians of the past, and some of the footage is invaluable. NPR did a story on it a while back called “A Blog Supreme“.

For their final project this semester, my students have to listen to a list of eleven works I call “The Power of Program Music“. This playlist allows students to not only hear a good recording of each piece, but accompanying footage of orchestras and conductors, slide shows of related images, and informative talks about some of the works. For more about the final project, go here.

One of my students has started his own You Tube Channel called, appropriately enough, The Tuba Room. My favorite is Sweet Caroline, but he has also done a great job recording his own versions of some of the viral videos by the Gregory Brothers.

I also have a You Tube Channel here that features several playists: including “Tuba Gems”, “Brass Ensembles” and videos about breathing. I’d love to learn about more channels that might be tuba-related, so let me know if you have one.

P.S. – There is a You Tuba. It’s a quartet from the U.K.

Royal Oculus and Gramaphone Company

Wow, I stumbled upon this doing a simple image search for tuba. From Shirley & Spinoza Radio check out the set list for the pod cast “Tuba! Not the Girl“. Even better, play it or down load it. Seems like one long mash up, of a combination of tuba music, field recordings, sound effects and recordings from folk and primitive music. Tuba artists include Jim Self; Drums and Tuba; Tom Heasley; Danny Kaye (Tubby the Tuba); Blood, Sweat and Tears; Canadian Brass, and the Black Dyke Mills Band.

Harvey Phillips (1929-2010)

Harvey Phillips (1929-2010)

It is with great sadness that the tuba world learned today of the passing of one of the greatest tuba artists, teachers, and advocates that ever lived. Harvey Phillips was personally responsible for hundreds of new works for the tuba and was our instrument’s number one promoter. As a founding member of the New York Brass Quintet, his contribution to the future of brass chamber music is immeasurable, as was his generous and inspiring leadership in all things tuba. I hope that in my lifetime, I can accomplish half as much as Harvey Phillips did. Rest in peace Harvey.

Among his many achievements and contributions are:

• Founder of TubaChristmas, dedicated to his teacher and famous Iowan tuba mentor Bill Bell.

• Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Indiana University

• Co-author of the Art of Tuba and Euphonium

• 2007 Inductee into the Classical Music Hall of Fame (Indiana University)

To learn more about this great man, please read this interview transcript with Bruce Duffie.