Stepping Stones to Success, Vol. 7 of 8
by Pat Stuckemeyer
“The Future, Part 1 of 2”
Throughout the previous six articles I have written on pieces from our tuba and euphonium history. All of the previous works are staples of the repertoire, and more importantly, staples of our pedagogy. These works encompass many different things: style, range, articulation, and a myriad of other difficulties. We learn and teach these compositions, as a way of achieving a higher level of understanding and musicianship.
Composers are writing for the tuba and euphonium more now than ever before thanks to the work of many people. The instruments are beginning to be seen as solo instruments by people whom ten, twenty, or fifty years ago might not have had that opinion. We, as performers and educators, owe that to the high-profile soloists of the euphonium and tuba. We thank you for your time and talents and love the new material that you bring to our repertoire of pieces.
My concern with the future rests in pieces for the mass performer. These are pieces written with the younger performer in mind and would be accessible to most everyone. I feel it is necessary to extend this catalog of low brass materials as much as possible because this is the future of our instruments. Young performers now often see no new comprehensive repertoire in their catalogs and certainly none by famous composers.
I am just as guilty as the next performer who commissions new works. Those who have gone through the process of commissioning a new composition know how much time, money, and effort it takes to bring a new piece to fruition. Spending hours of your time writing grants, putting together a prospectus for a commissioning committee, and garnering public support for a new work can be a daunting task to anyone who is brave enough to undertake it. At the end of this process you want something that will stand out as a work of art—your pinnacle of achievement. And, usually that piece is tailored to your, the soloist and commissioner’s, skill level.
When was the last time that a piece of literature was written by a well-known composer or commissioned by a high-profile soloist for a young student? I find that we have pieces written that only a handful of people could ever perform. They are so difficult that they are naturally cast out as options for recitals and programs, effectively ending their life as a composition. Quite certainly the work will be recorded at some point by the commissioner, but to really have a sustained viability the piece needs to be just that, sustainable. We can achieve this through what I like to call comprehensive repertoire.
If you look at the pieces that were written for the tuba and euphonium forty years ago, most of them seem trivial to today’s standards. The natural curve for any progressive society is that of an upward trend, meaning that as a body of work matures it gets more difficult. Commissioned works are such that we as performers try to reach the next echelon by having these extremely difficult pieces written—but to what avail? Is it because we are trying to further our career, possibly that the repertoire is just too easy, or maybe the piece simply needed to be that difficult for compositional sake. I am just as guilty as the next performer commissioning works. When a composer asks for guidelines, my answer is simple, “You write it, and I’ll find a way to play it.”
Comprehensive repertoire encompasses all pieces that can be performed by the masses. Not just general readings, but where a performer of relative skill can actually perform the piece well. I find there to be a severe lack of this material. The works on various state high school competition lists have been there for years. The argument could be made that those lists are merely outdated, but, I digress, that is another article in itself. I believe that the absence of new material for this skill level is a sad downfall of the repertoire; it is beginning to hurt the future of our instrument.
Students are interested in the “here and now” in every aspect of their life, including their musical upbringing. We, as teachers, have to become involved with their culture (music) to be able to relate to them on a symbiotic plane. It would be great to have current music at their appropriate skill level for them to perform or at least that they can relate to. I applaud the effort of every composer for the euphonium and tuba that is making a contribution. There are countless people writing for the instrument everyday, holding the instrument to a higher standard, and advancing the instrument to a new place. These people should be thanked by all of us in the performance and education world for what they are trying to do.
Spotlight On: A Song for Night
Noah D. Taylor is a young composer that I have had the pleasure to work with on a variety of projects.1 Noah himself is a trombone player and an avid enthusiast of the euphonium and the tuba. To his credit, he has amassed a large catalog of works for the instrument already in his career; and this young composer is one that will take our instruments to new places.
A Song for Night is the result from conversations between Mr. Taylor and myself in preparation for Stepping Stones for Euphonium, Vol. 1, which was recorded in 2006.2 When gathering materials for the recording, I sent correspondence to several “master teachers” for the euphonium. I gave them the list of repertoire that was to be included to make sure that I wasn’t forgetting anything too glaringly obvious. What I got back was also a request to have new material written for this medium. Educators from all corners of world were polled and their opinions were that remedial literature was lacking in our repertoire. I felt this as well, and I contacted Mr. Taylor about this project. He was very excited to help with our cause and contributed a fine piece of repertoire for young musician.
A Song for Night was written for the very young player. The range of the piece is just two octaves and can be shrunk even more if the performer so desires. Being a short work of approximately three minutes, there are no endurance problems with the piece. The composer gave careful consideration to the performer, meaning no large intervallic leaps, adequate built-in breaths, and a lyrical style suited to the euphonium and tuba.
There needs to be more material like A Song for Night in our repertoire: a work that any performer can play with relative ease, a pleasing melody, and with a well-written piano part. There are not many pieces like this in our catalog and certainly not many written in the last few years.
Without new pieces like this our small world of euphonium and tuba educators and performers will continue to shrink. I encourage everyone involved with education to become as passionate about this as you can. The next time a young composer brings you something new, take the time to not only look at it but to become actively involved. Let them know what they did well, how they can improve, and thank them for writing it! It may not be the best thing in the world, but that young person might someday craft one of the mainstays of the repertoire. Cherish this repertoire and everyone who contributes to it!
Through the work of the Euphonium Educational Endowment, Mr. Taylor has agreed to give A Song for Night to the euphonium and tuba community.3 Please enjoy this piece for yourself or one of your pupils, and remember why you chose to do what you are doing—because it’s fun!
For biography and additional information, please visit www.noahdtaylor.com.
2 Taylor, Noah. A Song for Night. Tempe, AZ: Potenza Music, 2008. Visit the ITEA Journal online to download solo parts (bass and treble clef) and piano accompaniment.
3 For additional information on the Euphonium Educational Endowment, please visit www.neweuphoniummusic.com.
Pat Stuckemeyer is one of the youngest euphonium performers in the world today. At the age of 27, he has already forged many new paths for the euphonium. His diverse performance career has taken him to a dozen countries and three continents.
Stuckemeyer holds degrees in education and performance from the Conservatory of Music at Capital University, a Master of Music from the University of Kansas, an Artist Diploma from the Royal Northern College of Music, and is currently completing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at Arizona State University.
Pat Stuckemeyer is an artist and clinician for Besson/Buffet Crampon and performs solely on the Besson Prestige 2052-S euphonium. His signature model mouthpiece, the PS-SOLO is available exclusively from Mike Finn Mouthpieces.