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Response: Confessions of an Old Tuba Player

Mike, I chose trumpet as my instrument in school. I still have it packed away in my closet some 30 years later. I dig it out occasionally and oil her up to practice some Christmas Carols or merely aggitate the cat. When I first got married my husband thought it was great fun to *BLAT* me out of bed with it on those rare Saturday morning's when he managed to break the gravity storm of that soft horizontal surface before me. My choice of a trumpet truly matched my personality. I am without a doubt LOUD in many ways. And brass instruments are nothing, if not loud! My mother used to send me outside to practice in the backyard. Maybe the attraction of a loud instrument sprang partly from being the 'middle' child. I still say and do things that conciously or subconciously draw attention to me. But in addition to being loud, a trumpet only had three keys. My childish thought? It's got to be easier than a saxaphone, there are so many less keys to remember to press down. And the icing on the cake was that I'd get to play the melody more often than not, rather than the harmony. I'd be interested to hear what instruments other readers played and why as a fifth grader they chose the one they did? Ginny

June 21, '99

Mike, Great story!!! I played tuba at Berea College in Berea, KY. I didn't have a bit of music experience (violin in 5th grade, but I don't count that), but my roommate was a tuba player and since I had the size and attitude, I went for it. My teacher, bless his heart, had a PhD. in music and was an accomplished french horn player. Needless to say, his emboucher was horrific. I owe a lot to him simply for teaching me to read music and to experience the joy of transforming all those little black dots and lines into music. I played, in concert band and brass ensemble, a Mirafone BBf 5/4 with 4 valves or a little Meinle-Weston 3-valve, I stayed away from our two Sousaphones.

Mark Gentile
Powell, TN
Tuba for Dummies

July 12, '99

I couldn't believe your essay !!!

My high school band experience was a real highlight of my life! Everything you said is the HONEST TRUTH !!! Except our Bass section didn't stuff meaningless "stuff" down our bells - our director, a tubist himself - made certain that we had our rubber coated protection "nets" down our bells - - - but what our NEW director couldn't figure out was "Why do you Basses sound so muffled during pre-game?" - then at half time he couldn't get us to quite down.

Well - Mr. Ward, if you ever see this page (but I doubt you've kept up with technology) - we were budding capitalist PIGS even then. Seems like we figured that we could wrap sellable "stuff" like hot dogs, soda cans, confetti, etc. in heavy plastic - reinforced with packing tape - held to the bell nets with laundry pins !!! Pack it just right and - - - NO RATTLES !!!

When you're in the stands until halftime - you've got a captive market !!! I learned more about economic theory (supply & demand, guns & butter) at football games than I did in Business School - undergrad AND grad !!!!!

I do heartedly endorse your opinion of those derelict drummers - just plain insane. But in a way they were WAY ahead of their time considering internet porn these days. At last count 6 of 8 of ours were either serving "hard time" or waiting sentencing - most for deviant anti-social behavior !!!

I guess I could go on and on as well - but then just WHO WOULD BELIEVE US ???

As well, I had about a thirty year tuba playing gap - but for the past year I've been the "principal tubist" for a local community band. I really surprised myself with how much I remember - even know some fingerings better NOW than back then. I can't remember how I got on the subject of music - but two local folks were talking with me and we got on the subject of the local band. The conversation went something like this: "Oh, do you play an instrument?" "Yep, TUBA." "We don't have a tuba in the band." "Well, I play tuba." "No, you don't understand - we don't HAVE a tuba in the band." "Well, I play TUBA!" "Yeah, but we don't have one for you to play." "Well, why don't I just play MY OWN horn then?" "You mean, you have a tuba?" "Yeah, I play TUBA."

Thank heavens my wife got off the "Why don't you sell some of your instruments" kick. She just about collapsed when she found out what my 30+ year old tuba is worth !!! Now about those batons - - - - -

Thanks for your piece - hope to see more!!


August 21, '99

Hi Mike,

I'm in a High School band also. You might have heard of us uf you have followed Texas High School bands because we're the best 3A band program in the state. Our name in "The Pride Of The Blue" also known as The Robinson High School Band. I play the melophone(marching french horn).

Write back soon,



Ryan, I love the sound of french horns. Good luck to you.


October 4, '99

Mike, I agree with your comments. As a tuba player, our section was often a target for airborne objects and unwanted articles of clothing. I think the worst I ever got was an apple. (Lucky for me they shrink when exposed to air for several days) I actually found your article as a result of looking for a used tuba or sousaphone. I haven't been in high school band for over 20 years, but every now and then I have an itch to play "Hang on Sloop". Any suggestions as to where I might find a reasonably priced used tuba or sousaphone? Thanks, Jim

December 25, '99

just thought i'd tell you that i'm the current tuba section leader for the CANYON HIGH SCHOOL SOARING PRIDE BAND i read your article and things are still the same except for people throughing things in the tubas (only band memebers do that)



HE--Glad to hear from you, and glad to know that the tradition continues.


February 22, 2000

Dear Mike,
I just reviewed your article about Tuba players.  You brought back a lot of memories.  I think I'm going to go out
and join the local community band.  Best to you brother tuba player.
Mikal Barchenger

June 13, 2000

I am a 10th grade tuba player from Walterboro S.C and everything you said is so true!! I just wanted to say right on man and keep on speaken what you speaken man becauseit is all so true!!!

Cool readen your article...
Jared W. Morris
Walterboro high school "Band of Blue"
Tuba player

P.S. Watch us in the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York city!!

Tuba player baby and Proud of it!!!! TUBA!!!!

December 18, 2000

I think french horn or "horny" players as we were called, are in the category of quiet but deadly mischief-makers. We could lift our bells and blast an unsuspecting neighbor out, hide things we stole, like the trombone players water bottles in our bells; but best of all - our "spit slides" -  a nicely- looped metal slide with tons of spit collected every 10 minutes or so, could be aimed and shot with just the right flick of the wrist at (again) the trombone players behind us without even taking our eyes off of the conductor -  and with  no detectable shoulder movements. Of course then, we did have to endure the bruises that a trombone slide can make in your back, but it was worth it because we always got in  the first strike. (Trombone players aren't always that bright.) I married a trombone player though and we have lived happily ever after - at least for the past  26 years!


May 15, 2001

Hey Mike!
My name is Allie! I've been playing tuba and sousaphone for 3 years now! I'm a 16 year old, who switched from the flute to the tuba! I take it very seriously, and I've been involved in many awards concerts, etc. I also am currently teaching 5 students to play the sousaphone with me in marching band, one tuba is so lonely! If there is any, ANY advice you can give me to help them out, or if you could email me copys of music for beginners, I'd be more than greatful! And just for the record, in my tuba/sousaphone I've had, a stuffed parrot, millions of marching band gloves, pom-poms, socks, m&m's-they rattle when you play, pop bottles and if there's ever a dought in my mind where my beret it, it's in my tuba bell! I love being the tuba player!  Once, the other footballs marching band forgot there tuba, how you do that is beyond me, i mean it only takes up half the truck! But never the less, they forgot it! So they asked if they could borrow mine. And it was perfect time-ing, at the time, it was our homecoming game, so our insturments were decorated, mine was at the time, a fiber-glass sousaphone, and with red electrical tape, i wrote "GO FOXES!" on the back, and I had flames coming out of my bell, so when the other team asked if they could borrow it, it was under one condition, the tuba player had to bow down to me, in the middle of the field. It was great. At the time I was a freshman, and now I have everyone's respect in the band!  I would love if you would keep in touch! My girls are trying so hard to learn, and I'm trying to teach! So i would welcome any tips! Thanks for your time! ~ ALLIE aka: roadblock .......marching band nick-name.........

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