Tag Archives: tuba

Tuba Christmas

If you’ve ever attended TubaChristmas, I’m convinced you’ll get a higher place in heaven. But not if you only go to the ones staged in Phoenix or Honolulu, or worse yet, indoors. Those are fun in their own way, but they won’t give you any kind of tuba cred.

TubaChristmas is an event best served cold. Very cold. Like it was yesterday in Denver. An outdoor concert in 7° ”” yes, that’s seven freakin degrees. Standing in snow. In the middle of the day. In the sunshine.

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of living in America’s icebox, that’s like filling your Jacuzzi with ice and jumping in. For two hours. That’s like sunbathing on an ice floe all afternoon. That’s like being buried alive in a vat of Ben & Jerry’s that you can’t even eat because your lips don’t work.

Here’s me with my lips not working.


Here’s part of the raucous holiday audience, full of good TubaCheer.


TubaChristmas was conceived in 1974 as a tribute to the late artist and teacher William J. Bell, born on Christmas Day, 1902. The first TubaChristmas was held in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Sunday, December 22, 1974.

Traditional Christmas music performed at the first TubaChristmas was arranged by American composer Alec Wilder who ironically died on Christmas Eve, 1980. Wilder was a loyal supporter of every effort to improve the literature and public image of tubas and euphoniums and composed many solo and ensemble pieces for them. Tuba players love TubaChristmas because it’s the only time they ever get to play the melody. Ever.

Yesterday’s performance in Denver had about 150 hardy souls playing tubas, euphoniums, baritones and sousaphones. The youngest performer was 8


and the oldest was 88.


The guy behind him in the green got my vote for best costume ”” red pants, a green velvet Revolutionary war jacket and matching Santa hat.

If the weather would have been about twenty degrees warmer ”” up to a balmy 30° ”” at least 100 more performers would have been there. Probably more. Tuba players don’t get much opportunity to perform, singly or in tuba ensembles, so it takes a lot to keep them away.

They come from everywhere ””schools, colleges, the community ”” for a two-hour rehearsal and then the concert.

I was fairly certain neither my camera nor my hands would work too well to videotape outside, so I shot a bit of the warm indoor rehearsal. As it turned out, tubas don’t work so well in cold temps either. Their valves freeze. At any given time during the concert, half the performers were in the neighboring coffee shops and businesses trying to thaw their instruments. They’d come back, and others would take their places to thaw in the indoor warmth. Out of 17 songs on the program, my sons played about four. My oldest told me that after one thaw, he was only out for a few seconds before he froze again. He also said it was the best TubaChristmas he’d ever been to. Tuba players are a resilient lot, and if they were frozen, they’d sing their parts. It is a group effort, after all.


So, here, for your holiday entertainment, melodious tubas in full force during rehearsal with completely warm instruments.

If you want to experience TubaChristmas for yourself, find one close to you, this year or next. They hold them every year and, in Denver at least, they never cancel because of weather. So bundle up and bring a thermos of something warm. Maybe TubaNog. Or Flaming TubaPunch.

Merry TubaChristmas!

Have you ever watched or performed TubaChristmas?

2008 Marching Band Competition

Here it is … what you’ve all been waiting for … cyber drum roll, please ….

The Chaparral High School Marching Band is officially the 9th best band in Colorado!

Their final score was 73.25, only 0.6 points behind eighth place. The also took home a plaque for the most improved band. That award is given to the band that increases their score the most from last year’s state competition.

I am exceedingly proud of all of them … especially my fabulous tuba-playing son. If you’re paying attention ”” and, really, why wouldn’t you be? ”” you’ll see a close-up of him doing a happy, shiny tuba flip. It comes right after my extremely bad camera work. In my defense, I hardly ever use the video camera anymore so I couldn’t keep the camera from jiggling, find my son, AND remember where the zoom was. So sue me.

They work so hard ”” sweltering through summer band camp on the hot asphalt of the student parking lot where they rehearse … trying to convince non-band students to move their cars off the 50-yard line so they can practice after school … marching in every kind of weather … late nights, early mornings ”” all for a ten-minute production.

In the summertime when the band was rehearsing, the football players came over and marveled at how much harder the band kids work than football players work. If you ever want to get a band kid all blustery and righteous, point out that football players get PE credit just for being on the team, but band students don’t. Then stand back!

I’ll apologize in advance for the woo-hooing in your ear in the video. I tried to control myself, but, alas, could not. But it’s not just me. The whole crowd does the same thing. And just so you know, videotape does NOT do this band justice. When they play to the backfield then turn and blast that wall of sound right at you … well, it’s pretty darn close to a religious experience. Definitely not an exaggeration to say it can give you a full-body shimmy.

Enjoy ….


Did it give you a full-body shimmy? Goosebumps? Lump in your throat? Do you love the marching band with every fiber of your being?!

More Band High Jinx

I heard another great marching band story.

They had a late band rehearsal one night and an early call the next morning for a competition. One boy, let’s call him Squiggy, lived far from the high school and couldn’t get a ride home.

As a parent, this part of the story made me cock my head, furrow my brow, AND go all squinty-eyed. But I’ve been assured it’s true.

So Squiggy couldn’t get home and even if he did, he’d just have to turn around and get back to school for their early call. Being a resourceful kid, he asked one of his friends to lock him in a tuba locker and then let him out the next morning.

I’d like to interject here that I’m not quite sure why Squiggy felt the need to get locked in. Nor can anyone explain it to me. But It reminds me of Gary Larson getting complaints about the flies in his Far Side cartoons. People would complain, “Flies wouldn’t say that!” totally forgetting that flies don’t talk. In that same way, getting LOCKED in a tuba locker seems over the top. Spending the night, sure. Perfectly logical.

At any rate, all went as planned at Tuba Motel and it’s still a widely-known secret to this day.

I’m sure there are a zillion things band directors are happy not to know, and yet, how can you not be curious about these kinds of escapades?

Our previous band director instigated “Senior Confessions” which were always held on the last band trip of the season. He’d gather all the seniors and they’d each confess one thing for which they’d be given amnesty. They ranged from the small ”” “I thought I was a lesbian until the 9th grade band trip” ”” to the large ”” “I never learned the fight song.”

Lest you think I made a mistake in that last sentence, I was told at least 463 times that there’s nothing worse than not learning the fight song in four years. (Well, almost nothing. I have another band story to be told at a later date.)

I don’t make this stuff up! But it’s why I like hanging out with band kids … they have particularly entertaining stories.

Senior Confessions is a great way for a director to keep his finger on the pulse of the band students, but I’m fairly certain Tuba Locker Motel never came up.

Tell me more Band Confessions. I grant you amnesty too!

PS – If you like the marching band posts ”” and how could you not ”” I always give them their own category so you can find them easily. See up at the top, right under the title where it says “filed under Becky’s marching band”? If you click that, you should be able to see all my marching band posts. If you click on “filed under marching band,” you’ll find other blogs about marching band. I still need to explore more, but so far, the majority of them are not that interesting ”” mostly set up by directors to communicate with their band. As soon as I find one that rocks, I’ll let you know. And if you find one, let ME know!

Cat Bauer Interview

Cat Bauer is the author of

HARLEY LIKE A PERSON, reviewed here, and HARLEY’S NINTH, just out. You might wonder why I didn’t review the new book, like a normal person would. But then you’d remember that I’m really not a normal person.

• Cat Bauer lives in Venice, one of the most interesting cities in the world and ”” crazy as it sounds ”” doesn’t own a camera.

I don’t have a camera!

• How can you live in Venice and not have a camera?!

I really don’t have a camera.

• Sigh.

• How did you get started writing?

I was born that way.

• Which is harder for you … writing a first draft of a novel or cooking Thanksgiving dinner?

It is nearly impossible to write a novel. Thanksgiving is all about gravy.

• Which of your characters is most like you?

The one in the drawer.

• Have you based a character on someone who would be horrified to know it’s them?

Oh, I think they know 🙂

• What is the third best salad dressing?

Um… I am out of the salad dressing loop. Olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are what we use here in Venice. And It Is Good.

• Just like the Presidential candidates … won’t answer a simple question! Not what’s “good,” Cat … but what’s third best? Just like, “who is the third best rock band of all time?” Obviously, in first place is the Beatles, then CSNY, but third is up for grabs …. could be Queen, could be Elton, could be practically ANYONE!

I really don’t know anything about salad dressings. I am not being a Presidential candidate. It is not a simple question if you only use oil and vinegar! I SERIOUSLY DO NOT KNOW ABOUT SALAD DRESSING. OKAY??????????

• Okay. Fine.

• Which is your favorite part of the writing process?

Grooving in the Zone.

• Least favorite?

Formatting properly.

• Who is your favorite author?

William Shakespeare

•What do you do for fun?

As much as I can.

• What is your writing process like? Do you sit at your desk for a certain amount of time every day or do you write until you get to a particular word count? Where do you write? Longhand or computer? Lucky talisman?

All of the above. Most of all, I like deadlines. They make me move. I like just the sound of it: Dead. Line.

• Were you in marching band? What’s your favorite band memory?

Yes, I was in the marching band. All photos have been burned. My favorite band memory was running off with a fireman during the Firemen’s Parade.

• Ooh la la! Did you get caught?

Yes, I got caught, and was thrown out of marching band, but then reinstated, only to get thrown out again for going to a Moody Blues concert instead of performing on stage (I was first clarinet).

• Hey! Moody Blues! Possibly in contention for third best band … see how this interview is working out? Must be good karma hovering around us.

• Is there a law that all firemen must be dreamy?!

Yes, there is a law that All Firemen Must Be Dreamy.

• What books are on your To Be Read pile right now?

Ulysses by James Joyce. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The Harmony of the Spheres by Joscelyn Godwin. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung.

• Wait. Are you just saying that or are you REALLY smart?! I ask because, although I consider myself a fairly learned member of society, right now on my nightstand I have a library book I’ve renewed 8 times without even cracking the cover, two romance novels written by pals, “Wobbly Bits and Other Euphemisms,” yet another dictionary of euphemisms, a Nancy Drew book … and four more that are just too embarrassing to mention.

I am really, REALLY smart.

• Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla for ice cream. Chocolate for… chocolate.

• What is your favorite line from a book?

“You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

• What is the first book you remember reading?

At age four, “Stop That Ball” by Mike McClintock. I can still quote it: “I hit my ball, I made it fly, I hit my ball as it went by. It went around and then came back, I gave my ball another whack. I hit it high, I hit it low, I hit so hard, the string let go. The string let go, there went my ball, away up high, out past the wall.” Maybe I got a few words wrong there at the end, but you can imagine what happens next. I believe the ball was red, and there was a tuba involved.

• Would you agree that all great literature should involve a red ball, a boy and a tuba?

Yes. I totally agree. You may quote me: “All great literature should include a red ball, a boy and a tuba.”

• Which five people ”” living or dead ”” would you like to go to dinner with and why?

1. Cleopatra
2. Mary Magdalene
3. Isis
4. Marc Antony
5. Giacomo Casanova

All at the same table — I think the dynamics would be fascinating.

• What would you talk about? What would you eat?

We would talk about sex and eat wild boar.

• What is the most interesting thing about your childhood?

I was hit by ball lightning while lying in my cradle.

• Tell us more!

I don’t know any more.

• Arrgh. Karma? Hello?!

• What is the best question you’ve ever been asked?

“Will you marry me?”

• What is your Six Word Memoir?

Fallen angel. Have halo. Need wings.

• Mountain or beach?

On a beach by a mountain.

• Aah, a woman who wants it all!


• Tell us about any new books or projects you have coming up.

Venetian Cat – Venice Blog is my ongoing project.

Prowl around Cat’s website and blog … lots of interesting stuff. AND a delicious photo of George Clooney.

Thanks, Cat, for spending time in BeckyLand with us.

If you have any other questions for Cat … just leave a comment and I’m sure we can get her to answer!

American Band

I was never in marching band.

When I was a kid, I took the obligatory piano lessons from the scary neighbor lady. I wasn’t very inspired (or talented) and took every opportunity not to play the piano. My father played the piano, including a rollicking good Bumblebee Boogie, and we listened to all kinds of music when I was growing up. In fact, I have an uncommonly clear memory of coming home from school to see my oldest siblings and my parents listening to the just released “Tommy” album by The Who. But as I write that, I’m wondering if it only happened in fuzzy BeckyLand because my parents were never there when I came home from school. They had to work to provide allowances to be frittered away on rock opera albums. Come to think of it, I don’t really recall attending school. Or having siblings. Or allowances. Other than that, it is a crystal clear memory.

Imagine my surprise when all three of my kids picked up instruments and played most of them fairly well. (I can confirm this is a Real Memory because I live in the house where they practice.) Between them they play: piano, violin, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, upright bass, trumpet, guitar, recorder, kazoo, pan flute and that thing shaped like the horn of some extinct animal like in the Ricola commercials.

The one nearest and dearest to us is the tuba. Both boys march(ed) tuba in their high school band and because of their fantastic experiences, I became interested enough to use the marching band as the setting for my current young adult novel.

Even though I knew a LOT about the Wonderful World of Band as a Band Mom (much like a pit bull hockey mom, but without all the creepy lipstick), I still wanted to do some research to get other perspectives.

But guess what? There aren’t that many books about the high school band experience. I KNOW! But I found a really terrific one …. AMERICAN BAND – Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland by Kristen Laine.

It’s a non-fiction chronicle of the lives of a group of kids in an Indiana marching band. Stefan Fatsis says, “It’s much more than the story of a season in the life of the most fanatical practitioners of this uniquely American ritual. Kristen Laine has produced a captivating portrait of what it’s like to be a teenager in middle America in the first part of the twenty-first century.”

I found it riveting. I was sucked into the lives of these kids and I cried at the end. (I know, I know. I cried at the end of Shoot The Moon too. So sue me. At least this time I wasn’t a public spectacle.)

It provided excellent research, but it left me craving more. Laine listed some titles in the back of her book, most of which I can’t find. Do you know of any books about high school marching band? College marching band? Drum and bugle corps? Novels or non-fiction ”” I’d love to read more.