2004 Lifetime Achievement Awards

2004 Lifetime Achievement Awards

From time to time, ITEA recognizes individuals who have made significant and distinguished contributions to the euphonium and tuba through performance, composition, education, and/or the music industry. On the occasion of the 2004 ITEC in Budapest, Hungary, four awards were made to such important individuals: Connie Weldon, Abe Torchinsky, Vilmos Szabo, and Lászlo Szabo. Both Vilmos and Lazslo were presented their awards during the opening ceremonies of the conference.

Lászlo Szábo
Vilmos Szábo

Connie and Abe were unable to attend ITEC 2004, so each was given presentations prior to the conference. Below are citations that were presented at these two ceremonies respectively, and were submitted for publication in this issue of the journal.

Citation for Connie Weldon
June 5, 2004
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
By Sam Pilafian

L-R: Connie Weldon, Sam Pilafian, and Mary Ann Craig

Born and raised in Winter Haven, Florida, Constance Weldon started playing drums in the fourth grade. She then picked up the trumpet, later playing horn, valve trombone, baritone horn…all on the way to her final destination, the tuba! From that day on, Connie’s life was never the same as it constantly revolved around playing the tuba. As valedictorian of Miami Jackson High School, she was offered scholarships to all of Florida’s universities. She decided to accept an academic scholarship to the University of Miami.

While studying with Bower Murphy, the trumpet playing teacher of all brass at the University of Miami, Connie auditioned for and was accepted to the Tanglewood Music Festival in the summer of 1951. There she played under the baton of a young Leonard Bernstein as well as other promising and established professional conductors. At summer’s end, she turned down a position in the Rio de Janeiro Symphony to finish her education.

Connie completed a Bachelor of Music degree in 1952 and a Master of Education in 1953 from the University of Miami. Returning to Tanglewood in 1954, she auditioned for Arthur Fiedler and joined the Boston Pops Touring Orchestra. Connie next joined the North Carolina Symphony. In 1957 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship Award to study in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw tubist, Adrian Boorsma. During that time she joined the Netherlands Ballet Orkest and was acting principal tuba of the great Concertgebouw Orchestra.


Upon returning to the U.S., Connie joined the Kansas City Philharmonic for two seasons, after which she returned to Florida to join the Miami Philharmonic and teach at the University of Miami. Connie quickly established a reputation as an expert teacher, known for her prescriptive and thorough approach. In Connie’s studio, musicianship and technical teaching received equal time. As a result of her successful studio building, Connie formed the University of Miami Tuba Ensemble in 1960, the first credited group of its type at any university. In this ensemble, Connie taught a higher awareness of intonation, balance, rhythm, accompaniment skills, and solo playing with musical opinion. Her success with the University of Miami Tuba Ensemble led to interest from other universities and a proliferation of this type of ensemble throughout the tuba world. Connie’s success as a teacher also led to her becoming the conductor of the University of Miami Brass Choir, one of that school’s flagship ensembles.

From 1972 until her retirement in 1991, Connie was the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the University of Miami. In this position she provided guidance to thousands of future musicians and teachers. Since then, she has been honored with the University of Miami Distinguished Alumna Award, the University of Miami Distinguished Woman of the Year, the World Who’s Who of Women in Education, and the Pioneer Award of the International Women’s Brass Conference.

It is with great appreciation that, on behalf of the members of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association, the ExecutiveCommittee awards the association’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award to Constance Weldon for her pioneering accomplishments as an artist, teacher, arranger, administrator, conductor, and as the mother of the tuba-euphonium ensemble.
Given this day, June 5, 2004, in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA by the Executive Committee of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association.

Citation for Abe Torchinsky
Affectionately Known as “Mr. T”
May 21, 2004
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, USA
By Warren Deck, Former Student & Former Principal Tuba, New York Philharmonic

We gather here tonight to celebrate the achievements of Abe Torchinsky as a tuba player and teacher. As a young boy living in Philadelphia, he started playing the tuba in marching bands and local brass bands at age 12. When his older brother Jack, who was also a musician, thought his younger brother had talent, he set about finding his brother a teacher. In 1935, Jack’s search led Mr. T to a young man enrolled at the Curtis Institute by the name of Arnold Jacobs, whom Mr. T considers to be his first serious teacher. At the behest of both his older brother and Arnold Jacobs, Mr. T started doubling on string bass to make money. Proceeds from the string bass were used to fund trips to New York every week or two to study first with Fred Geib and by 1939 with Bill Bell. In the fall of 1940, Mr. T entered the Curtis Institute where he studied with Philip Donatelli, who was then the tubist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

After short periods of playing in the Southern Symphony Orchestra in Columbia, S.C. and The National Symphony in Washington DC, in 1943 he decided that he would like to move to New York and take his chances there. Like almost every musician who goes to the big city, the first year of freelancing often includes non-musical forms of employment. Mr. T’s included selling cameras in a department store and decorating windows for the United Cigar Company.

He was able to quit these jobs in 1944 when Mr. Bell recommended him for a musical show called The Seven Lively Arts. Shortly after that, he played the original production of Carousel on Broadway, which had the first tuba part written for a Broadway musical. After two years of Carousel. Mr. T played a Rogers and Hammerstein show called Allegro. There were also engagements with many radio shows including The Firestone Hour.

In 1946, he joined the NBC Symphony with Toscanin, and three years later joined the Philadelphia Orchestra. During his tenure in these two orchestras, Mr. T participated in literally hundreds of orchestral recordings, many of which are still commercially available today.

In 1960 he had a hand in what was to be the first brass quintet record released on a major label. Columbia Records released Catch the Brass Ring with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble. The record was arrangements of classical standards done in swing style with a rhythm section. Eugene Ormandy was unhappy about members of the Philadelphia Orchestra making a “jazz” record and had enough clout with Columbia to have the record pulled off the market. It has recently been re-released. During the 1960s The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble continued with their pioneering accomplishments. They made more brass chamber music records, two of which won Grammy Awards: The Glorious Sound of Brass and The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli featuring members of The Cleveland Orchestra and Chicago Symphony brass sections. They also made the now classic Christmas record The Festival of Carols in Brass excerpts of which are still heard around Christmas time in every mall in America.

There was one more type of recording left to be made, and, in 1973, he got the opportunity to make a solo recording of the Hindemith Tuba Sonata with Glenn Gould on Columbia Records, which received a Grammy nomination.

He has given a huge gift to both aspiring and professional orchestral tuba players. Instead of publishing excerpts to orchestral pieces, he published full parts. This enables one to listen to a recording of these pieces and be able to follow along throughout the whole piece, making it easier for all of us to learn the context in which these excerpts take place. These books also provide a leap forward from the excerpt books of the past with his commentary about each piece, which is invaluable to all.

Mr. T has many students who can attest to his abilities as a teacher. He has had a tremendous impact on students who went on to play professionally as well as those who went on to do other things professionally. His joy for music as well as his joy for life was on display every day for anyone who ever studied with him or happened to come in contact with him. He was able to teach pedagogy in simple terms, but above all he was able to instill awe and respect for musicianship. The pedagogy and technical aspects of playing were never an end in themselves, but a means to get to the heart of the music and experience something larger. He treated each student with respect, found the good in all of them, and cared about them. To quote from an interview he gave in 1989: “I try to encourage these people. You can’t go into teaching with the idea that once they leave, forget about them. If this is what you believe, then don’t teach. Otherwise, it’s a factory job and I’m not interested in that. These students are part of your family.” True to his words, Mr. T and his lovely wife Berta, affectionately known as Mrs. T, became all of his students’ second set of caring parents.

Anyone fortunate enough to know Abe Torchinsky and his work have had their lives uplifted by him, and the very thought of him brings a smile to their face. So tonight, while we celebrate his achievements as a tubist and teacher, we also celebrate him as a person.

That Abe Torchinsky was a great player is well documented. That he was a great teacher will be attested by many. That he is a great human being will be attested by all. Therefore, it is with great appreciation that, on behalf of the members of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association, the Executive Committee awards the association’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award to Abe Torchinsky for his accomplishments as an artist, teacher, and musical ambassador.

Given this day, Friday May 21, 2004 in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, USA by the Executive Committee of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association.

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