There aren’t many professional tuba players out there, but there are no doubt many of them in closets. I suspect that there aren’t many people who love the tuba so much that they are willing to devote their life to it. What can a tuba-dabbler to do? I found an interesting answer to that question this weekend at TubaMania in New Ulm, Minnesota. I drove two hours to see it, largely because I’m amazed that such a thing exists.
The framework is actually a marvel of simplicity. As explained by the bandleader, Martin Meidl, they allow anyone with their own tuba and music stand to participate. They rehearse in the morning and perform the concert the same night. They have been doing it for 14 years now, and have a past membership of nearly 100. Their existence seems to me to be a perfect example of an evolution of process rather than product. Indeed, the perpetuation of this basic model of socialization through music thwarts any hope at a perfected “product” as its result.
Internet research revealed that the idea goes further back to tuba virtuoso Harvey Phillips, inducted into the American Classical Hall of Fame at the University of Cincinnati last month. Phillips introduced the idea of Christmas tuba concerts around the world in 1974, and this same group of New Ulm players has been performing a TubaChristmas in Mankato, Minnesota since 1993. They are branching out and offering Oktubafest at the New Ulm Holiday Inn this year.
As Dick Hardt proclaimed, “simple and open wins.” To leave an open channel for people to gather and contribute without a huge personal or professional investment seems to be genius of a sort.
* with due deference to Ted Stevens