Posted by Tom on April 19, 1999 at 17:32:51:
In Reply to: Tuba Ensembles?! posted by Chris on April 18, 1999 at 23:21:08:
There is a point to this...
During the final year of my Master's program, I was involved in a tuba quartet that was, without doubt, the busiest gigging ensemble in the school of music. During the entire month of October, we played every Friday and Saturday nights at the local brewery/restaurant (for pay). Before our first night there, there was a bit of concern that we would not go over well with the typical dinner crowd. However, the crowd loved us, and a drunk patron even tipped us $20. To prove that we could escape the "Octoberfest" cliche, we also got hired to play as the "house band" for the Final Four basketball tournament in which or school was competing (let's just say that we played both nights, and went home happy both times). We also played everything from bank parties to PTA BBQ's to retirement homes (hey, a buck's a buck).
The lessons learned are: 1) The public respects music performed at a highly competent level, regardless of instrumentation. Thus, there is no substitute for preparation, and no excuse for lack of preparation. 2) The public respects tbe sincerity of the performers. If you begin by apologizing for your performance or choice of instrumentation, you might as well pack up and go home. 3) TELL THE PUBLIC WHAT TO LIKE. Don't accept any limitations put on you by preconceived notions. 4) You can play amazingly loud and still not cover up a dinner crowd (or even the table next to you). Try doing that with a brass quintet!
I do not expect the tuba ensemble/quartet to be a major medium for the advancement of art music. At the same time, I do not expect the same from trumpet quartets or saxophone quartets. However, there is a lot of great music written for both that should not necessarily be ignored just because it is not sting quartet music. You state that particularly large tuba ensembles may be furthering a negative view of the tuba. Well, I think yes and no. You should have been at ITG this past summer! I would say in the same way, the extremely large trumpet ensemble can portray the trumpet as an always loud, always bright and piercing instrument (when we certainly know that this is not necessarily the case). However, nothing can replace the "coolness" factor that many younger players experience when participating in this sort of activity.
A great deal of our activities are geared toward the tuba-euphonium community. Realize, however, that we ARE the public! What's wrong with me spending my money on tuba and euphonium related activities. Do I do it out of obligation to my instrument? Doubtful. Do I do it because I enjoy the medium (as a perfomer and as a listener)? Most certainly. I have bought many recordings and have been to many concerts that I did not necessarily enjoy. To say that these feelings were based on whatever instrument was playing is silly. Remember that it is the quality of the performance that counts.
I do feel that you bring up many interesting and important points, and I agree with you on many of them. It is vitally important that questions like this arise in order to further perfect (and hopefully propagate) our chosen field.