2006 Lifetime Achievement Awards
From time to time, the International Tuba Euphonium Association recognizes individuals who have made significant and distinguished contributions to the euphonium and tuba through performance, composition, education, and/or the music industry. The individuals listed below have been designated as Lifetime Achievement Members of ITEA. We are grateful to each one for their special efforts on our behalf. Don Butterfield
By James Shearer
Don Butterfield is among a select group of pioneering New York tuba players who helped bring the instrument into the modern jazz ensemble. Along with Bill Barber and Harvey Phillips, Butterfield convinced artists and arrangers alike that the tuba was a viable jazz instrument and could prove a welcomed addition to jazz ensembles of all sizes. Perhaps best known today for his work with Clark Terry and Charles Mingus, Don Butterfield was a regular on the New York freelance music scene for over fifty years, respected as a versatile and reliable artist in all musical genres.
Don Butterfield studied tuba at the Julliard School of Music under the tutelage of William J. “Bill” Bell. Over a long and distinguished career he has made music with a wide array of diverse artists from Arturo Toscanini to John Cage, from Claude Thornhill to the infamous Moondog. His playing has been featured on literally hundreds of jazz and classical recordings, as well as on radio, television, and film scores. Early in his career he worked in the broadcast studios of both CBS and NBC, and he was a regular member of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra for many years. He retired from the American Symphony Orchestra in 1991. His list of jazz recording and performance credits reads like a “Who’s Who” of jazz history, including such artists and groups as Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Coleman Hawkins, Rahsann Roland Kirk, Teo Macero, The Modern Jazz Quartet, James Moody, Wes Montgomery, Oliver Nelson, Oscar Peterson, Lalo Schifrin, Jimmy Smith,and Stanley Turrentine to name but a few.
Butterfield was a regular member of Charles Mingus’s Jazz Workshop, and his playing can be heard on some of Mingus’s most famous recordings including The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady and Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. Mr. Butterfield was also featured in the recent documentary film Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog.
In 1959, trumpeter Clark Terry requested that Butterfield join him on an album produced by Orrin Keepnews for the Riverside label titled Top and Bottom Brass. This award-winning recording was one of the first jazz albums to prominently feature a tuba in the front line of a jazz ensemble playing extended improvised solos. Butterfield’s playing on Top and Bottom Brass opened the door for today’s successful jazz tubists and still serves as a model for one solid approach to low brass jazz improvisation.
In addition to his success as a performer, Don Butterfield has had a lifelong commitment to education. As both a teacher and composer, his work has helped to expand the horizons for all low brass players working and studying today. His students have included a number of successful musicians who are still working professionally in various aspects of the music industry. As a college teacher, Butterfield held teaching positions at Montclair State University, Trenton State University, Kean University, New York University, Columbia Teachers College, and the Mannes School of Music. Tommy Johnson
By Gene Pokorny
To most people interested in the tuba from the last third of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century, a number of outstanding musical achievers have given dignity, honor and respect to our instruments. They have done so by being outstanding players, performers, recording artists, teachers, music educators, promoters, commissioners of new works, and having perhaps other roles as well. While these people may be mentioned more frequently in low brass journals, Tommy Johnson is certainly one of our all-time unsung heroes.
When the name “Tommy Johnson” is mentioned, it takes a second for our data banks to come up with a few notable things about him because his name is not always in the forefront of recognition, even though he is the most heard tuba player on the planet. Here are the usual things that come to mind: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Simpsons.
There are also those special moments when the Los Angeles Philharmonic used Tommy Johnson to record the extra tuba parts in various Strauss tone poems and particularly in Varese’s Arcana. Probably most notable in that era of recordings was the famous doubling of the lone tuba part with Roger Bobo in Holst’s monumental work, The Planets. While this and the aforementioned recordings may fade into the memory of past discography for the world at large, the recording of the Holst will never stop being a source of amazement for tuba players well into the future. There may not be life on the planets beyond Earth, but there sure is a damned good low E on Uranus!! After these isolated facts about Tommy Johnson, most other tuba players and tuba enthusiasts know very little about him. Most don’t realize that along with teaching privately and at universities in Southern California, he taught public school for over twenty years at the junior high level. That means that besides teaching the usual beginning winds and advanced band class, he was also teaching beginning strings and teaching advanced orchestra as well.
Most don’t realize (unless you are a school teacher) that many times the teacher actually becomes a surrogate parent to many students. He may have taught music to a lot of young people, but he taught everybody what it means to be a good person and a good citizen.
Most don’t realize he was given the “Teacher of the Year Award” and the “Lifetime PTA Award” from Sepulveda Junior High School where he taught. Most don’t realize that after having received the “Most Valuable Player Award for Tuba Player” for six years straight from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, they finally gave up re- issuing the award to him and honored him with the “Most Valu- able Player EmeritusAward” in 1980.
From ITEC 2006, Gene Pokorny, Roger Bobo, Brian Bowman, and Tommy Johnson
Most don’t realize that famous Hollywoodfilm composer, Bruce Broughton wrote a piece (Bi- Partition)for Tommy Johnson and his cellist son, Keith, which they recorded.
Most don’t realize that one of the first recording dates Tommy Johnson did was the “Tubby the Tuba” recording on Disney Records with Annette Funicello narrating. If that and a few other recordings did not materialize in those early years, he was contemplating a career selling tires for Firestone Rubber Company.
Most don’t realize how many people worldwide actually hear him compared to how many people hear other tuba players. We all know that he is the most heard tuba player on the planet, but even when Tommy Johnson records a film score to a movie that totally bombs, it is still seen (and heard) by enough people to fill up a concert hall a thousand times over!
Most don’t realize that the biggest contribution the USC Athletic Department made to the USC Music Department was when it gave a basketball scholarship to a young John Thomas Johnson who was joining the USC Basketball Team. Unfortu- nately, a knee injury kept him from continuing to be on the team.
Most don’t realize that the UCLABasketball team started winning most of its games and pennants after that year. Most don’t realize that much of his playing has been accomplished with some health issues that would have slowed down or stopped other players with lesser mental stamina and resilience.
Most don’t realize that his versatility in changing instruments (from different tubas to bass trombone to cimbasso) is part of the norm in the Hollywood studios.
Most don’t realize the versatility of his musicianship. Within 18 hours of playing Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in Chicago with conductor Daniel Barenboim, he was in a recording studio in Burbank recording oom-pahs for “Weird Al” Yankovic!!
Most don’t realize that Tommy Johnson inadvertently contributed to the fame of some fine tuba players like John Fletcher. Early on, especially in the 1970s, some studio composers were captivated by Tommy Johnson’s artistry and approach. So, instead of writing regulation, unchallenging tuba parts, John Williams and others got into the “thin branches” and wrote some very, very challenging tuba parts with Tommy Johnson in mind. When the film studios decided to cut down on musician costs and lower residual payments, some of the music went to England to be recorded by struggling London musicians. That is when the public heard some fascinating artistry when John Fletcher ended up playing Tommy Johnson-inspired tuba lines in “Jabba the Hutt” and other great music from “Star Wars” and other movies.
There are lots of areas where we tuba players can contribute and make a difference in our art to a lot of people. Few have done it in so many ways and for such a consistently long time as Tommy Johnson. While he may be very touched at the recogni- tion of receiving this award, it is the one-on-one difference that he has made with his students, his recording colleagues, his friends and especially, his loving family, that make his life a very fulfilling one.
In the end, most people dorealize that. Zdzislaw Piernik
By John Griffiths
Once in a while our profession is inspired by a tuba artist who is a revolutionary for the instrument––one who, in spite of obstacles put in his path, creates a career that is not only successful but also pioneering in its impact on our instrument. One such inspirational artist is Polish tubist Zdzislaw Piernik.
Born in November of 1942 in Torun, Poland, Piernik’s musical life began with playing trumpet in a brass band, and later composing and even playing jazz on the double bass. As a tuba student his potential as a soloist was quickly realized when he won the First Prize at the Third National Festival of Young Musicians in Gdansk in 1970 and later graduated from the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw in 1971. Shortly thereafter he began his solo career, quickly becoming one of the major performers in the wonderfully innovative Polish contemporary music scene in the 1970s. Zdzislaw Piernik has been a tireless advocate for the tuba as a solo instrument, performing hundreds of solo recitals of the newest, most difficult solo repertoire (most of that repertoire composed especially for him). His work with the prepared tuba, using the most innovative and revolutionary techniques, made the tuba an equal to all instruments in common use on the contemporary music scene. In addition to his work as a promi- nent soloist, his resume includes the prestigious position of Principal Tuba in the National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw.
His influence and fame is underscored by the many com- missions and works composed especially for him. These works run the gamut of styles and genres, ranging from unaccompanied works to solos with tape. His recitals often have included works of his own composition and works from other composers inspired by his artistry. It was Zdzislaw Piernik that Krzysztof Penderecki had in mind when he composed his Capriccio for Solo Tuba.This work has become an important standard in the tuba repertory that is assured of constant performances far into the future. In addition to contemporary music, Piernik also has performed his own transcriptions of old masterworks and recorded innovative solo recordings that have been distributed worldwide.
Zdzislaw Piernik’s fame and success is even more extra- ordinary when one considers the travel and economic limitations that existed during the Cold War, the period of his greatest activity. His refusal to be limited by the challenges presented through musical, political, or economic difficulties make his artistry and love for music even more of an inspiration to all musicians, let alone those of us who share his love for the tuba.
In honor of his inspirational career, ITEA is pleased to award Zdzislaw Piernik its highest distinction, the Lifetime Achievement Award.