ITEA Representation by Harvey G. Phillips
For some time I have been disturbed by the way our instruments and those who play them are too often represented to the public audience by the press and media. How unfortunate that most of the information reported and embellished by the press and media originates within our own ranks, from those who – by their public behavior and performance – desecrate our instruments. It is time to stop being “cute” and start being responsible. For too long we have allowed false concepts to represent our instruments and ourselves. It is time to realize that each of us represents to the world at large all others who play our instruments. Individual attitudes, manners (or lack of manners), slanderous statements, and personal behavior have helped influence the perceptions of our colleagues and the public audience; we must improve our image in both areas. We must reaffirm that personal and professional integrity, good character, knowledge and wisdom must be earned and acquired before they can be passed from one generation to the next; we must establish a proper syllabus for doing so.
Live Press Interview
This article is prompted by a recent experience with a young writer intent on submitting an article for one of our major newspapers. I was interviewed at length over the telephone and encouraged to submit written materials to supplement our telephone interview. I responded via fax with seven pages of information to enhance and support our telephone interview. I sent information about our instruments and the impressive ongoing activities associated with them:
- An international association with a scholarly quarterly publication.
- International conferences.
- Expanded involvement of our instruments in recital, chamber music, jazz, and pop.
- Unprecedented growth (since 1960) of full time college teaching positions.
- Exciting worldwide growth of excellent and challenging solo and ensemble repertoire by renowned composers.
- Increase of featured parts in film scoring and recording studios.
- Confirmation that freelance does not mean unemployed.
- Exceptional improvements of our instruments by a growing list of the world's manufacturers.
- Consistently rising performance standards being established by talented young performers who have benefited from the aforementioned advancements.
- Today's professional players recognize the legacy of preceding great performers whose artistry, vision, and tenacity brought about today's renaissance and who will always be a part of our heritage.
As a dedicated tuba or euphonium player, you can imagine how upset I was to read in the writer's “proof” of the proposed article the usual cliches with which we so often must contend from “determined to be uninformed” writers. Writers who insist on representing to the public audience their own prejudiced perception of our instruments, personalities, attitudes, and potential. Particularly unacceptable to me was an article that credited me for much of its mis-information. I had no choice but to “stop” submission of the article to a major newspaper.
Throughout my career as a professional tubist I have, for the most part, enjoyed excellent rapport with the press and media. I have never received a negative review of a recital, solo, chamber music, or other public performance. I have found most writers to be learned, well informed, sincere, interested, personable, friendly, responsible, and proud of their profession.
But, even well intentioned writers must rely on and report from their available sources. The old cliché, “garbage in, garbage out” is apropos.
Like some of my colleagues who play euphonium or tuba, I have been victimized by uninformed, prejudiced writers of articles for newspapers or magazines; irresponsible writers who copy others' clichés and/or create their own clever insults to our instruments and those who play them. Instead of enlightening readers, they confuse and influence them with negative personal opinions.
I caution all members of ITEA to be on their guard for writers who, before any interviews or other references, have already determined what they will write. Even in-person interviews supported by printed materials from established and dedicated sources will not deter them from including their clever, pre-determine(' opinions. The best defense is to be proud of your instrument and its role in music; to be well informed about your instrument: fabrication, configuration, techniques and pedagogy, literature and composers, traditions and legacies of preceding artists, and (very important) be well informed about the achievements of fellow contemporary artists (positions, backgrounds, recordings, etc.).
Live Radio/TV Interview
All the above commentary about live press interviews applies to live radio/TV interviews. In live radio/TV interviews, the interviewee must be especially well prepared, articulate, quick, and alert; there is no time to correct errors. In any live interview, it is important not to be entrapped by the interviewer's clever, pre- planned questions. A technique I recommend is to never make a negative comment about your instrument and/or its role in music into a microphone. Make only positive statements. Remember always that when an interviewer shares the microphone for your response, that microphone belongs to you! It is an opportunity to broadcast positive information about your art/instrument to the station/network audience. For example, if the interviewer makes a ploy for a humorous/negative answer, ignore the question and make a positive statement such as, “the tuba has the widest range of any wind instrument, over half the piano keyboard.” If the interviewer repeats the question or asks a similar one, state that, “the tuba is one of two solo instruments in the symphony orchestra, the other is the harp.” Or, “the euphonium is one of the most melodious brass instruments, it is the cello of the band and wind ensemble.” This technique usually persuades the interviewer to ask better questions. You must develop your own library of positive declarations about your instrument. Don't ever fall for the ploy of asking for your funniest experience with your instrument or your favorite joke about your instrument. And, never fall for a casual request to produce your funniest/loudest/ugliest/ lowest/highest sound on your instrument. Always be positive and always display your best sound and take advantage of these public relations opportunities by being sharp, knowledgeable, congenial, and well spoken.
Live Radio/TV Talk Show
If you have opportunity to appear on a local or national popular talk show, dress well, look neat, be alert and personable, and most important, be knowledgeable and articulate. Send information about your instrument and your career to the host well in advance. Remember, the listening audience is accustomed to being entertained. Keep this in mind when you converse or perform. Be enthusiastic about your instrument and its roles in music. When performing, select repertoire that shows off the best qualities of your instrument and your artistry. Whatever you choose to play, introduce the music clearly, interestingly, and concisely. Be prepared to discuss chosen repertoire with your host. Always acknowledge accompanying musicians.
Live Recital Performance
Select a balanced program of established and contemporary compositions. If Baroque or Classical transcriptions are performed, program them early in the recital. Whenever possible and appropriate, communicate with the audience about your program, especially when there are no printed program notes. Many chamber music programs are most enjoyable when informal. Remember, when you speak your voice is your instrument – don't mumble with or without your instrument. Your sound (all dynamics) and your words must be clear, audible and projected to the last seat in the room (even if no one is sitting in it).
Since the spring of 1942 the tuba has been my constant companion. Since the summer of 1947, for some 20,000 consecutive days, the tuba has defined my role as a person and as a professional musician. No one in music or any other profession could be more proud of their particular role in life than I am of mine. Being a musician and a tubist is my vocation and my avocation. My life continues to be enriched by great friends and colleagues who create, interpret and perform music of every genre, in every discipline. My life continues to be enriched by envious non- musician friends, great friends who support the art of music, who make up our public audiences, and whose particular musical tastes vary broadly. Professional opportunities have allowed me to enjoy performing great music of every discipline with great musicians. Being a professional tubist also provided opportunity for me to be in the right place at the right time to meet Carol, my wife of over 47 years. Carol and our three sons (Jesse, Harvey, Thomas) have understood and shared my commitment to music and the tuba. Music and the tuba have provided our family many opportunities to travel throughout the world.
Is it any wonder that I bristle when someone belittles my instrument, questions its musical importance, considers it an inferior, humorous instrument that I obviously take too seriously? In such instances I respond that everything I own and everything I hold dear has come from the tuba. It provides food, clothing, and shelter for my family, an education for my children, largesse for my profession. Considering all the tuba has provided for me, I would be an ungrateful fool not to take it seriously. In point of fact, I take my tuba no more seriously than a surgeon takes his scalpel or a minister his Bible. I am just as dedicated to my art and profession as they are to theirs. Many a noble profession gives personal satisfaction to its practitioners and recipients, but none, in my opinion, is more satisfying to the mind and soul than music, the most structured of the performing and visual arts. How fortunate we are to be musicians, to have a life in music. Let us be worthy of that life.
A note about Harvey Phillips
By Gunther Schuller
Harvey Phillips is a legend among brass players and other instrumentalists, as well as to an ever-increasing general audience. One is not surprised that some time ago he was dubbed the “Paganini of the Tuba.” For, like Paganini, Mr. Phillips set out to achieve – on his own chosen instrument – musical and technical standards previously unknown. Harvey Phillips is not only a supreme artist on the tuba, but through his multiple activities as a teacher, clinician, commissioner of new works and organizer of tuba and brass festivals, he has been an indefatigable “philosopher of the tuba.” His efforts on behalf of other musicians never cease. More than anyone else, he has tenaciously proselytized the notion that the tuba can, in the hands of fine musicians, communicate the entire gamut of musical emotions and expressions. For his missionary zeal and his exemplary performance record, Mr. Phillips has won the respect of all his colleagues, as well as countless composers whose works he has premiered, championed, and performed. Harvey Phillips in short, is the major progenitor in his field and already two generations of younger players are forever indebted to him.