Sunday, March 22, 2009

Patrick Shulz Quartets

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about a significant composer of tuba-euphonium quartet literature. I had the pleasure of playing Patrick Schulz's Tuba Quartet No. 1 as part of the semi-final competition literature for the 2008 ITEC. He has a real gift for composition, especially for tubas and euphoniums. As a euphonium player, Schulz knows the boundaries to explore and the true artistic capabilities of the instruments. I would encourage every serious quartet to consider buying it. Go to the Sotto Voce page to purchase some of his sheet music. In addition to this quartet, his piece called Refractions is also very good. My quartet worked on it for a while, but ultimately decided on other pieces for the competiton. I want to perform it some day, but the score and parts were lost in the flood of 2008!!!

Barbara York

I recently attended the 2009 Great Plains Regional Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University. I had the pleasure of meeting pianist and composer named Barbara York. Some of you may already know her, but let me take this chance to elaborate!

Barbara is a self-proclaimed "hip, old lady who likes to use colorful words." Her approach to composition is from the heart. Her music has a real sense of melody, emotion, and direction. In any setting, either solo, chamber, full band, or orchestra, Barbara pays close attention to melody and how it interacts with other voices. She told me her first works were not well received because it was during a time of crisis in composition. You must remember figures like Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, to name a few, who were iconic composers from the mid-twentieth century. They were steeped in the idea of serial composition, a process in which dynamics, pitch, articulation, and rhythm were all predetermined by some master plan. Music from Barbara York did not fit into this academic vein and was therefore cast aside for a long time. Thankfully, her works for wind instruments have garnered her the recognition and respect she deserves. GO BUY HER MUSIC! She's written so much for tuba, euphonium, quartet, and other types of mixed ensembles. Barbara's music is published through Cimarron Press.

Brassworks4 Publishing

One of my trombone friends suggested I look at Brassworks4 for brass sheet music. They have SO much to offer! When you go to their website, you will see music for all brass instruments, chamber ensembles, as well as pieces from other publishers like, Cimarron Press, and BVD Press. The catalog includes works for tuba-euphonium duets, trios, quartets, and then some!

Brassworks4 is led by Connie Schulz. She is quick to respond to emails and phone calls. Her goal for the company is to create new and exciting works for brass players of all ages. The literature is available to middle school, high school, and college players. The other nice thing Connie does is she sends some of her pieces for peer review through the ITEA Journal. I have published with her and I highly recommend contacting Connie if you have any questions!

Tuba-Euphonium Press

This blog post is about sources for tuba-euphonium ensemble literature. Who am I kidding? I'm about to go off on a tangent about Tuba-Euphonium Press. I really do appreciate the fact that the International Tuba-Euphonium Association has its own publishing division, but my previous experiences have been slightly negative. First of all, some of the prices are too high. I can go to a place like Hickey's and find the same item for equal or lesser cost! Second, the former director of TE Press NEVER responded to my emails! I had some arrangements I wanted to have considered for publication, not to mention a large band arrangement I had completed as part of my senior honors thesis as an undergraduate student. Oy...

At the 2008 ITEC, it was announced that TE Press would be moving to Baltimore, Maryland and would be going through a change in leadership. This was fine and some minor glitches were to be expected with such a shift. Well, the major problem I had was that the automatic shipping cost was $10. I tried to purchase the Forbes arrangement of Achieved is the Glorious Work, priced at $8, and would have spent more in SHIPPING. This struck me as odd.

In spite of these rantings, there is something good that has come from the change in leadership with TE Press. They have created a grading system that grades each piece they publish based on range, technical difficulties, endurance, rhythmic complexity, etc. This is a great idea! Kudos.

Cimarron Press

Tuba-euphonium ensembles often face the dilemma of having to pick literature for recitals. What piece should we play? How many? Arrangements? Transcriptions? Original compositions? These questions often plague groups in the early stages of music selection. Fear not, tuba-euphonium ensembles! Go to Cimarron Press for your sheet music needs! The company is operated by Brian Doughty. This man is always prompt with emails and phone calls. He takes the time to make sure your needs are met and really provides quality literature for instruments of all kinds, not just tubas and euphoniums.

There are two really great things about the site. The first is that you can get PDF samples of the music before you decide to buy it! That is such a great idea! The other great thing is that Cimarron takes part in commissioning projects of various types, the most recent and notable one being the 2008 ITEC Tuba Quartet commission. It would behoove any college ensemble to peruse their website. There is a ton of good stuff out there!

Gail Robertson

Gail Robertson is a key figure in the tuba-euphonium community. Her efforts have expanded the repertoire for the tuba-euphonium ensemble and other low brass ensembles. Below is a brief biography:

Originally from Pompano Beach, Florida, Gail Robertson began her music studies at the University of Central Florida. After graduating, she was awarded a full-scholarship as graduate assistant to Harvey G. Phillips at Indiana University and received her Master's Degree in Euphonium and a Performer's Certificate in 1989. Ms. Robertson then began her Doctoral studies at the University of Maryland and studied with Dr. Brian L. Bowman. Two months later, she was relocated back to Orlando to become one of the founding members of Walt Disney World's "Tubafours." She later became the leader and chief arranger of the group and produced a CD called "Tubas Under the Boardwalk."

Robertson is currently the Professor of Low Brass at Bethune-Cookman College, Adjunct Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba at the University of Florida, and the University of Central Florida. Additionally, Gail is a judge for the Leonard Falcone Tuba and Euphonium Competition, the I.T.E.C. Euphonium Competition, and the Florida Bandmasters Association. She also tours the U.S. and Japan with Keith Brion's "New Sousa Band," is euphoniumist in the Orlando Brass Ensemble, the Central Florida Brass Band, and has toured with the Battle Creek Brass Band. She has been a soloist and clinician at the U.S. Army Band Tuba and Euphonium Conferences, several past I.T.E.C.'s and I.W.B.C's. She is also a member of "Symphonia" and will be a part of the summer workshop held at Interlochen this summer. Gail was most recently invited to serve on the judges committee for I.W.B.C., voted to be the "Euphonium Coordinator" of I.T.E.A., and was soloist with the Buchholz High School Band at the Atlanta C.B.D.N.A. Conference this past February.

Several of Gail's arrangements are published by the Tuba-Euphonium Press. The University of Florida Gator Band performed an entire "Rock and Roll" half-time show arranged by Gail this past season. She is also the founder and coordinator of the Orlando TUBAMANIA, the co-coordinator of the Orlando TUBACHRISTMAS, the University of Florida TUBAFEST, and is a York performing artist.

I had the chance to work with her at the 2008 International Euphonium Institute. She was a blast! Gail is very knowledgeable of the repertoire, the arranging/transcription process, and publishing. She is in demand as a teacher and clinician, and after having one lesson with her, it's not very hard to see why. If tuba-euphonium ensembles need ideas for literature, there is a whole Gail Robertson section on the Tuba-Euphonium Press website. Check it out! Her publications vary from arrangements, transcriptions, and original compositions.


The University of Iowa Tuba-Euphonium Studio recently attended the Great Plains Regional Tuba-Euphonium Conference, affectionately called GrapeTec or GeeperTec. The conference was filled with recitals of various tuba/euphonium artists and university tuba-euphonium ensembles. Attending these marathon concerts was a bit taxing for my attention span, but I managed to take notes on several pieces I heard. Here are some of my thoughts:

1) Check out the piece Carrickfergus! You won't be disappointed.
2) Try adding percussion or some other kind of instrument to the tuba-euphonium ensemble. The difference is really refreshing for both the performers and the audience.
3) Do not play an arrangement of Holst's Second Suite in F. Trust me, just don't do it!
4) I really liked the idea of switching parts and rotating players. Some ensembles did not have all studio members playing every piece. It was a chop break and it gave the director a chance to give verbal program notes. Also, the rotation gets more people playing a variety of parts.

I noticed that many of the university ensembles had about 12-16 players. Some of the pieces performed may have had more than four parts. I think anything beyond four or five can get really muddy. The way to avoid the mud factor is to have the separate voices doing "their own thing," employing contrapuntal devices and making each voice unique. If you don't do this, the result is just a cacophony of sound!

Transcription vs. Arrangement?

There is a distinction between transcriptions and arrangements. Why is this important to know? Many of the pieces performed by tuba-euphonium ensembles are called arrangements, but upon closer inspection, one might label some of them transcriptions. In my opinion, the two are different and are summarized below!


These are new configurations of a pre-existing work. It is placed in the context of a new ensemble setting (i. e. from choir to wind ensemble). There is usually something unique about the arrangement. The arranger can make his or her own introduction, transition materials, or a new ending. Also, the pre-existing work can be worked into a new context. For example, one of my final projects in my undergraduate band arranging course was to arrange a Christmas tune for full band. I arranged In dolce jubilo. The arrangement began with a full band, chorale-style rendition of the tune. I then inserted my own modulation to get from the home key of B-flat major to E-flat major. After this modulation, I reworked the tune into a bright, lively march! Yes, complete with oom-pa accompaniment. Within the march, I added a modulation to A-flat major and wrote a colorful woodwind line above the brass section. The closing section was an augmentation of the march melody, closely resembling the opening of the piece, and closed with a stinger. My undergraduate professor said that arrangments have to bear the mark of the arranger. The person makes it his or her own by making the piece different. What that difference is varies from piece to piece.


These works also stem from pre-existing materials. This happens a lot in band literature. Many pieces are from the orchestral repertoire. In the case of a tuba-euphonium ensemble, many four-part choir works transcribe well for the tubas and euphoniums. The soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts translate to euphonium 1, euphonium 2, tuba 1, and tuba 2 very well. There are few, if any, changes in structure to the original work. Transcriptions are essentially the previous work in the guise of another ensemble. Take the Forbes version of Achieved is the Glorious Work. This piece is a chorus from Handel's The Creation. There is a four-part trombone version of this piece, which Forbes then reworked for tubas and euphoniums. This reworking likely deserves the term transcription and not arrangement.

I know it may seem like we're losing words and getting hung up on little differences, but the fact remains that we have these two different terms with two different meanings. The transcription police will not be called if you call it an arrangement! Many publishers market items as arrangements, so bless it be and call it a day!

Monday, March 9, 2009


David Greenhoe, the trumpet professor at The University of Iowa, will be retiring at the end of this semester. The School of Music has recently conducted a national search for someone to take his place. When I was an undergraduate student at Eastern Illinois University, I never got the chance to witness an applied faculty audition because all the events happened during ensemble rehearsals or my non-music classes, classes for which most of the teachers would not excuse an absence to attend the auditions. I took the chance to see the four finalists for the trumpet job and I have since made some observations!

When it comes to the recital part of a job audition, it's implied that you're a good player. You wouldn't have a DMA and be crappy. I think it is wise to pick music that you enjoy playing as well as music that is very standard for the instrument. In fact, I think there's nothing wrong with doing a piece on a recital simply because it's one of your favorites. The people attending the recital are simply getting an understanding of your tonal concept and your overall playing style, not trying to see if you can play an hour recital of nothing but grade 6+ literature.

In terms of interaction, I really liked it when people gave brief verbal program notes about the pieces they were playing. I am familiar with some of the standard trumpet works because of my trumpet pedagogy and literature class, but it was nice to encounter some new pieces, too. This interaction with the audience makes the player seem more human and not like a trumpet robot.

My major professor asked me what was the one thing I took away from seeing all these auditions. I thought about it for a long time and it boiled down to one idea: do people like you? Like I said before, at this point you are likely a great player and can teach the instrument, but do people WANT to be around you? Does the music faculty want to work with you? Above all else, do the students in your potential studio want to work with you? If the answer is no to these questions, then perhaps you're not the best fit for the job. I'm wondering if that is a gross generalization to make, but it was just an impression I got. As I get closer to the job audition process myself, I'm sure new ideas will present themselves.

I know this post was not tuba-euphonium ensemble related, but it was related to class discussions and I could not resist talking about it.

Morehead State University Tuba-Euphonium Studio

The Morehead State University Tuba-Euphonium Studio is under the direction of Dr. Stacy Baker. I had the privilege of working with Dr. Baker at the 2008 International Euphonium Institute where she was a guest artist and clinician. We chatted several times during the week and I was able to get some information about her studio.

Morehead State is in a small community in Kentucky. Dr. Baker said that the music and public communities knew tuba and euphonium was present at the school, but she decided to take it one step further. Before her arrival, the tuba-euphonium ensemble had performed one concert per semester. Now the group is performing two or three times per semester and at various locations. She said, "Yes, we're everywhere. Morehead can't get enough tuba and euphonium!" The group plays on recitals at the university, on student degree recitals, as well as public outreach functions like Octubafest. It is clear that Dr. Baker's studio is hard at work. I heard them perform this past summer at the 2008 International Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. They were terrific. Their program included original works for tuba-euphonium ensemble, unique instrument combinations (the ensemble with guitar, percussion, timpani, etc.), as well as some student compositions and arrangements. Kudos to Dr. Baker and the Morehead State University Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble!

Giovanni Gabrieli

One of the assignments for my brass literature class was to write a paper on some historical aspect of brass ensembles. I had always heard the name Gabrieli, but at this point in my career, I figured I should know more! With that, I became a gumshoe and befriended the Rita Benton Music Library. Below are excerpts from my paper that show my findings! Enjoy.

The original focal point of the Venetian instrumental ensembles had always been brass instruments. This is true because Venice had relied on the use of herald trumpets and trombones for ceremonies and festivals. Local governments frequently employed brass musicians in groups called piffari. These piffari bands consisted of trumpets, trombones, cornettos, shawms, bagpipes, recorders, drums, viols, and perhaps some flutes. This abundance of brass musicians allowed Gabrieli to easily incorporate them into his new compositions for St. Mark’s. Brass instruments could increase the sound of vocal music when performed in the basilica, but the brasses also had another realistic application. Intonation improved when singers were paired with an instrument. The singers could retain their tonal center and the brasses could help with balance in a cappella works.

Gabrieli composed a large-scale work called Sacrae Symphoniae, a piece he likely would have called a sonata. The sonata at that time was a piece of music written for instruments. The collection contains sixteen pieces, including canzonas, another popular and common instrumental genre. It is in this composition that the Venetian school showcased its style of writing known as the cori spezzati, literally “split choirs.” Another term for this is polychoral. These canzonas are the first to include dynamic markings. For example, one choir is indicated at a piano while the opposing choir is marked mezzo forte.

Gabrieli mastered the timbres and blends possible with the dynamic contrasts brass instruments could achieve. Given that the brass choirs were split, he accounted for the distance between the groups, the time it would take for the sound to travel in the room, and of course, the overall effect of which brasses should be at which dynamic. Gabrieli’s canzonas also demonstrate his skills with counterpoint. Music with complex counterpoint with brass instruments, some similar in range and timbre, could disturb the clarity of the lines. In St. Mark’s, Gabrieli utilized the whole ensemble but interspersed complex counterpoint with long, florid lines supported by longer tones in the other voices.

In 1608, music critic Thomas Coryat described a performance of Venetian style music in his publication Crudities. Coryat states:

Sometimes there sung sixteene or twenty men together, having their master or moderator to keepe them in order; and when they sung, the instrumental musicitans played also. Sometimes sixteene played together on their instruments, ten Sagbuts, foure Cornets; sometimes two, a Cornet and a treble viol. Of those treble viols I heard several there, whereof each was so good, especially one that I observed above the rest, that I never heard the like before. Those that played upon the treble viols, sung and played together, and sometimes two singular fellows played together upon Theorboes, to which they sung also, who yielded admirable sweet musicke, but so still they could scarce be heard but by those that were never near them…At every time that every several musicke played, the Organs, wherof there are seven faire paire in that room, standing all in a row together, played with them…

Gabrieli’s efforts and those of his Venetian colleagues left a lasting mark on the development of brass literature. The concept of split choirs has become widely accepted as an effective compositional tool, including pieces all the way into the twenty-first century. Pieces like Resphigi’s La Pina di Roma or Ticheli’s American Elegy, though written long after Gabrieli, reflect back on what the Venetian school accomplished. Brass ensembles are indebted to these early composers for the fact that the many capabilities of brass instruments were exploited and used effectively. No longer were brasses just for ceremonies and festivals. Due in part to Gabrieli, the brass ensemble is on a more equal footing with other instrumental families.


Tubalate is a professional tuba-euphonium quartet based out of England. Their efforts in low brass chamber music have taken them to places like Russia, the United States, Latvia, and many other locales. The group was awarded the prestigious Professional Performance Diploma from the Royal Northern College of Music. Since then, these guys have been constantly pushing the envelope in developing repertoire.

Tubalate encourage educational projects, working in collaboration with organisations such as The Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM). The quartet also offers a range of educational concerts and workshops. They have given masterclasses at major music conservatoires including the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), the Welsh College of Music and Drama and the St. Petersburg (Russia), and Riga (Latvia) Conservatoires.

Tubalate has completed four recording projects: Light Metal, Episodes, Move, and a CD of contemporary works called Earth and Moon. They are also affiliated with Besson.

Though this group is not a college group, I thought it was important to show trends in tuba-euphonium quartet in a country other than the United States and to demonstrate yet another group's commitment to advancing tuba-euphonium literature. Check out the following list of pieces that Tubalate has either commissioned or written:

After the Long Trick Hywel Davies
Ale and Arty Colin Bayliss
Almost a Fugue Georg Pelecis
Basics, The Roy Newsome
Blue the Blue Hour Michael Spakowski
Cheap Labour Peter Reynolds
Chorus of Inner Voices (2), A Paul Mitchell-Davidson
Conversation with a room Owen Bourne
Dancing Music Michael Spakowski
Earth & Moon Hugh Collins-Rice
Efflorescent Torstein Aagard-Nilsen
Episodes John Reeman
Et Tu Bop Geoff Keating
Exit Pursued by a Bear Paul Mitchell-Davidson
Fellscape Stuart Scott
Gowbarrow Gavotte Andrew Seivewright
Hamish Geoff Keating
Heights of Halifax, The Ian McQueen
I Saw a Snake Frederick Naftel
Invocation Alan Langford
Jubilate for Tubalat¨¦ Roy Newsome
La Valse David Solomons
Le'Go John Reeman
Loch Ness (A lonely Vigil) Philip Henderson
Lyke Wake Dirge, The Colin Bayliss
Male Voice for Brass Raymond Parfrey
March - FROT Simon Kerwin
March of the Hare Peter Crump
Means of Production Roddy Skeaping
Memory Trace Peter McGarr
Move Matt Davidson
Octave Variations David Stoll
Pascal's Victim Frederick Naftel
Pastorale and Ostinato Julian Dale
Pieces of Eight David Solomons
Prayer before the Close of Day David Solomons
Quartet Michael Regan
Rest and Recreation Howard Skempton
Shall We Dance? Geoff Keating
String of Tones, A Anthony Roper
Sweet Sorrow Geoff Keating
Tants David Solomons
Tears Donald Bousted
There Be Giants Ian McQueen
Three Piece Suite Timothy Moore
Tributes to Tunesmiths Raymond Parfrey
Tubafication Paul Mitchell-Davidson
Tubafusion Derek Wood
Tubalat¨¦ Tanze Judith Bailey
U Phone Ye Mum Kristofer Wahlander
Uraborus Paul Newland
Variations on a Yiddish Folksong Michael Spakowski
Visages Guto Puw

The Sotto Voce T uba Quartet

The Sotto Voce Tuba-Euphonium Quartet is the premiere tuba-euphonium quartet of its kind. The original group formed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the guidance of John Stevens. The quartet performs at conferences, festivals, and master classes throughout the country. They are dedicated to performing quality literature consisting of arrangements, transcriptions, and original compositions for tuba-euphonium quartet.

Members are Demondrae Thurmon, Mark Carlson, Nat McIntosh, and Michael Forbes. Each member brings something unique to the quartet. Their engaging personalities and outstanding musicianship combine to create a professional product. The group is endorsed by the Miraphone corporation. Both Demondrae and Mark perform on the Miraphone 5050T, the instrument Demondrae helped create with the Miraphone company. It is also the instrument I personally play on, and let me say, it's BEAUTIFUL!

Sotto Voce has three CDs available under the Summit Records label: Consquences, Refractions, and Viva Voce: The Quartets of John Stevens. I highly recommend this group to anyone interested in low brass chamber music. They are a testament to what tubas and euphoniums can do! Go listen...NOW.