ITEA Composer Friend Rodger Vaughan (1932-2012) was a major contributor to the repertoire for the tuba and euphonium. Vaughan was a native of Kansas and a graduate of both the University of Kansas and Wichita State University. His Concertpiece No. 1 for Tuba and Piano (1959) immediately became a staple of the tuba repertoire, and has been studied and performed constantly since its premiere.
1986 University of Kansas “Octuba Halftime.” L-R: Rodger Vaughan, Skip Gray, Scott Watson, Jerry Young
For over thirty years Rodger taught on the faculty of the California State University-Fullerton and was known for his dedication to teaching. During this stint he, along with friend Jim Self, held California’s first Octubafest celebration. Rodger also taught at Wichita State University, the University of Southern California, and Upland College.
In addition to being a first class composer, Rodger Vaughan was also a masterful arranger. His groundbreaking arrangements for the famous Tubadours helped establish the tuba-euphonium quartet medium. The equally famous “Miraphone Quartet Books” that showcased his inventive arrangements are still in use today, now published by Tuba/Euphonium Press as American Favorites.
Other highlights of his compositional career include the selection of his Centennial Symphony (1961) for the Kansas State Centennial celebration, the featuring of his arrangements on the famed Mighty Tubadours CD on Crystal Records, and the further success of his Concertpiece No. 2. Rodger liked composing for his friends; there are compositions from his pen for a host of different combinations including tuba and soprano, tuba and horns, tuba and clarinet, and many more.
Rodger Vaughan in 1972 as faculty member at California State University-Fullerton
This tribute includes friends’ testimonials that were read at a recent memorial service at Cal-State Fullerton. As you can see from these written tributes, Rodger was known and loved for his dry wit, wonderful writing ability, and dedication and support of his friends. We thank Bert Harclerode for his permission to include these testimonials in the ITEA Journal.
Rodger is survived by his son Ed Vaughan of Wichita, daughter Judy Vaughan of California, granddaughter Christina Vaughan of Wichita, niece Lynn Ross of Pennsylvania, and nephew George Ross of Indiana.
Rodger Vaughan, c. 1995
I first became aware of Rodger Vaughan the arranger-as an undergrad I played from the old “Miraphone” books that he set, and then I purchased the Tubadours’ albums (LPs, of course)! It became obvious to me that this was someone who knew what he was doing and did it very well.
In my doctoral studies I programmed his Three Songs for Soprano and Tuba on a recital with a requirement that I write detailed program notes. This, of course, was pre internet, and would require that I actually get in touch with the composer. In my mind he was THE Rodger Vaughan. I consulted the TUBA (pre ITEA) membership directory, found his number, screwed up my courage, and called him. Much to my surprise, we talked several times over about a month period and got to know each other pretty well-I thought I was very lucky! After that, though, we didn’t really talk much for a few years.
After I landed in my current job, my ensemble was invited to perform at the ITEC at Northwestern in 1995. Rodger had done a cute little arrangement of “Sesame Street” that was floating around on the “5th generation photocopy” market. Being young in my job and wanting to offend no one (especially THE Rodger Vaughan) I picked up the phone again asked him if I could purchase said arrangement-he informed me it was never published, but to feel free to use it. Then, about a month before the ITEC, he called me to ask when the ensemble’s performance would be and if we would be having a rehearsal up there prior to the performance, as he would like to come to both. I let him know those details and then really panicked! THE Rodger Vaughan was going to be listening to my group. Well, when we finally met in Evanston, not only was he gracious as ever, but had a HUGE stack of his tunes for me-all gratis. He even went to lunch with us after our performance. My students were blown away.
We had begun a longtime relationship that continued until he passed away. Each time we would talk, he would make some comment about the silliness of me thinking of him as THE Rodger Vaughan-that always seemed to make him chuckle. He did several arrangements for my ensemble and he’d always send me a copy of his other new works. In the last decade he began the Rodger Vaughan Scholarship for a senior music ed. student of mine, faithfully sending checks each year. His presence will be missed, but certainly his musical works will live on for us all.
Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, University of North Carolina- Greensboro
If I was to name the most influential people in my life, Rodger Vaughan would easily be in the top five. Our relationship did not start with the tuba; I was one of the fortunate music students at Cal State Fullerton to have Mr. Vaughan as a theory teacher. The first semester did not begin easily, as Rodger took it as his personal mission to weed out all non-hackers so the real music students could progress. On day one Rodger briskly entered the classroom and the stern expression on his face immediately silenced everyone. “I will take no questions until the end of the hour. If you listen carefully most of your questions will be answered before that time!” He proceeded to fill up three large chalkboards with a comprehensive review of scales, modes, key signatures and other basics. “All of this information you should know already. If there is anything you do not understand have it learned by class time tomorrow. Music theory will begin then. QUESTIONS!?”
For the first few weeks the drill instructor discipline endured and the class size diminished. Gradually the gruffness disappeared and the affable, witty professor emerged. The class developed a group identity, and most of us stayed with Rodger for the full theory sequence. There was one day during third semester when the drill instructor briefly reappeared. “I will take no questions until the end of the hour! If you listen carefully most of your questions will be answered before that time!” He then took us through augmented sixth chords. We ended the class by singing a song he composed to facilitate the learning of that predominant structure, “ItalGerFrEng.”
Early on, Rodger and I had an encounter and there is no putting a smiley face on it. What I did was major stupid. Two weeks before the end of my first semester my private teacher, William Nichols, asked me what I was going to play on my jury. My response was “what’s a jury?” Sensing impending doom Mr. Nichols moved to damage control. “You’ll improve your chances if you play something by one of our faculty. Get Mr. Vaughan’s Concertpiece No. 1 for Tuba.” I called Keynote Music in downtown LA and they said “No problem. We can get it to you in two weeks.” Razor-sharp instincts and poor sight-reading skills told me this was not a strong option. Another tuba major had the piece but could not let me use it at that time. In desperation I borrowed and photocopied the entire piece, three pages for tuba and ten for piano. I went to Mr. Vaughan and asked him if there was any pianist he knew of who could play his piece. “Who is performing it?” When I said I was he said “I’ll be glad to play it for you. Just bring me your piano part.” The expression on Rodger’s face when I presented him with ten photocopied pages of his music was one of complete incredulity. He didn’t say a word. He simply spread out the pages across the piano desk and we played. The jury applauded at the end and someone said “Rodger, is that your piece? It’s delightful!” The drill instructor countenance flashed. He grabbed the pages, crumpled them in his fist and shook them at the faculty. “Gentlemen of the jury, it is for THIS reason here that I have made only $200 on this piece in thirteen years!” He whipped around to me and barked, “Play your scales!!!”
I got an “A.”
Three years later I started my senior recital with the Concertpiece No. 1, and at the end I confessed my transgression to the audience and showed them that I was playing from a pristine published edition for which I paid full retail price. I asked Mr. Vaughan to come to the stage and I presented him with thirteen photocopied pages (ten of them very badly crumpled) and vowed that I would send him photocopies of the first thirteen pages that I publish. He was delighted.
I took a semester of tuba lessons from Rodger, and he gave me the impression that we were not progressing as well as he thought we should. Because of the growing number of talented low brass majors, Rodger lobbied with the administration to hire a tuba teacher, and with that an inspiring young man named Jim Self entered the picture, another of the most influential people in my life. It also quickly led to the first CSUF Octubafest.
Rodger was also a key link in the forming of the original Tubadours. For the holiday season Disneyland wanted a brass quintet to play Christmas music. Several of us at Fullerton thought an all tuba group might work, but we did not get organized in time for the audition day. The Disney people heard a number of regular quintets, all of them playing the same Sammy Nestico arrangements. As the last group was exiting, their tuba player asked, “Hey, did that tuba group show up?” That comment hit like lightening. Someone on the entertainment staff knew Rodger and called him to brainstorm the idea. The discussion was that a tuba quartet would be more workable. Rodger selected four names: Frank Berry, Scott Lycan, Bert Harclerode and Ron Davis. The Tubadours had arrived.
As time passed Rodger and I developed a routine of regular phone calls, me in South Carolina and him in retirement in Colorado. I am thankful to him for his great teaching. Hardly a day goes by that I do not refer to something I learned from him. I thank him for the warm friendship. It is difficult for me to imagine how my life would have turned out had I not signed up for that music theory class all those years ago.
Dr. Ronald A. Davis
Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, University of South Carolina
I am not sure when I met Rodger Vaughan. It seems like I have always known him or at least known of him. I came to know some of his tuba ensemble arrangements in the late ’70s when I was a student in Mississippi. When I finally did meet Rodger, he immediately treated me as a colleague of equal status and we soon struck up a long distance friendship. I recall many lengthy phone conversations when I was in the Detroit area in the mid-’80s.
When I moved to the University of Northern Iowa in 1987, I found that the tuba ensemble library had fallen into disarray. I reached out to Rodger for help and he generously offered arrangements without any willingness to accept payment. It really helped me get through the early years of learning to run a college tuba group.
We stayed in infrequent contact, mostly with long phone calls. I often performed Rodger’s arrangements with the tuba ensemble and would send him programs and occasionally recordings. Over the years the group performed a couple of tribute concerts featuring Rodger’s arrangements and no year went by without performing at least one Rodger Vaughan arrangement.
Through the years, we had fewer calls. And then one day, I received a letter with a check from Rodger. He had decided that he wanted to provide a small annual award for a deserving senior tuba player so that, as he said, “the recipient could buy a new mouthpiece or some small piece of gear as a treat.” It was a very generous gesture and over the next several years, many students had the surprise of a kind gift from Rodger and some also struck up friendships after having sent a thank you note.
Then a few years ago, Rodger called to say that he wanted to establish an ongoing scholarship fund to benefit a senior tuba/euphonium student. After many conversations and visits with our college’s development person, two things happened. First, the development person struck up a close friendship with Rodger and visited him several times as she traveled through Colorado. She would often contact me to catch up on news from Rodger and then give me updates when she would be traveling in his area and stop by for a visit. Rodger could make friends easily, especially when some common spark existed.
The second thing that happened was the establishment of the Rodger Vaughan Senior Tuba Award at the University of Northern Iowa. I found this an especially generous gift considering that Rodger had no particular connection to the university other than to appreciate the fact that his music was greatly enjoyed and regularly performed by the students.
Rodger was an incredibly generous, warm, and personable human being. His generosity and music have affected many students’ learning, even those who never had the opportunity to know him personally. My life was made richer because of knowing Rodger and I will very much miss the long phone calls.
Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, University of Northern Iowa
The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on my long friendship with Rodger is the sound of the telephone ringing after an important University of Kentucky basketball game. It was always Rodger calling to share in the joy of victory or to commiserate a loss. He followed both UK and Kansas teams closely and always enjoyed talking about the legendary coach Adolf Rupp, a Kansas alum. We could converse for hours about basketball, mutual friends-Scott Watson, Jerry Young, Jeff Funderburk, and others, the beautiful geography of eastern Kansas, even cooking!
I always viewed Rodger as a composer of Gebrauchmusik-music to be “used” and having a definite purpose. His original compositions are well crafted, usually tuneful, and readily approachable by both the performers and audiences. Rodger especially enjoyed writing pieces as presents for people that he liked and they are treasures. His arrangements for tuba quartet and tuba-euphonium ensemble are plentiful and always entertaining. Had more of his works for this medium been published, Rodger would be even more widely known and appreciated. But he often humbly sent pieces out to friends. What special little gifts!
Rodger Vaughan was a passionately caring person to all- his students, friends, and colleagues. Even though he has passed from this earth, his spirit remains deeply within all of us. Thank you, Rodger, for your friendship and artistry. I look forward to talking with you again.
Dr. Skip Gray
Professor of Music, Director, University of Kentucky School of Music
I met Rodger in 1970 as a student at Troy High School. It was a fifteen minute bike ride to his home in Placentia where I’d mow his lawn in exchange for tuba lessons. After HS graduation and a year in Prescott AZ, I entered Cal State Fullerton where we renewed our student / professor roles. In March ’75 we traveled to New Mexico together.
Soon the Octubafest ’75 brought Frank Berry, Scott Lycan, Ron Davis, and me together. Rodger introduced the newly formed tuba quartet to Disneyland Band Director and neighbor Stan Freese who hired us for our first seasonal engagement at the Magic Kingdom. We played many of Rodger’s arrangements up and down Main Street for thousands of guests as The Tubadours took its name.
For forty-two years Rodger was a friend, teacher, colleague, arranger and advisor, confidant, anchor, Sinfonian, mentor, and family friend. His influence on me was profound and I am forever grateful for his presence in my life.
We were very saddened to hear of Rodger’s passing. Rodger and I had been friends for many, many years. I always looked forward to seeing him on any of my trips “out west.” He was a pioneer composer for things tuba, solo and otherwise. What I liked most about Rodger’s music was how accessible it was to both the players and the listeners. Writing quartet music for the Disney crowd certainly dictated a level of accessibility. Of course the educational value of all his compositions/arrangements was unquestioned. He was one of the very first people producing music for the tuba that had wide appeal and provided valuable lessons to other composers/arrangers on how to write for the instrument.
Rodger and I maintained very close contact throughout his retired years in Colorado. As he did for a number of other schools, Rodger established an annual award here at Tennessee Tech University which I was honored to match. The Rodger Vaughan Scholarship has been awarded for the past 16 years. Some of the outstanding students who received this award include Kelly Thomas (1996/97), the University of Arizona, Bryce Edwards (1998/99), principal euphonium U.S. Navy Band, Scott Beaver (1999/2000), principal tuba West Point Band, Cory Belvin (2001/2002), U.S. Army Bands, Seth Fletcher (2002/2003), University of Nebraska, Kearney, Jesse Chavez (2005/2006), Synergy Brass Quintet, and Kyle Huron (2006/2007), U.S. Air Force Bands. Rodger further made arrangements with the university that upon his passing the award would continue as a fully endowed scholarship fund to be awarded annually to an outstanding tuba/euphonium student, known as The Professor Rodger Vaughan Tuba/Euphonium Achievement Award Endowment. Thus the name of Rodger Vaughan will forever be known here at Tennessee Tech University as a generous patron and valued colleague.
Several years ago I convinced Rodger that there needed to be at least one source (TTU) where all of his “tuba” music would be deposited and accessible for study by anyone interested in his music. We spent the next several years compiling all of his tuba compositions, which completely fill a large file box. There are 88 separate pieces that constitute this collection, virtually all in manuscript form.
R. Winston Morris
Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, Tennessee Tech University
Rodger Vaughan was one of my earliest and best friends since moving to Los Angeles in 1974. In 1975 he encouraged Cal State Fullerton to give me one of my first college positions in the area. Shortly after that we collaborated on many projects including an annual Octubafest, the beginning of the Tubadours, and the 1978 ITEC at USC. Whenever possible we had dinner together after my teaching days at Fullerton. We shared many good jokes- his were wry and sarcastic.
Rodger was a very talented composer, tuba player and theory professor. His students were well trained and loved him. As a composer he wrote several works that remain standard literature for our instrument. My last meeting with him was on one of my cross country flights. He was retired in Colorado and came down the mountain to meet me at a Colorado Springs area airport. I loved him and feel lucky to have had such a nice man and good friend in my life.
Studio tubist, Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, University of Southern California
All of us here in the School of Music at the University of Kansas have always been proud to say that Rodger Vaughan was an honored graduate of our institution (who else would arrange “I’m A Jayhawk” for Tuba Ensemble?) in addition to being a proud native Kansan. (Pretty Prairie, Kansas is as about as Kansan as you can be!)
Rodger’s long and storied career as a pioneering tuba composer/arranger and master teacher at Cal-State Fullerton is testimony to his success and more importantly to his legacy as someone who made a difference in so many people’s lives. We here at KU are still so touched and honored that he established the Vaughan-Watson Endowed Scholarship out of love for his alma mater and testimony to our friendship.
I personally have performed, recorded, and taught so much of Rodger’s music through the years I have lost count of the occasions. Rodger knew how to make tubas and euphoniums sound great. His groundbreaking quartet arrangements for the Tubadours set the standard for our medium and they are still as good as you will find. I recorded both his Concertpiece No. 2 and his Elegy on a solo CD a few years back, and I still hear remarks about those two pieces being the best things on that album. The KU Tuba Consort performed his arrangement of Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk two years ago and my students still talk about it being the best transcription the group has ever played. And you know what-it is!
But what I will miss the most about Rodger is our friendship- those late night calls- two guys laying on their respective floors, libations in hand, catching up on KU and Kansas news, talking about music, old teachers, and especially hearing some great new jokes-most of which can’t be repeated here! Indeed Rodger had a wicked sense of humor. I miss him and am most proud to say that Rodger Vaughan was my friend.
Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, University of Kansas
I first met Rodger Vaughan through my friend and colleague at the University of Kansas, Scott Watson, in the mid-1980s. Scott hosted an Octubafest celebration that focused on Rodger’s music and my wife, Barbara, and I were lucky enough to get to premiere a small work for tuba Rodger had written called “Manchester Parade.” The best part of the weekend was that Rodger was there, and we got to spend a lot of time with him. It was one of those magical times. Even then, Rodger was known to all of us as “the father of the euphonium/tuba quartet.” All of us had played his famous “Miraphone Quartets” many, many times, and I had performed his “Three Songs for Soprano and Tuba” and taught his “Concertpiece Number One” for tuba and piano many times. Rodger was already “tuba royalty.” The icing on the cake was getting to play with him. For all of his modesty and his putting down of his tuba playing, he was a darned good tuba player!
That weekend in Kansas was the beginning of a deep friendship. I like to think that, even though Rodger is gone, the friendship just continues. We regularly talked on the phone over the years. Barbara always had to have a joke ready and waiting by the telephone just in case Rodger called – and it was the opening volley for any call we made to him. When I was in distress about university or departmental politics or feeling down, I always called Rodger for sage advice, and he always provided just what I needed. And what an example for his younger colleagues and his students – if it had been possible for him to keep on teaching forever, he would have done it! He genuinely loved teaching, and he genuinely loved his students. While he was still working, the bulk of our phone conversations revolved around his students – or questions that he had about my students. After he retired, he looked forward to visits from his own students, and continued to ask about my alums or current students by name.
Rodger never went to work at the university a day in his life – it was all about getting to be a teacher and his love for young people. He inspired me to think the same way. In fact I am even now a still-teaching professor emeritus and plan to keep on teaching as long as possible. Rodger convinced me that it’s the thing to do. Yes, we will continue to treasure and perform all of the music that Rodger provided to the euphonium and tuba world. In Eau Claire, we will continue to honor his memory through the scholarship fund he endowed and to which funds are regularly donated by a lot of alums, all of them benefiting from Rodger’s generosity. But for me, the best memories are of a dear gentleman with a brilliant, creative mind, a twinkle in his eye, and a deep understanding of the meaning of friendship. No Groundhog Day will ever pass without remembering Rodger and celebrating his birthday! Although I was never in his classroom, I consider myself to be one of his students. He made a difference in my life and has helped me to make a difference.
Professor Emeritus of Music, The University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Vice-President/President-Elect- The International Tuba Euphonium Association