Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To the 94

By Roger Bobo

Although this was written 34 years ago it still seems to be appropriate. The winner of that New York Philharmonic audition 34 years ago, Warren Deck, is now retired from the orchestra and holds a highly respected faculty position himself and now has to face that same question about training tubists.                                                   


Printed courtesy of International Brass Bulletin.

At the time of this writing, preliminary auditions are being held for the tuba position in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. From a field of ninety-five applicants one man will be chosen to fill the prestigious position with the great orchestra. We can be sure that this man will be a great tubist and that he is more than deserving of our congratulations. But, with only one opening and with increasing
infrequency of new vacancies, what of the other 94?

Conductors and orchestra audition committees hope that from the applicants there will be one player who is obviously best suited for the position, but with fewer openings and more players than ever, this is rarely the case. It is not at all unusual to find several qualified applicants, especially from such large
numbers, and those final decisions can be tedious and tense. With so many qualified players the decision is rarely, simply who is the best player, but who is the best player for a particular orchestra. With so many excellent players the final decision is more often made in regard to tastes and traditions of the particular orchestra or conductor.

Tuba, of course, is not the only instrumental group where the supply overwhelms the demand but for many reasons it seems to be the most out of proportion. Discussions in regard to specific reasons could be made but the final question still is: 'What of the other 94?'.

Many of the applicants hold positions already, either in other orchestras or on faculties of various music schools, but many of them see this audition as their one and perhaps only big chance. Future Tuba Christmases, pizza parlor tuba quartet jobs or pending tuba symposia will hardly seem fulfilling compared to what these players had wished. Many of them returning to their faculty positions may look at their roster of "tuba majors" in a different light.

With this lopsided ratio between supply and demand can we in good conscience continue training professional quality tubists? We must, of course, offer instruction to all qualified students who wish it, but with this instruction must also come a realistic picture of the professional situation and what the statistics are like for the aspiring tubist. For those who are members of large music school faculties and for music school administrators who allow large numbers of tuba majors (that is a student whose principal interest in an institute of higher learning is preparation for a career in professional tuba playing), it might be prudent if this situation were reexamined.

To the 94, what can be said? Many professions on this planet are overcrowded. There will be more openings every few years, and very occasionally there will be another opening in a major orchestra. There are many related professions that might be attractive to the tubist without work: instrument design
and repair, music composition, conducting, various types of musical administration and even the increasingly controversial field of tuba pedagogy.

Onward and Good Luck!

1979, Los Angeles, California, USA

Reissued March 20, 2013