Re: Life in tubadom

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Posted by Mitch on October 28, 1999 at 09:10:53:

In Reply to: Life in tubadom posted by Daryl on October 27, 1999 at 21:30:38:

Your discussion of "Life in Tubadom" should include a discussion of the question "is there life after tubadom." I'm sure that just about everyone who frequents this site is either a professional tuba player or is striving to be one. But for those who do not end up playing in the New York Philharmonic, there are still lots of opportunities in the music business.

I was a professional tuba player for about 10 years. I was lucky enough to play the second tuba part in Rite of Spring,Zarathustra, Symphonie Fantastique, etc. sitting next to great players like Paul Krzywicki, Gene Pokorney, Ross Tolbert, Bob Rusk and Walt Zeschin. I had the great fortune of playing under conductors like Klaus Tennsteadt, Zubin Mehta, Leonard Slatkin, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Dutoit and others. I studied hard, practiced my lip slurs, learned my excerpts, taught at a university and took auditions. In the 10 years that I was active as a tuba player, there were a total of three auditions for symphony orchestras that payed a living wage in this country. Some of the most wonderful, spiritual experiences of my life occurred while playing great music with a great orchestra and a great conductor. I certainly don't regret a moment of it.

But 95% of jobs in the music industry do not involve playing or teaching, and your experience playing the tuba can lead to rewarding and lucrative careers in the music business. Harvey Phillips is one of the greatest entrepreneurs I have ever known. Think about who is usually the manager of the brass quintet, the personnel manager of the orchestra of the producer of the record. It's the tuba player.

In my own experience, I found it more rewarding to make the artistic decisions about who would perform on the stage instead of being the one performing. That lead to jobs running performing arts centers in Colorado, Connecticut and California. As the pops director of the Atlanta Symphony, I got to select artist who would perform with the orchestra and even develop new orchestra shows for people like Trisha Yearwood and Richard Marx. When I became Music Producer for the cultural programs of the 1996 Summer Olympics, I was able to work with some of the great orchestras of the world as well as some of the great jazz and pop stars. The point is that one can be a musician without being a performer.

Please don't think this post is intended to discourage anyone from pursuing a career as a professional tubist. On the contrary, I think it's a great education and a great discipline. But while you're learning to play the tuba, take the time to learn about the business of music. You won't learn that in a conservatory. Think like Harvey Phillips. Be an entrepreneur. How many tubists are taking advantage of MP3 as a means of distributing their music? How many tubists are engaged in finding the next linkage between technology and performance? How many tubists are researching a middleware solution to the dilema of internet content versus computer hardware?

I haven't played a tuba in seven years, and I'm looking to pick one up again to play in my community band. No, I'm not a professional tuba player. But I'm still a musician and I always will be. Go after your dreams, but don't limit your choices.

Mitch Gershenfeld
President & CEO
The Arts Center Foundation, Inc.
El Cajon, CA

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