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Holiday of the Week: Tu-bad You’re Not a Tubist

By Christopher Wong, Chief Editor

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With bells towering above the rest of the band, sousaphonists David Nguyen, 11 (left), and Hunter Jess, 10 (right), march forth to bring spirit to the school and remind students of the day’s home football game on Friday, September 23, 2016. After completing two laps around the quad, Kennedy band members played selections from their fall marching show, PRIDE, which featured music from Disney’s The Lion King. Photo by Alex Ng.

Today, Friday, May 5th, is a day to celebrate the lowest brass instrument in the JFK Marching Band, the tuba. Today is International Tuba Day.

International Tuba Day was founded in 1979 by Joel Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after he found his fellow band members gave him less respect for his instrument, according to the holiday’s website, tubaday.com.

Tubas produce the lowest-pitched sound in the brass family. They are also the largest brass instrument, weighing roughly 20 pounds. Sousaphones are a type of tuba that is placed around the body and on the shoulder of a sousaphonist, with a large bell to emit sound at the top.

“Unfortunately, many non-tuba players think of the tuba as just being one of those big, loud instruments that go “oompah” in the back of parades – having no real importance and being easy to play – they’re just there to look nice. As for tuba players, many people view them in the old stereotyped way: they have no real musical talent, no personality, just big, fat bodies with puffy cheeks and powerful lungs,” International Tuba Day’s website explains.

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A stereotypical tubist, as depicted by Disney’s animated film Frozen.

However, tubas are more than just one of the easiest band instruments to make a pun out of, like “Tu-bad,” or “Tuba toothpaste.” Tubas complete the sound of the band through the bass parts. Tubas place the weight of the world on determined tubists’ shoulders.

One of the low brass section leaders at Kennedy, Chan Henry, a senior, agrees. Amidst the noise one would expect near the band room, Henry confirmed the struggles a 20 pound instrument carries with it, “At first it’s so much weight, especially sousaphones.” However, after learning how to hold the instrument, her music teacher at Sam Brannan middle school helped Henry achieve her skill on tuba. That teacher is none other than Jeremy Hammond, who now teaches at both Sam Brannan and Kennedy.

Hammond pushed Henry to play the heavy brass instrument. Henry recalled, “Originally I didn’t [choose tuba]. I wanted to play alto sax, but we didn’t have enough tuba players, so I ended up being a tuba player.”

Now, however, she is thankful for the push, “There’s not that many girl tubas that I know. There’s always guys, and being one of the first tuba girls here was pretty cool.”

She urges others to take on the task of playing tuba, “There’s not enough of us, and no one wants to play because it looks so heavy, or it looks like so much work, but it’s actually really fun … Give it a try. It’s not that bad. We’re all fun here.”

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