The 19th Annual Leonard Falcone International Euphonium-Tuba Festival
By Marty Erickson
This August 11-14 the 19th Annual Leonard Falcone Festival was held at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, near Muskegon, Michigan. It was absolutely an amazing week of performances in competition by the student and artist tuba and euphonium players. Entries for this competition, the longest running and only annual tuba-euphonium competition in the world, numbered over one hundred. From this group of entries, only ten semifinalists are chosen for the artist division and six for the student division. The semifinalists this year were as follows:
Euphonium Artist Finalists (L-R): Mitusru Saito, Jamie Lipton, and Jeremy McBride
Preliminary judges were: Jukka Myllys, Oulu Symphony and freelance euphonium artist; Matt Tropman, former Marine Band soloist and Lecturer of Tuba and Euphonium at Eastern Michigan University; Nick Keelan, Professor of Trombone at Lawrence University; Charles Guy, Professor of Tuba and Euphonium-The Crane School of Music, SUNY (Potsdam); John Cradler, Tubist with U.S. Marine Band, Washington D.C.; and Marty Erickson, Instructor of Tuba and Euphonium, Lawrence University and Adjudicating Chairman. Judges at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for the semifinals and finals this year were (alphabetically): Tom Broka, Dr. Mark Cox, Marty Erickson, Dr. Earle Louder, Daniel Neesley, Sam Pilafian, Thomas Riccobono, Philip Sinder, and Matt Tropman.
Tuba students had to perform Bordogni Etude #15, Jeffrey Agrell’s Eccentric Dances (movements #1, #5, and #2), Handel’s Andante from Concert Album for the Tuba, and the Nelhybel Suite for Tuba. The three finalists performed the first movement of Concerto for Bass Tuba by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Displaying remarkable maturity and “cool under pressure,” the winners were: Beth McDonald ($1000 first prize), Jordan Henry, ($500 second prize), and Derek Fenstermacher ($300 third prize).
Tuba Student Finalists (L-R): Jordan Henry, Beth McDonald, and Derek Fenstermacher
Euphonium students had to perform James Curnow’s Rhapsody for Euphonium, the J.B. Senaille/Falcone Allegro Spiritoso, Arban’s Characteristic Study #12, and Anna Bolena, from Arban’s Complete Method (Alessi/Bowman). The three finalists performed Philip Sparke’s Fantasy and the winners were: Mike Veale ($1000 first prize), Dan ($500 second prize), and Amy Swietlik ($300 third prize).
Euphonium Student Finalists (L-R): Dan Geldert, Amy Swietlik, and Mike Veale
Tuba Artist Finalists (L-R): Justin Benevidez, Carolyn Jantsch, and Benjamin Miles
In addition to the cash prizes this year, all finalists took home an “Olympic-style” medallion, beautifully crafted with the image of Leonard Falcone playing his baritone horn in the center and raised lettering for the Festival logo. The date and prize were on the back and the medallions were in gold, silver, and bronze for first, second and third place. In addition, artist Sam Pilafian was awarded a gold medallion for serving as this year’s guest artist.
The adjudicator’s recital was another bonus and featured solos by Phil Sinder, Mark Cox, Earle Louder and Marty Erickson, as well as duets by Phil and Mark, Marty and Phil, and a spirited reading by Mark Cox of Raymond Luedeke’s Wonderland Duets with Marty and Phil performing. Additionally, the adjudicator’s ensemble with four tubas and four euphoniums performed four pieces to conclude an enjoyable evening in Blodgett Recital Hall. They were joined by assistant Blue Lake camp director Nancy Vogt, a former member of the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C.
Euphonium Artists performed Bach’s Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello for the semifinals and Jan Bach’s Concert Variations for the final. The three finalists played beautifully and finished in this order: Mitsuru Saito ($2250 first prize), Jamie Lipton ($900 second prize), and Jeremy McBride ($500 third prize). All three students are students of Dr. Brian Bowman at the University of North Texas. The amazing part of the story is how the three of them managed to even be at the performance. On the drive up from Texas to Michigan for the Festival, these students and two other semifinalists from UNT were sideswiped by a huge truck and their SUV hit the shoulder and overturned going 70 m.p.h.! Miraculously, the students received only small bruises and abrasions and one horn was slightly damaged, so they rented a car and completed the drive to the competition. After that trauma, the competition probably seemed pretty tame, as the students took home the top prizes. Bravo to all for a courageous effort!
Members of the Adjudicator’s committee performing in recital
|n addition to the competition, there were many other activities, including a master class for the non-finalists and the Blue Lake campers by the adjudicators and a masterclass by the tuba section of the Brass Band of Battle Creek: Sam Pilafian, Phil Sinder, Marty Erickson, and Dan Neesley. The section performed music from Festive Overture by Shostakovich, the “Finale” from Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky, and Philip Sparke’s Harmony Music, illustrating the different techniques needed and employed as well as comparing the differences in the parts from the original orchestra versions to the brass band version. A very special surprise came when the section was joined by the virtuoso jazz trombonist/recording artist/composer Wycliffe Gordon. He played Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy with a walking bass line from the tuba section and an upbeat version of Well, Git It for a delighted audience. As an encore, he demonstrated his sousaphone skills (!) with a 4-minute improvisation that left everyone “buzzing!” In attendance were BBBC founders Jim and Bill Gray.
Marty Erickson presenting a masterclass for Festival participants and Blue Lake campers
Wycliffe Gordon improving on the sousaphone &performing with the Brass Band of Battle Creek tuba section
A regular feature of the Festival is, of course, the guest artist recital. This year Sam Pilafian presented a carefully considered program, which not only contained a great variety but also displayed his total mastery of the tuba. He invited euphonium artist and judge Matt Tropman to join him in the performance of several two-part inventions by Bach and followed that with a performance of the Madden Elegy for Tuba and Piano. Next came a superb performance of the venerable Kraft Encounters II. Then came Sam’s own compositions—Relentless Grooves I and II with tape, which recall his Armenian roots. These were played with abandon and skill and included sections where Sam performed with himself on tape. A highlight of Sam’s concert was certainly his version of the “Queen of the Night” aria from the Magic Flute by Mozart, demonstrating superb control of the upper tessitura and an exceptionally clean style. For his finale, he chose to pay tribute to Fats Waller in the 100th year of his birth and performed three jazz classics with guitarist Tom Hagan. On the final number, he invited Marty Erickson to join him on Honeysuckle Rose and then all three returned with an encore of Sweet Georgia Brown. It should be mentioned here that Sam’s accompanist was Ms. Jun Okada, who not only performed brilliantly in this recital but also accompanied the euphonium artist finalists. In this role, she played the very difficult Jan Bach Concert Variations three times consecutively! The other accompanists for the festival were equally superb. They were Mary Jo Cox, Sheryl Richardson, and Rebecca Wilt.
Sam Pilafian soloing with the Blue Lake Festival Band
The grand finale of the Falcone Festival was the final evening concert performed by the Blue Lake Festival Band with Don Flickinger conducting. Guest artist for this concert was again tubist extraordinaire Sam Pilafian, who performed Denis Wick’s arrangement of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Concerto for Bass Tuba for tuba and band. After a rousing ovation, Sam returned to perform the entertaining Carioca by Vincent Yeomans, demonstrating not only his versatility and agility as a performer but also his rapport with the audience. This concert was simulcast on Blue Lake Public Radio and narrated by the conductor and Falcone Festival chairman Donald Flickinger. The finale of the concert was the familiar Karl King favorite, The Melody Shop, which featured the Falcone adjudicators and guests performing with the Blue Lake Festival Band, bringing the week to a rousing close.
For the twentieth Falcone Festival next year, many special events are planned including the premiere of Jim Curnow’s new euphonium concerto with band, which will be performed by Angie Hunter, the competition’s first Euphonium Artist Winner in 1986. Angie won the first competition performing Curnow’s Symphonic Variants. Please check the Falcone website at www.ferris.edu/falcone for all information, including the competition music for next year.