by Marty Erickson, with Benjamin Pierce
On Friday, March 26, 2013 President-Elect Marty Erickson performed a recital at Carnegie Hall. I chatted with him a bit about the event.
Benjamin Pierce: How did the idea and plans for your Carnegie Hall recital in March come about?
Marty Erickson: My wife, Alison, went into my contact list and asked friends if they would be willing to help sponsor me in a Carnegie hall recital as a 65th birthday surprise. The response was enthusiastic and on my 65th birthday I opened a paper that read, “Below is a list of friends and family who wish to sponsor you in a solo recital at Carnegie Hall.” There were well over a hundred names on that initial list, which grew as word filtered out. It was heartwarming and humbling to see the response, so we looked for a date that would work. Finally, March 26th of this year was the date selected. It was actually a year later, just after my 66th birthday, that we could make it happen, but everyone honored their pledge and we raised the money needed to rent the hall and pay for musicians, a reception, and the usual travel and lodging expenses. Pretty amazing. There were about 65 old friends and family from over 50 years of my life history who came to the concert, in addition to the local ticket buyers. It was a thrill to see family members, high school friends, college friends, former students, Navy Band shipmates, composer friends, and more who took the time and effort to come to the concert from all over the U.S.
The second best part of the “gift” was the notes and thoughts of support and encouragement which accompanied the checks. We have saved all of those and they’ll go into a Carnegie Scrap Book which will stay in the family. The best part of the gift was all about family love and support starting with the caring gift from my wife and then having my son and daughter, brother and nieces, and so many friends be there to share it all with.
BP: What did you perform?
ME: Here’s the program.
Sonata No. 2 In Eb, BWV1031 (1730) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)/Arr. Floyd O. Cooley
Sonata for Tuba and Piano (1980) Thom Ritter George (b. 1942)
Vivace e con brio
Silhouette (1993) John Harmon (b. 1935)
Escenas Latinas (1992) Enrique Crespo (b. 1941)
Boss-Swan-Nova* Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Indian Summer* Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
Undecided* Sydney Robin (1912-1985)
& Charles Shavers (1920-1971)
Cherokee* Ray Noble (1903-1978)
*All arrangements by Ron Newman
Marty Erickson with the Marvin Stamm Jazz Quartet:
Marvin Stamm-Trumpet, Dennis Mackrel-Drums, Mike Holober-Piano, Rufus Reid-Bass
BP: Your concert is split 50-50 classical and jazz. You’re certainly well known as a terrific jazz player but you’ve made your living primarily with classical music, right? Would you say that you straddle the two realms evenly? Is there one you prefer?
ME: I wanted to do a concert that represented my love for playing diverse styles throughout my career. I would agree that the predominance of my playing has been in the classical/usual brass realm on tuba. I did play electric and bass and string bass on gigs for roughly 40 years, which eventually led me into playing more jazz on tuba. This happened because of the encouragement of friends to bring my tuba to my bass gigs, attend jam sessions, etc. That led to several steady Dixieland gigs on tuba for about 8-10 years, in addition to the one-hit combo things in the Washington, D.C. area. Then some composers began to write some tunes for me.
During that same time, I was playing extra tuba with the National Symphony and the Baltimore Opera Orchestra as well as performances with the Maryland Symphony in Hagerstown, MD (Barry Tuckwell’s Orchestra), the Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra, the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, and other regional orchestras. Of course, this was ALL happening as I was serving as Principal/Solo Tuba of the U.S. Navy Band in D.C.
I’d like to think I do pretty well “straddling” the classical and jazz sides. I certainly love both, but in regards to your questions about a preference, I usually answer in this way. If you pinned me down to be able to do just one thing as a player, it would be playing with a brass quintet. I have been so fortunate to collaborate with two really wonderful groups the past 20+ years: the Bowie Brass Quintet, a group formed with Premiere D.C. Band military musicians who all happened to live in Bowie, MD, and now the Millennium Brass Quintet with VInce DiMartino and Richard Illman on trumpet, Lisa Bontrager on horn, and Scott Hartman on trombone. In both cases, our friendship matched our passion for chamber music. The reason the groups were/are successful is because of that friendship and the mutual respect we have for each other. (www.millenniumbrassquintet.com).
Vince DiMartino, trumpet; Richard Illman, trumpet; Lisa O. Bontrager, horn; Scott Hartman, trombone; and Marty Erickson, tuba
Right now, the MBQ and the Brass Band of Battle Creek are the two things I enjoy most, along with collaborating with my brass and jazz colleagues at Lawrence University. Additionally, the occasional performing I get to do with my wife, percussionist Alison Shaw, is special. We have a tuba-percussion duo called Balance and play mostly in the Midwest lately, but have done residencies in the UK and Universities in the U.S.
The jazz opportunities are increasing, and doing my three jazz CDs was simply fun because of the people involved- the wonderful players they are and the incredible arrangements done for me by talented jazz composers. I’m not sure I really answered your question except to say I love every second I’m behind the tuba and with friends.
BP: Any new recording projects currently in development?
ME: Only in the discussion/planning stage right now, but I’m busy producing Alison’s new percussion CD, and traveling and playing. The planning centers around a “legit” solo CD, and more concerts with my Carnegie Hall pianist, Eli Kalman, Head of the piano department at UW-Oshkosh. Also, I am in discussion with some composers about commissions.
I’m happy to say that invitations to solo and teach keep me as busy as I want, as I’ve traveled to three or four countries per year for the past few years, and that includes Brazil, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, and Germany this year. I leave Friday, May 3rd for Germany for my seventh visit to Frankfurt and Hammelburg, Germany for the Deutsches TubaForum International Workshop. I have been doing this every two years since 2001 and teach a beginning jazz class all week, as well as play a concert and participate in quartets and larger ensembles with friends from around the world.
BP: You are getting ready to enter your second term as ITEA President-Elect. Why were you interested in serving ITEA again, and can you discuss any of the long-term ideas or visions you have for the organization?
ME: Some of my ideas were mentioned in my letter to the membership for the elections, but here are a couple of thoughts.
My biggest shock in talking to recent executive committee members in Linz, Austria at the ITEC and elsewhere was the big decrease in membership overall. I understand that with YouTube and Facebook and other incredible resources that we will have to offer something that those websites don’t with regards to the service of our membership.
Right now, the kinds of things we offer as “perks” are things like the recital programs, the occasional free music and some feature stories. Dr. Young, our incoming President, has already done an incredible job to line up ideas and to energize the membership.
I can tell you this however; this is a concern worldwide, with regards to keeping the focus and interest in our organizations. I would like to see the streaming of concerts from around the U.S., as well as from overseas. The overseas performances could be archived, since the changes in time would not encourage large live listening audiences.
We should have a lot of savvy younger members who could possibly assist us in developing an ITEA app for mobile phones. Additionally, we could Skype interviews which could be posted on YouTube. I had a discussion with DTF member Markus Theinert about this, as the Deutsches TubaForum group is having these same kinds of concerns. I think it would be very interesting to watch and listen to a video interview, rather than simply read an article.
Translating is an important step and that process has started already. Some groups use Google translate and you can read in 60 languages, but it isn’t always accurate. We have already been lining up people to do responsible, accurate translations, and I want to continue this.
I’d like to see a more aggressive approach to library memberships. Every teacher at every college should request that their library have a Journal as part of their resources. This was a goal of previous presidents as well and that area has improved.
It is important to keep using the resources offered by our Past Presidents and Boards and to follow up on ideas. Maybe we can encourage publications to reprint important historical/pedagogical ideas in other magazines. Since I have not been in formal meetings for a number of years, it wouldn’t be a good idea to speculate about what has and has not been done, but it is very exciting to serve with President Jerry Young, Past-President Deanna Swoboda, and the others as I have the utmost respect for their work, their vision and their energy in keeping ITEA moving ahead with purpose.