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This area is devoted to the continuing legacy of Roger Bobo. Anchored by rotating articles authored by the maestro himself and donated to ITEA for posting. Visit Roger Bobo's Blogspot at http://bomaestro.blogspot.com/.



First Experiences (Tokyo, February, 2008; Revised, Tokyo, June 8, 2012)

A long time ago, sometime in the 60s, I was talking to Arnold Jacobs about how people, who had never heard a tuba play a solo before, reacted to it; I told him about a very disappointing experience that I had had ten years before, when I was going to high school, when I played a solo which only was met by laughter from my fellow students. Jake then told me the story of when he was a young boy living in Long Beach, California; his mother had taken him to a concert where a coloratura soprano sang a solo and the audience began to laugh. They had never heard a coloratura before and he pointed out that it is normal human behavior for people to sometimes laugh when hearing something entirely new to them.

roger bobo on his bike in Tokyo During the 70’s in the Hollywood film studios, there was an new instrument being used called the “Beam”, which was like a giant steel guitar with one string several meters long and played by striking the string with a huge 200 mm cannon shell casing; it was an amazing low frequency sound with an absolutely frightening impact, I first heard it while recording the soundtrack for a monster film called “Legend”. The common reaction of all of us that heard this instrument was overt laughter, even though there was nothing funny about it, in fact, it was quite scary.

I was reminded of these first encounter experiences in 2008: It was another day of exams at the Musashino Academy of Music, not just brass instruments like it had been for the past weeks, this time it was all the wind instruments and the very best players of the fourth year (Senior) class. This exam was actually an audition to choose which wind players would play the on the prestigious annual concert showcasing the best of the Musashino Academy; it was pleasant work listening to these fine young players. The last of the woodwind instruments to play was a baritone saxophone. Of course, I’ve heard baritone saxes before, probably thousands of times, but this was the first time I’ve ever heard one as a solo instrument other than jazz, and in this particular case it was a Bach transcription.

The young lady playing the solo did a beautiful job but I have to admit that my visceral reaction was to laugh; of course I didn’t, but that impulse, that natural human impulse Jake spoke of over 50 years ago, was there. But what most struck me was that I was experiencing what I imagine many people used to experience when they heard the tuba in a solo context for the first time. I have to say that I now have a better understanding of how those people felt. It offered an insight that had not been a part of my ‘tuba consciousness’ over the last 60 years. Although the baritone sax was played quite musically and was quite technically proficient, the sound, and the abruptness of the articulation in the low register were all quite new to me in this solo recital instrument environment, and it took getting used to.

In most of the world the tuba is not looked on as a new experience anymore. Harvey Phillips, in a conversation in the 70’s, told me that during a television documentary dealing with minority groups, the first minority to be covered was tubists! If that’s what we were, a minority group, we’ve certainly done a good job of changing things.

The current music world has changed; with the presence of electronics in all aspects of music today, hearing new sounds for the first time has become almost a daily occurrence. Still, I’m thankful for the baritone saxophone solo encounter, it opened up a new prospective of our instrument’s history.


From Roger Bobo's masterclass DVD "Tuba Profondo."

Available from Cherry Classics, Maestro Bobo's DVD masterclass was produced in Japan and contains some of the finest musical advice and insight for musicians, students of brass and tubists. This may be some of the most valuable 2 1/2 hours spent in front of a screen.

Some of the works performed include:

* Strauss-Concerto #1
* Stevens-Variations in Olden Style
* Koetsier-Concertino
* Madsen-Sonata
* Schumann-Adagio & Allegro

Roger Bobo's thoughts in producing a DVD masterclass:
"Throughout my student and professional days I have been inspired and motivated by watching many masterclasses (usually on television) presented by many of the great musicians of our time. It was many years ago that I first got the idea to try to create such a masterclass of my own but was always held back by thinking, "No, I’m not ready yet". The difficult fact is that I still feel that same "Not readiness". But having now completed 7 decades on this planet, it seemed prudent to proceed with the masterclass project, ready or not, and fortunately at this time a DVD seemed the perfect medium."

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