Tributes to Jack Tilbury

Tributes to Jack Tilbury

Jack Tilbury retired from the U.S. Army Band’s “Pershing’s Own on March 21st, 2005. Known to many as the tubist with The U.S. Army Brass Quintet, Sgt. Major Jack Tilbury has been active in the Washington area for the last 30 years as a performer, soloist, and teacher. He also serves as tubist with the Washington Chamber Symphony as well as the Classical Brass and is a member of the music faculty of Northern Virginia Community College.

A native of Oklahoma, Sgt. Major Tilbury holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Wichita State University and a master’s degree from Catholic University. Jack Tilbury has been a major influence for the tuba and euphonium community in a variety of capacities. His desire to promote the popularity of the tuba has led him in many directions.

In 1973 he was a charter member of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association (T.U.B.A.), now the International Tuba Euphonium Association (ITEA), and has served as both the Publications Coordinator and Journal editor for the organization. Currently he is a member on the ITEA Board of Directors. In 1983 he was a co-founder of The Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Conference and served as its Chairman from 1995 to 2002. He has also served as Contributing Editor for The Instrumentalist magazine.


As a soloist and clinician Sgt. Major Tilbury has performed across the United States in colleges and universities, promoting the tuba and its musical capabilities. The following letters were submitted by noted colleagues in appreciation of Jack’s accomplishments and contributions to the tuba and euphonium.

Jack Tilbury in 1990’s

Jack seemed very serious and scholarly before we came to know him. However, it wasn’t very long before his wonderful wit and sense of humor made their presence known. Jack enjoyed a good joke as much or more than the next guy. For example, Jack took great pleasure in seeing to it that his dog “Buddy” was listed in a national Who’s Who In America publication.

The Army Band Brass Quintet (L-R): Woody English, Lynden Mitchell, Jack Tilbury, Scott Shelsta, and Dennis Edelbrock

Thanks to all who contributed, and also special thanks to Ross Morgan and Jeff Arwood, who provided great assistance in providing materials for this tribute. Certainly, we are sure we’ll still be seeing continued involvement from Jack in coming years, and ITEA salutes this great musician and his continued accomplishments!

Jack Tilbury–The Lighter Side
I am very pleased to salute Jack Tilbury on his retirement from The U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” Washington, D.C. after 33 years of service. I was privileged to have been Jack’s tuba section leader for 18 of those 33 years but am most pleased to have become his friend as soon as he arrived at Fort Myer with his beautiful bride Jean. Jack served a short term in the ceremonial band, as did we all, and quickly adapted to the art of sousaphone playing, soulfully rendering such old favorites as, “Flowers of the Forest,” and “Boston Commandery.” Jack was brought into the concert band after a short period of time and immediately added strength to our section. As I recall, when Jack joined the concert band, the tuba section included Bob Pallansch (section leader), the late Bob Clemons (affectionately known as “Fats”), John Taylor, John Houser, Sande MacMorran, and myself.

Jack fishing with low brass on the Chesapeake Bay, 2003, Stripped Bass (locally called Rockfish)

Jack during a Blackhawk helicopter trip in spring of 2004

Jack and Jean also had a parakeet named “Ranger” who had acquired a taste for spirits after being nursed back to health according to their veterinarian’s prescription of adding a drop or two of John Barleycorn’s finest to Ranger’s drinking water. After he recovered, Ranger was quite a hit at parties, freely landing on the drink glasses of unsuspecting guests in order to wet his whistle and, of course, maintain his health.

The U.S. Army Brass Quintet, circa 1975: Trumpets: Henry Sgrecci, Gary Armstrongl; Horn: Lynden Mitchell; Tuba: Jack Tilbury; and Trombone: Scott Shelsta

Jack became tubist with the Army Brass Quintet after Sande MacMorran departed the Army Band to become tuba instructor at the University of Tennessee. Jack was truly the driving force behind the quintet and soon propelled the group to national prominence. Jack Tilbury is now recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on brass quintet music and performance, and rightly so. Again, Jack always sought to incorporate humor whenever possible, even in quintet performances. For example, when the Army Band was in Australia in 1988, Jack bought a didgeridoo and substituted the aboriginal instrument for the tuba in one of the quintet’s very next performances. And I’ll have to say it sounded pretty darned good as a result of Jack’s extraordinary artistic ability. By the way, I don’t know if it is public knowledge, but Jack is quite a dancer! Jack served as the announcer for a New Orleans style jazz concert at Fort Myer about 15 years ago or so. Jack, who was dressed in a tuxedo and top hat, soon got into the spirit and began dancing to the pounding rhythm of the music. His strutting dance style was actually quite graceful, even if the show girls on each arm seemed unsure whether Jack’s next step would be forward or to the rear.

Jack on didgeridoo with the quintet

In 1983 Jack, Ross Morgan, and I discussed with Colonel Eugene Allen the possibility of the Army hosting a tubaeuphonium conference at Fort Myer. Through these efforts, The U.S. Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Conference was born, providing tuba and euphonium players of all levels the opportunity to come together and highlight these instruments we all love. During this same time Jack was instrumental in forming the Army Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble featuring Neal Corwell on euphonium, myself on the F tuba, and Jack and Ross on C tubas. Jack researched the tuba quartet repertoire, as it was at that time, and saw to it that our concerts included music that was both entertaining and cerebral.


Jack, Ross, and I were fast friends through the years and enjoyed many trips together with the Army Band. Boarding the bus at the beginning of a trip, one of us was usually heard to shout, “Don’t worry about cigars!,” proudly displaying a bunch of stogies in his chest pocket, much to the chagrin of our bus mates! Jack, Ross, and I socialized outside of the band too, especially during Redskins games. Jack and Jean had 3 daughters: Jill, and twins Jennie and Julie. Ross and his wife, Jane, also had three daughters: Virginia and twins Anna and Beth. I had one daughter, Amanda (I was afraid to have any more children as the dye was caste for twin girls!). Our Redskins parties always included plenty of good food, drink, cigars, and lots of kids. And believe me, there was plenty of excitement, running around, screaming, and juvenile pranks, even some by the children.

But seriously ladies and gentlemen, it has been an honor and a privilege to know Jack and his family as it has been Ross’. My wife Mary and I recently attended Jack and Jean’s daughter Julie’s wedding and witnessed a couple of those dance moves Jack is famous for. You’ve still got it, old man! Enjoy your retirement –you’ve earned it. You’ll soon be turning in your Army issued instruments and uniforms, but tell me one thing: what are you going to do with those memorized marches?

~Jeff Arwood

Former tuba soloist and tuba section leader
The United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” Washington, DC

It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed that you are actually retiring from the Army Band. I have such found memories of the many good times we have shared. You contributions as a tubist and your leadership in making the Army Band what it is today are highly recognized. You have greatly expanded the role of the brass quintet in the military with your many years of outstanding service. Many more jobs were created in the military because of your influence.

Your involvement has made the Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Conference one of the finest the world has to offer! You have inspired all of us through your dedication and fun loving approach. Thank you for making my appearances at the Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Conference so special over the years. I cherish your friendship and have the utmost respect for you personally and professionally. Even though you are retiring, I know that you will continue to be highly involved and respected throughout the tuba word. Love you man!

Your good friend,
Dan Perantoni
Professor of Tuba, Indiana University

Jack performing “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” with the Ala Carte Brass and Percussion, January, 2002 Army Band Conference
Jack and Tommy Johnson, 1987 Army Band Conference

Jack, Jeff Arwood, and Don Harry
TUSAB euphonium-tuba section. Back row (L-R): Charlie Saik, Mike Wagner, Lee Culbreth, and Otis Wilson. Front row (LR):
Mike Gallo, Jack Tilbury, Jeff Arwood, Ross Morgan, and Tom Waid

I put off writing this letter as long as I could, seeing as how you seem to really be serious about retiring from the band. I had a bet going with Ross, which it appears he will now win and put with his other retirement stash. Somehow things are going to feel a lot different for both you and your fellow band members…that is, if you really do retire….

Have you discussed your retirement with Jean? How is she going to fill up all that free time you’ll have? Maybe you could get serious about cooking and publish your collection of recipes for spur of the moment parties…okay, so it can be a pocket-sized book… then again, a plastic credit-cardsized wallet insert might be sufficient…IF you are really going to retire….

Seriously, all of us who know and care about Jack Tilbury, and by my reckoning, that’s every tuba and euphonium player on the planet…PLUS all those other friends who play another instrument; whatever it may be! The sum-total of those who have enjoyed your company, been recipients of your generosity, benefited from your favor, wisdom, and musicianship is staggering to contemplate.


…With respect, affection and admiration,
Carol, Harvey & Family
(Harvey Phillips, Professor Emeritus of Music, Indiana University)

Jack following the 1986 D.C. TUBACHRISTMAS

Jack, Jim Gavigan (Mirafone), and Jan
Duga, tubist in the USAF band (1990)


Jack, Congratulations!!!
Jack with R. Winston Morris

Jack Tilbury, a great example of an ideal musician, has during his career in The United State Army Band created an example to all who aspire to excellence in the musical military services. His outstanding musicianship, his sincere and charming personality, and his tremendous organizational and administrative skills have made an enduring contribution to The United States Army Band. His performance and leadership in the Army Brass Quintet for over 20 years, his contributions as section leader of the Concert Band, his vision and actualization of the Annual Army Band Tuba Conference, and his service as the chief enlisted leader of the entire unit testify to his abilities, his willingness to serve and his desire to “be all that he can be!”

Personally, I treasure my friendship and associations both personal and professional with Jack. He has been a wonderful friend and associate for more than 30 years. I am sure that upon leaving the military, his contributions to the field of music or any other field he chooses will be exemplary. He has been a model and a precious icon to the military tubist and his influence will long be felt and remembered.

~Brian Bowman
Professor of Euphonium
University of North Texas
February, 2005

The Army Tuba-Euphonium Quartet visits Morehead State University, Morehead, KY, 1980s (L-R): Ross Morgan, Neal Corwell, Earle Louder, Jeff Arwood, and Jack Tilbury (Earle’s House, a Hawaiian Evening!)

Jack, David Bragunier (tubist, National Symphony) and Jeff Arwood

Congratulations on your STELLAR career with the U.S. Army Band. It has been a real pleasure and honor to have been professional colleagues with you these many years. But it has been even more of a privilege to have considered you a dear friend.

Your work with the band, the brass quintet and with the tuba conference has constituted a major contribution to the tuba community and rightfully elevated you to the top of that profession. Not only have you been an inspiration to your colleagues and peers but you have set an example of the highest level of professional and personal integrity.

I’m sure your “retirement” years will be equally productive and satisfying, and I look forward to many more years of maintaining a close personal and professional relationship.

Don’t forget, one of your favorite barbeque joints is right here in Cookevegas, Tennessee, waiting on you to visit any time. Ribs are on me next time!!!!

Best always and warm personal regards to your family,

~R. Winston Morris
Professor of Music
Tennessee Tech University
Thursday, March 3, 2005

Army Band Conference Dinner (1993)

Jack, Jeff Arwood, David Porter (tuba, USAFB), and unidentified Australian military tubist
Jeff Arwood, Russian Navy Band tubist, Jack, and Mike Gallo.

Letters like this seem to often start with “congratulations on your retirement.” Gee, I don’t know…. First of all, I doubt that you’re REALLY going to retire!!! You may be leaving the Army and “Pershing’s Own,” but there’s so much more for you to do, and my guess is that you’ll be doing it. You’re one of the best musicians around to pick up a tuba, a fabulous teacher, a supreme organizer, and the list goes on. There’s too much to do, you’re too good at all of it, so forget the retirement thing–you’re also way too young….

HOWEVER, at this auspicious moment in life as you look toward life outside the Army, there are some really important things to look back on, both for you and for all of your friends. And a lot of them involve congratulations and thanks from the rest of us.

Thanks for making such a big difference for your low brass colleagues worldwide over a lot of years.

1. For me, personally, your incredible work with the TUBA Journal all of those years really made it possible for me to do the things that I did when I had to FOLLOW you. Your help, advice, and encouragement really made it possible for me to have a positive experience in that job. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

2. Thanks for your part in making the annual U.S. Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Conference the most important event that happens for our instruments anywhere in the world every year. I know, I know… “I don’t do this alone…Jeff Arwood, Ross Morgan…. Etc., etc.” And I know that’s right, BUT without every person lending his/her particular talent, consideration, sweat, etc., it wouldn’t be the same great event that it is today. This huge investment of time and effort just keeps paying dividends over and over again. I think of that “kid,” Alan Baer, having the opportunity to play the John Williams Concerto for Roger Bobo at the conference many years ago. Who knows what difference having that opportunity made for Alan? Where else could that have happened? This stuff is incredibly important, and you have made a huge difference in seeing it through.

3. Thanks for being a superlative musician. None of the other stuff counts if you’re not great at the primary gig. I distinctly remember the first time I met you and heard you play at the ITEC at North Texas in 1980. (And, no, it wasn’t because the quintet was staying in the rooms next to the one where Barbara and I were staying.) I was just blown away. And folks have continued to be “blown away” over all the years in live performances, TV and radio appearances, etc. You are an eloquent spokesman for music and musicians, as well as for our instruments, both with and without a horn in your hands.

4. Thanks for being “the best” at what you’ve done at your job outside playing. Being the Enlisted Leader of The U.S. Army Band attests to all of the things you are to the people you work with every day-both colleagues and superiors. It’s a privilege to be able to say, “I know him” to other folks who are in the Army and other branches of service.

5. Thanks for keeping your ducks in a row. I also remember when your girls were born. (Having an experience like that even takes MY breath away–and we’ve never had kids!) The fact that you’ve always cared about your family is really important and sets a great example for aspiring young folks. You’re one of the people I always point to when giving my “what’s really important” talks to my students.

The list could go on, but I’ll stop it there for now. Here’s where the “congratulations” come.

Congratulations on your absolutely fabulous career with The U.S. Army Band. The Band as a musical and military organization is better today because you have been there. And your particular part of the music profession is better because you have been there.

I know that you’ll continue to make a difference as life continues. I can guarantee you that I’ll be there for you in the way you’ve “been there” for me and for so many others as you look ahead to new challenges. Thanks again for everything you’ve done, Jack–and congratulations!

With much respect and admiration,

~Jerry A. Young, Ed.D.
Professor of Music
The University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
February, 2005

I got to know Jack not long after he arrived in the U.S. Army Band in the 70s. The Army Band has had a long tradition of fine tuba players, which has included Chester Schmitz, Jim Self, Dan Perantoni, Robert Pallansch, Jeff Arwood, and so many others. Jack’s 33+ years of service to the Army Band and the tubaeuphonium community at large should be acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.

When I was a member of the U.S. Navy Band in Washington D.C., I made it a point to attend the concerts of my fellow musicians in the other premiere service bands in the area. Additionally, we would often join forces for special events with an “All-Service” concert or ceremonial band. It was in one of these bands that I first met Bob Pallansch and Jeff Arwood and began to socialize with them as well as other members of the Army Band. About 22 years ago or so Jeff and I talked about having a tubaeuphonium conference. The Navy Band was already hosting the Eastern Trombone conference and an annual Saxophone conference. At the time, the Navy had neither the space nor space in schedule to take on another conference, so Jeff agreed to start one at the U.S. Army Band (TUSAB). Incidentally, TUSAB also took over as hosts for the Eastern Trombone Workshop.

While working on this project and the accompanying “socializing,” I met Jack, who was one of the other initial forces behind the scenes of the conference. From that point forward, I began following the superb U.S. Army Band quintet, of which Jack was the founding member. I believe that group initially included Woody English and Dennis Edelbrock on trumpet, Linden Mitchell on horn, Scott Shielstra on trombone, and Jack on tuba. It was this group that help set an incredible standard for quintets, enjoying the kind of “run” that only the New York, Canadian, Empire, Annapolis, and American Brass Quintets could claim. Only this past January did the tuba chair change, as Jack retired from the band.

The U.S. Army Band Brass Quintet in China

Jack’s vision, leadership, musicianship, sense of humor and ability to get things done with a smile helped make the Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Conference the finest annual conference in the world. He, along with Jeff Arwood and Ross Morgan, Bob Powers, John Mueller, and literally dozens of Army Band tuba and euphonium players kept this going for over twenty years, with the strong support initially of Colonel Eugene Allen, and then Colonel Bryan Shelburne, and now Colonel Lamb. This tradition continues of course, in the equally capable hands of current Army Band members.

Many of us in ITEA know about the contributions Jack made to our community, but may not realize that in addition to being in the quintet and the principal tubist in the concert band, Jack also became the band’s leading Sergeant Major. He served as the narrator for many of the band events and served as a pointof- contact for many of the band functions and did some conducting as well. He could always be relied on for a bit of fun of course. Anyone who saw his vocal performance of “Feet Don’t Fail me Now” in top hat and tails can attest to that.

Congratulations Jack on a remarkable career, and many, many thanks from all of us for the work you did to ensure that tuba and euphonium players, teachers, and aficionados around the world would have a place to go (FREE!) every year to hear the finest players in the world. Even more importantly, you and the Army Band made it a practice to include “fresh faces” in solo recitals, ensemble performances, and as soloists with the fine Army Band and Orchestra as well as the Army Blues. Not many conferences have ever been able to match the diversity of performances or certainly the expertise of accompanying ensembles as the Army Band. You made it a practice to, in simplest terms, treat people right.

On a personal note, I will always value our friendship, and be grateful for those opportunities I was afforded to perform with the band, the Blues, and as soloist, not to mention the best final party/jam session in the country!! Bravo Jack!! It is a pleasure to honor you and a privilege to call you a friend.

~Marty Erickson
Former Principal Tuba, U.S.
Navy Band and President of T.U.B.A.
Professor of Tuba at Lawrence
University and UW-Milwaukee

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