25 Years and Counting at the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium & Tuba Festival
By Matt Tropman
The Leonard Falcone International Euphonium & Tuba Festival Celebrated its 25th Anniversary at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp from August 13–16, 2010. Founded in 1986 as the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium Competition, the Festival expanded to include tuba in 1996. Over the years the Festival has seen many of its winners and participants go on to impressive professional careers, helping to make this event among the premiere annual competitions for euphonium and tuba. Dr. Falcone’s legacy is alive and well, with several of his former students serving on the Festival’s Board of Directors, and as adjudicators and guest artists. The 2010 Festival welcomed 29 young tuba and euphonium performers to compete for over $10,000 in prize money.
Beryl Falcone & Libby Larsen
In addition to the competition, the Festival marked the anniversary year with numerous special events. Both Jens Bjørn-Larsen (tuba) and Roger Behrend (euphonium) served as guest artists, and Mr. Bjørn-Larsen performed the world premiere of the Festival’s newly commissioned concerto for tuba by 2010 Festival Composer Libby Larsen. Of this new two-movement work, URSA, Ms. Larsen writes, “It is music from the soul of a bear articulated through the tuba.” Jens performance, accompanied by the Blue Lake Festival Band under the baton of Donald Flickinger took place on August 15 to a nearly full Stewart Shell. Jens virtuosity was on full display at the performance, and of the piece he remarked “I think that [Libby’s] tuba concerto is one of the best pieces ever written for the tuba, and she is one of the most inspiring and energetic people I have ever met. I really hope that my collaboration with her will result in more exciting music for the tuba in the future.” URSA has already been selected as the final round work for the 2011 tuba artist division. Jens’s debut performance certainly set a high standard to which next years’ tubists will aspire.
Jens and fellow guest artist Roger Behrend also presented a joint recital on August 13. Jens performed a mix of transcriptions and original works, including an especially memorable read of the well-known Encounters II by William Kraft. Jens performed the entire recital standing up and from memory, a feat perhaps never before attempted by a tuba soloist.
Beryl Falcone, Jens Bjørn-Larsen, & Jerry Young
Former U. S. Navy Band principal euphoniumist Roger Behrend presented the second half of the guest artist recital. Mr. Behrend, a student of Leonard Falcone, selected repertoire that he had studied as a college student at Michigan State University under Dr. Falcone’s tutelage. He related his remembrances of working with Dr. Falcone during his performance, and with many friends and former students of Dr. Falcone in attendance, his accounts of Dr. Falcone’s teaching and mentorship of his students were both entertaining and moving.
While the numerous guest artist performances, masterclasses and other events are a major attraction for contestants, their families and other attendees, the centerpiece of the Festival is of course the competition. Four divisions allow student and artist level competitors on both euphonium and tuba to perform for a distinguished panel of adjudicators both at the festival itself as well as in their recorded submissions. By the time contestants arrive at Blue Lake, they have already distinguished themselves in the recorded round of the competition, and this makes for an extremely high level in the live rounds.
On Saturday, August 14th, the first of two semifinal competition rounds took place in the morning. The live rounds of the Festival include two separate semifinal performances in each division, one accompanied and one unaccompanied. This gives contestants the opportunity to play two contrasting works and shows the judging panel the full breadth of their musicianship. The adjudicators are behind a screen during the semifinal rounds, and the contestants do not know until after the semifinals which judges were assigned to which divisions.
That afternoon, Festival composer Libby Larsen presented the first of two lively sessions on composing, with a particular focus on her new work URSA and writing for low brass in general. Later that evening, the Falcone adjudicator’s recital featured most of the 2010 judging panel including Phil Sinder, Ken Kroesche, Jerry Young, and Marty Erickson.
On Sunday, August 15th, the second semifinal round took place in the morning. Following these performances, scores are carefully tabulated and double-checked before being delivered to the competition chairman so that the anonymous letters assigned to contestants can be matched up with the names of individual performers. At noon, a group luncheon precedes the announcements of which contestants advanced to the final competition round in each division. As the finalists are announced, the comradeship unique to tuba and euphonium is evident as congratulations are shared among finalists and non-finalists alike. Having participated in the competition in 1990–1993, the author can truly say that the announcement of the finalists is a stressful moment, but one in which the best elements of low-brass character are on display.
Kyohei Ando, 1st place, Euphonium Artist, Euphonium Artist
Toby Furr, 1st place, Euphonium Student Division
Clay Garrett, 1st place Tuba Artist Division
Following the announcements, finalists meet either with their collaborative pianists or with Maestro Donald Flickinger to discuss their interpretations of the final round repertoire and organize the rehearsal schedule. Each year, either the tuba artist or euphonium artist final round features the contestants in performance with the Blue Lake Festival Band. The opportunity to perform the final round piece with band is a unique challenge for contestants and also a great opportunity. Performing final round works with full band against other world-class performers creates a level of excitement unique to the Falcone Festival. In many cases, works selected for the finals have rarely if ever been heard with band.
Joshua deVries, 1st place Tuba Student
Following the luncheon, both finalists and non-finalists have the chance to meet the adjudicators of their respective sections and receive comments on their performances. Festival adjudicators keep detailed notes on the semifinal performances, and the conversations between performers and judges are evidence that the contestants are eager for musical insights. It has frequently been the case that those who do not win first place return the following year to become finalists or winners. It is also common for student division winners to return as contestants for the Artist Division, and the comments received from the adjudicators are certainly a useful tool in the development of these young virtuosi. Following this musical exchange, Festival adjudicators disperse to offer masterclasses to campers at Blue Lake. There are nearly forty enthusiastic tuba and euphonium students at camp during this time, and the camp is just as eager as the Festival for the adjudicators to share their musical knowledge with the Blue Lake campers. These students also have the opportunity to attend evening performances associated with the Festival, and their enthusiasm was evident as a large contingent was present for all of the Festival events. This year’s Blue Lake euphonium/tuba faculty were Jamie Lipton and Chris Combest, respectively, and Dr. Lipton reported that she always uses the Falcone Festival events as a centerpiece of her work with the Blue Lake Campers: “I take them to the masterclasses, I try to insist that they go to the recitals, and we always take a ‘field trip’ around the practice rooms on the competition days so that they can hear how good all the competitors are and meet some of them. I usually play recordings of the guest artists for them in advance of the Festival. Most of them have never heard tuba or euphonium recordings before, much less live performances by world-famous tuba/euph artists, so they get very excited. And the ones that return for multiple years come to Session IV because they’re excited to go to the Falcone concerts again.” Dr. Lipton, low brass professor at Henderson State University, is a multi-year finalist at the Falcone Festival and the 2006 Artist Euphonium Winner.
Euphonium Artist Division Contestants
Euphonium Student Division Contestants
Later that evening, the Blue Lake Festival Band under the baton of Donald Flickinger presented a concert including the world premiere of URSA. Following this exciting performance, the Festival hosted its 25th birthday party with numerous special guests and presentations. The Festival’s de-facto Godmother, Beryl Falcone, showed once again that it is her energy, enthusiasm and devotion that really keep the festival going. She had commemorative medallions struck just for the occasion and awarded them to numerous friends of the festival that helped make the 25th anniversary not only possible but inevitable.
On Monday, August 16th, much of the day is occupied with the final round competitions. In the morning, warm-up sessions and masterclasses are also offered, and it is indeed a tribute to the dedication of the participants how many attend these offerings. Libby Larsen also presented the second of two masterclasses and further discussed URSA.
For the final round competitions, the screen is removed and all performances are open to the public, giving the contestants the opportunity to show not only their knowledge of the repertoire but their overall approach to music making and public performance. The Student Tuba finals, accompanied by pianist Dr. Barbara Young, took place first followed immediately by the Student Euphonium Competition accompanied by Sheryl Iott. The tubists performed the first and second movements of the Gregson Concerto while the euphoniumists performed Philip Catelinet’s Call of the Seasons.
Tuba Artist Division Contestants
That evening, the Artist Division Finals took place in Blodgett Hall with the Tuba Artists performing the second and third movements of Eric Ewazen’s Tuba Concerto accompanied by Jun Okada, and the Euphonium Artists performing the first movement of Jukka Linkola’s Euphonium Concerto accompanied by the Blue Lake Festival Band conducted by Donald Flickinger. The performances were diverse and showed that very different interpretations of a particular work can be compelling. The adjudicators of course had difficult decisions to make in each division. Please see the complete results at the end of this article.
Tuba Student Division Contestants
In looking through the list of Festival participants and winners over the past 25 years, it is evident that the legacy of Dr. Falcone is that he continues to inspire great musicians and great camaraderie in the world of Tuba and Euphonium. The Falcone Festival us unique among event of this type for many reasons and it is an honor to participate not only as a contestant but also as an adjudicator. Information on the 2011 Festival, including repertoire requirements, can be found at the festival’s website: www.falconefestival.org . Congratulations to the 2010 participants and to all those whose hard work and dedication made the 25th Anniversary possible. Bravi!
Euphonium Artist Division Winners
1st Place Kyohei Ando
2nd Place Geoff Durbin
3rd Place Jason Casanova
Other Euphonium Artist Semifinalists
Tuba Artist Division Winners
1st Place Clay Garrett
2nd Place Brian Edwards
3rd Place Colby Fahrenbacher
Other Tuba Artist Semifinalists
Euphonium Student Division Winners
1st Place Toby Furr
2nd Place Ryan Chen
3rd Place Ryan Dickey
Other Euphonium Student Semifinalists
Tuba Student Division Winners
1st Place Joshua deVries
2nd Place Camden Keener
3rd Place Joshua Allen
Other Tuba Student Semifinalists
Recorded Round Adjudicators:
James Jackson, III