Volume 35 Number 3 (Spring 2008)
3rd Encounter of Tubas & Euphoniums
by Jason Ham
From the Other “Down Under”: A wrap-up of the 3o Encuentro de Tubas y Eufonios
Over the last several years, I have found myself as the beneficiary of several unique opportunities to take the euphonium into situations that I could have never imagined when I first started taking the instrument seriously. Indeed, if someone had told me when I began traveling with the euphonium in 2003 that I would have had the opportunities that have come to me in just five years, I would have never believed it.
Jason Ham with Patricio Cosentino
As with previous travel articles on Bulgaria, Macedonia, and China, it is not my intention to use the platform of the ITEA Journal as a means of lauding my adventures in front of this readership; rather, as I have previously stated in past articles, I intend to make us all aware that the world of the euphonium continues to expand rapidly on a global scale. In this particular situation, I also want to highlight the wonderful work that’s taking place on behalf of the tuba and euphonium in South America, namely through the efforts of Patricio Cosentino.
From September 9–17, 2007, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a guest of the 3o Encuentro de Tubas y Eufonios (Third Encounter of Tubas and Euphoniums). This event brings together the best and brightest tuba and euphonium students from across South and Central America in a highly focused environment, and provides them with opportunities that they don’t normally find at home.
Faculty of the 3o Encuentro de Tubas y Eufonios: (L to R) Vasile Babuseac, Ignacio Del Campo, Patricio Cosentino, Jason Ham, and Hugo Migliore
The 3o Encuentro de Tubas y Eufonios is the idea of Patricio Cosentino, nicknamed “Pato,” a tubist who currently studies in Germany with Walter Hilgers. Pato and I met about 8 years ago at the University of Georgia, where I was completing my undergraduate studies with David Zerkel. Patricio had arrived in Athens about midway through the spring semester of 2000 to study with Mr. Zerkel, and in spite of the language barriers that we had between us, we hit off a good friendship in the two months he attended UGA. I remembered him as an effervescent person, full of life, and passionate about the tuba.
As I stepped off the overnight flight from New York to Buenos Aires on Sunday morning, September 9, I was glad to see that nothing had really changed about Pato. If anything, as I now know, he’s even more passionate about the tuba these days, and has now grafted the euphonium into his energetic pursuits. Driving away from the airport there in Argentina, it seemed as if very little time had passed since our time in Athens. We caught up on the almost eight years between us quickly, and in our conversation, I also learned that my presence in Buenos Aires marked the first time that an outside euphonium soloist had ever visited the country.
The week began as quickly as the ride through the Buenos Aires traffic proved that it would. Not more than six hours on the ground in Argentina, I was in rehearsal with the group Octopus, and eight-member tuba-euphonium ensemble that consisted of several of the Encuentro’s other faculty members. On euphonium, I met Hugo Migliore (Symphonic Band of the City of Buenos Aires) and Ignacio Del Campo (Opera Orchestra of La Plata). On tuba, I met faculty members Vasile Babusaec (Orchestra of Bahla Blanca) and Eduardo Lopez (Symphonic Band of the City of Buenos Aires). With sincerity, I can say that these gentlemen are wonderful musicians, and I counted it a real honor and privilege to perform with them, in a concert experience that I will not soon forget. There’s nothing quite like performing Philip Sparke’s Pantomime and sight-reading challenging ensemble repertoire just 8 hours after an 11-hour flight across a hemisphere!
Jason performing at the Bolsa de Commercio in downtown Buenos Aires
After the concert that Sunday night at the Conservatorio Grassi, we quickly headed for Garin, a northwestern suburb of Buenos Aires, where the camp was to be held. I learned en route that our camp location was actually a space that belonged to the Salvation Army in Argentina, and Pato’s connections in the area had gotten him use of the space at no cost (which had, in turn, kept the cost of the camp for the students down to a whopping 450 pesos, or about $150). It ended up being a great location for the conference, and though rustic (and muddy, as it rained every day!), assisted in giving the students the isolation they needed to really focus throughout the week.
The plate breaks at the end of Philip Wilby’s Zeibekikos—on the second attempt!
The students’ daily schedule was rigorous, beginning each morning at 9 am with a group warm-up class, separated into euphoniums, F tubas, and CC tubas. Throughout the week, we focused this time on the basics of performance, concentrating on things like stretching, breathing, sound, and flexibility. Throughout the week, the improvement in the sounds the students made during these morning sessions was absolutely inspiring. It was a testament to their ability and hunger to learn.
Following the warm-up and basics class, at 10:30, the students gathered for tuba-euphonium ensemble, which rehearsed until noon. A music theory class ran from 12–1pm, with lunch and an hour-long siesta following. (Ah yes—pig out and then go to sleep…always a great idea.) At 3 pm, the students broke off into various chamber groups, including 3 tuba-euphonium quartets, as well as a tuba quintet. A thirty-minute coffee break at 4:30 carried the students to another tuba-euphonium ensemble rehearsal, which lasted about two hours. The evening schedule varied widely across the week, as there were activities that rotated between rehearsals, attending concerts, and panel discussions between the faculty and the students. Usually, the days did not end until after dinner, around 11 pm!
Many happy euphonium students Saturday night!
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the students had the chance to both attend concerts as well as perform themselves. On Thursday night, I presented a recital of euphonium and piano music at the Conservatorio Grassi to a standing-room only crowd, where I learned that the vast majority of the audience was attending a euphonium recital for the very first time. (The performance was complete with a broken plate at the end of Philip Wilby’s Zeibekikos, finally smashed on the second attempt!) Also, as part of the recital, the faculty tuba quartet also performed, which proved thrilling for the students as well.
Friday night, at least for me, was the highlight of the entire week. That afternoon we departed the camp in Garin and headed into the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, where we were to perform in the Bolsa de Commercio, which was the original stock exchange in Buenos Aires. Lined with tremendous and stately marble columns, the floor of this immense building quickly converted to a stage, where the students performed with their chamber ensembles, and, later on, both Pato and I performed with the Symphonic Band of the University of Buenos Aires.
I should mention that upon our arrival to the Bolsa de Commercio, I met Mr. Gustavo Fontana, the founder of the Symphonic Band of UBA. As I discovered in a few minutes, Mr. Fontana is a tremendous proponent of the wind band in Argentina, and he has worked very hard to further this genre in Buenos Aires and beyond. In addition to his great work as a conductor, he is a true gentleman, and I can only hope to have the chance to work with him again.
Pato gave a stunning performance of Anthony Plog’s Three Miniatures during the concert, and I enjoyed getting to perform Philip Sparke’s Fantasy in such a beautiful setting. Without a doubt, the chance to put the euphonium center stage in downtown Buenos Aires proved to be the highlight of my entire week.
On Saturday night, the students gathered a final time to perform in the massed tuba-euphonium ensemble at the Conservatorio Grassi, again with a standing-room only crowd. Together with Pato and Vasile, I had the opportunity to conduct the ensemble, and it was a blast!
In spite of being in a new place, perhaps what caught me off guard the most during the stay in Argentina was the intense emotional outpouring that took place at the end of the week among everyone who had participated in the camp. While some of this was an emotional release from the intense schedule, much of it was an awareness that many of these students were about to return to cities across South America that provide little opportunity for development. For example, of the seven euphonium students I had seen in private lessons during the week, three were taking their first private lesson, and most averaged above 20 years of age. Not only did this put their playing in perspective, it showed me that these students are willing to just about do anything to advance on their instrument, including saving enough money to make the trip to Buenos Aires for this incredible event. There’s no rhyme or reason why some of these students play as well as they do without regular instruction, and this tells me that they are taking what they’re hearing in Buenos Aires and working hard on it all year long.
Fortunately, this event is growing both in popularity and quality every year. Since its inception in 2004, more students have attended the Encuentro de Tubas y Eufonios each year, and the faculty has now expanded to include international artists beyond America and Argentina. With the 4o Encuentro already planned for early September 2008, Pato is assembling what again promises to be South America’s best tuba and euphonium conference.
For more information on the conference, visit www.jasondham.com and click the links page.