Editorial by R. Winston Morris
I am honored to be asked to write a “guest editorial” for this issue of the ITEA Journal. I must confess that I don’t feel much like a “guest” when it comes to ITEA. “Grandfather” might be more accurate. I do remember the birthing process quite well. I do have very strong feelings about ITEA. I admit, when my brain says “ITEA” my heart still feels “TUBA.” But that is not an “issue” as I totally supported the name change of the organization. You can’t live in the past as that is moving backwards. We have certainly “come a long way baby” but we have a lot of work yet to do. When the tuba and the euphonium are perceived as equal partners by our professional colleagues on other instruments and by the general public at large, we will have “arrived.” Those of us who truly love making music on our instruments need to continue to resist and challenge any and all activities by our less informed colleagues that in any way belittle the reputation of our instruments and those of us who love them. Don’t tell me to “lighten up.” Nothing less than the welfare of my family (and yours) and the integrity of my profession (and yours) is at risk! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a “tuff shirt” and I have a sense of humor that gets me through the challenges of life. But there’s a time and a place for business and a time and a place for fun. A public “Tuba Bashing,” or an outing of the “Stupid Sousaphone Society,” or public presentations of under-rehearsed blastissimo “lean- belch-louder-than-you-can” performances does nothing to improve our professional image. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of that going on but unfortunately something like this receives ten times the media attention of a spectacular professional recital.
So, while I’m on all our cases, I remembered a short paper I wrote for the 1992 Lexington, Kentucky, ITEC. I was asked to make a presentation for a committee report on “The Future of the Tuba and Euphonium” chaired by Harvey Phillips. This “paper” was never published and was only thoroughly enjoyed by the fifty or so lucky people who attended that session. Before closing on another negative note by offering up these observations slightly edited from ten years ago, I do want to tell you that, indeed, “we have come a long way baby.” If I’m ever asked again to write a guest editorial I promise to tell you all the “good” things (which far outweigh the negative). See if you agree with my observation from ten years ago. If not, write nasty letters to the editor. Go ahead. I dare you …
The Future of the Tuba and Euphonium
presented May 15 at the 1992 Lexington, Kentucky, International Tuba-Euphonium Conference
The future of the tuba and euphonium lies strictly and exclusively in the hand of tubists and euphoniumists. This is good news. Our future does not, in fact, depend upon the whims and wishes of such people as music publishers, record manufacturers, concert promoters, composers, news media, etc. It is, I am sure, reassuring to be told that you are responsible for your own destiny. After all, who could possibly be more concerned about our future than those of us who are destined to live it. Of course, this means that if the future of the tuba and the euphonium is something less than what we would wish, then we only have ourselves to blame. Frankly this concerns me quite a bit because if, in fact, the future lies in our own hands then perhaps this is not such good news after all.
As I survey the status of our instruments after 40 years of concentrated professional activity, I am encouraged to be able to recognize many positive advances that we have made. The literature available to us has increased in both quantity and quality by a factor of probably ten or more. The quality, variety, and consistency of our equipment has made major trides. The availability of solo recordings for our instruments has grown from less than a half dozen 40 years ago to dozens today. Public performances and public awareness of the musical expressiveness of the euphonium and tuba have certainly been enhanced by the numerous performances we produce every year. The general level of standards being pursued internationally by our student is nothing less than phenomenal.
So what is this negative sound that I toll? As good as everything I have just said sounds, the fact is that it could be better. And we should not settle for anything les than the best it can be. We are the ones responsible for numerous unpublished compositions for our instruments. We are the ones responsible for many tuba/euphonium recordings not being produced. We are the ones responsible for more euphonium and tuba artists not being engaged for solo appearances and clinic sessions. I am not throwing stones at my colleagues and our students; we are all guilty, to one extent or another, of NOT SUPPORTING OUR OWN BEST INTERESTS.
A guest tuba/euphonium artist appears in a nearby town, perhaps in our own town, as a soloist, as a clinician, in a quintet, in an ensemble of some kind, HOW MANY OF US MAKE THE EFFORT TO ATTEND THE PERFORMANCE OR THE CLINIC?
Generally speaking, we do NOT support each other to the extent that we should. If we don’t support our own colleagues, how can we expect the general public or other musicians to take us seriously?
A new recording is released. How many of us actually buy a copy, and how many of us run to the nearest tape recorder/CD burner and make an illegal copy? A new publication is released of a really good solo for our instrument. Someone probably commissioned it. It is probably dedicated to someone who inspired the composer to write the work in the first place. The composer spent a lot of time and talent working on this piece. The publisher spent a lot of money to have the work engraved, printed, and distributed. For all the efforts of the publisher and the composer, the reward is for every copy SOLD there are probably five or more COPIED on the nearest copy machine! Result: sales of published tuba and euphonium literature is probably 20% of what it could/should be. Result: publishers are receptive to actually publishing less than half the literature composed for our instruments. The resultant impact upon potential compositions, potential publications, potential performances, POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES, is enormous. We are ALL guilty of this. We all have a re ponsibility to do everything we can to turn this around. Not just for the few publishers who are interested in publishing our literature, but to help insure the very future of our species. Is it possible that we have found the enemy; and that the enemy is US?