Tuba Ensembles?!

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Posted by Chris on April 18, 1999 at 23:21:08:

I am curious as to the legitimacy of tuba (and euphonium) ensembles OUTSIDE of the tuba community. A professional tubist myself, I am supportive of anything and everything that furthers the art of music, particularly where the tuba is involved. However, I often wonder if tuba ensembles -- particularly large ones -- further that art, or simply magnify the general perception (even within the musical community) that the tuba is a musical buffoon. Case in point: I was recently browsing through the jazz CD section in a national retail music store when I overheard several well-respected (locally, though in a large city) jazz musicians commenting on a jazz tuba recording. The overall consensus was that the recording was entertaining, but in a nostalgic sort of way. In other words, it was good drinking music. Painstakingly, I pondered those comments on my drive home, only to realize that I too had considered some of my own past experiences w/tuba ensembles rather embarrasing -- not because of poor performances, but because of a poor mission. Granted, there are always individuals (and ensembles, in this case the British Tuba Quartet) who break the mold and exceed the boundaries of stereotyping, but in our case, aren't most of us merely reinforcing those prejudices? Perhaps the tuba really is just too low on the frequency scale to dance the cha-cha w/much success. Perhaps the instrument is just too large to sound appealing to most listeners outside of our own families. Perhaps that's why most tuba solos are now being written above or near the top of the bass clef staff. Perhaps that's why today's outstanding soloists spend so much of their time sailing above the staff. Maybe the answer lies w/better ensemble arranging, or maybe the answer lies w/just realizing who we are and simply determining to do that job really well, even if it is to just play the bass line in tune for a change. Comments?

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