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12 The Search for TubaRanch

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER TWELVE

The Search for TubaRanch

BILL BELL, WHO WAS SCHEDULED for the two-week Cumberland Music Camp in 1971, took ill before the camp started. His sister came and took him to Perry, Iowa, where she lived. I stepped in. My responsibilities to the camp were finished on a Friday evening. I had made arrangements by telephone for Carol, the boys, and me to meet with a realtor to show us possibilities for a home in Bloomington, but the more we thought about it the more we wanted to make some excursions on our own without a realtor. I contacted the realtor in Bloomington to reschedule our appointment for a later time. I had decided we should get to know Bloomington before getting confused by realtor assistance.

We drove from the Cumberland Music Camp in Morehead, Kentucky, to Bloomington and, like tourists, got to know neighborhoods and located “for sale” signs. When we passed such a property we would try to talk to the neighbors or people living in the house about the price and availability of homes in the area. The only bad impression I got was when I approached a gentleman and asked if there was any farmland in the area for sale. He tersely answered me, “No, there’s nothing for sale, and if there was, you couldn’t afford it.” On the very next road, Snoddy Road, a gentleman had just taken his Sunday newspaper out of the box and waited patiently for me to pass by. I stopped and said hello and inquired again about farmland. The gentleman I later discovered was named Ervin Deckard and he was very friendly but he couldn’t think of any farms for sale. I thanked him for his conversation and started to pull away when he suddenly said, “Wait! Wait! There is one farm where I am renting pasture for cattle.” He told us where it was located, around a corner, less than a mile away.

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20 Coda

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER TWENTY

Coda

ALLOWING MYSELF to be put in positions for which I had not been prepared forced me to work an insane schedule when it came to balancing family time, personal time, and professional maintenance as a performer. By that, I simply mean if I had kept my initial priorities, I was first and foremost a player. By 1960–1965, I was at the crest of my playing. The years 1957–1967 had to be the high point of my career as a performer simply because that’s all I was doing. I was performing and teaching in my Carnegie Hall studio, accepting only the few students I chose to teach. At times, convenient to my schedule, I didn’t work—I played, words of double meaning for any musician.

I took on administrative positions for which I was not trained and so I had to “burn the candle at both ends” to learn the responsibilities which came as a trust from others I admired. Each leap—working for Gunther Schuller at the New England Conservatory, taking on the responsibilities of executive editor at The Instrumentalist—was like going into a war zone without a weapon. It’s one hell of a job to gain the respect that’s necessary to administer important tasks for which you’ve had no training. It is like an actor who has never played anything but cowboy roles suddenly finding himself playing Hamlet without ever having heard of William Shakespeare.

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5 Freelancing 101

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER FIVE

Freelancing 101

IT IS DIFFICULT to reconcile that, having had such limited exposure to music for seventeen years, at age twenty I was a Juilliard freshman studying tuba with the great William Bell. I was also a busy freelance musician in New York City, the Big Apple, having a ball! By listening attentively I came to appreciate the finer stylistic concerns of each musical situation I encountered. Everything I was called on to play as a freelance musician was judged by composers, conductors, and other musicians dedicated to authentic interpretations. I listened closely to their discussions as well as their performances. I learned to appreciate, understand, and enjoy why each particular style of music was considered so special. For freelance musicians, coping with all musical styles was essential if they wished to remain on the “call lists.”

Active tubists in New York when I arrived included Bill Barber, Karl Bedurke, William Bell, George Black, Don Butterfield, Philip Cadway, Al Corrado, Fred Exner, Fritz Geib, Doc Goldberg, Major Holley, Tex Hurst, Herb Jenkel, Harry London, Jay McAllister, Giovanni Manuti, Joe Novotny, Joe Park, Fred Pfaff, Bill Rose, Joe Tarto, Abe Torchinsky, Vincent Vanni, Giovanni Volpe, and Herb Wekselblatt.

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3 Traveling with the Greatest Show on Earth

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER THREE

Traveling with the Greatest Show on Earth

I WAS APPREHENSIVE, but I hoped I could be successful with bandmaster Merle Evans and his band. This was no small-town circus I would be joining—it was the Greatest Show on Earth!

Once again, I was “running away” with the circus, only this time there was no preacher’s visit to contend with. Mom and Dad, with Mr. and Mrs. Homer Lee, gave me a proper send-off from the Missouri Pacific Passenger Station in Aurora. I was excited and anxious to be making music again with professional musicians. We would have two weeks of rehearsals in Sarasota, Florida, three full days of travel between Sarasota and New York City, then another week of rehearsals in Madison Square Garden. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, the Greatest Show on Earth, was scheduled to open in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on April 7, 1948. Then on to Boston and the world!

I was met at the Sarasota train station by circus drummer Red Floyd. Red was truly a legend to drummers the world over and, as time would tell, one of the most unforgettable people I have ever known. Once I had my tuba and other luggage in Red’s Chrysler Town and Country station wagon, he said, “We’ll leave your tuba at the American Legion Hall where we rehearse tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock. Then we’ll pass by the trailer park and meet the other bass player, Reuben Clinton ‘Johnny’ Evans—no relation to Merle.” Red then said, “Johnny is a terrific bass player, one of the best ever. He has only one problem. He never gets along with other bass players, so be careful.” As Red finished this surprise bombshell, we arrived at Johnny’s trailer. I enjoyed meeting Johnny. He asked questions about my trip, my hometown, my folks, and my experience. He seemed to be satisfied with my answers and was quite pleasant. Johnny said, “I look forward to tomorrow’s rehearsal.” I agreed.

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4 Juilliard, Studying with William J. Bell

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER FOUR

Juilliard, Studying with William J. Bell

I ARRIVED IN NEW YORK CITY by train during Labor Day weekend 1950 and took a taxi to Mr. Bell’s uptown teaching studio. Tante Lena was still there, as was Eric Hauser, with whom I would share the back bedroom while attending Juilliard. It was a utilitarian apartment/studio. I took one good look at the back bedroom and immediately started considering plans for making it more comfortable.

The morning after I moved in, I spoke to Eric about doing some minor redecorating, at my expense, of course. Eric cordially allowed that I could do whatever I wanted to do, as the room had needed redecorating for too long. I went to Tante Lena about my proposal. As expected, she was delighted, especially when she heard I would paint the walls and install new linoleum and custom-made venetian blinds to replace the dirty old window shades. She was even more delighted when I paid two months’ rent in advance. I went right to work, scrubbing the walls and floor and measuring everything. Over the telephone I ordered the linoleum and the custom-made blinds, to be delivered in one week. I visited the local hardware store and bought paint, paintbrushes, spackle, putty, several grades of sandpaper, and the minimum tools I expected to need as a bona fide resident of Apartment 1-E. When visitors smelled fresh paint, they wanted to see the room. They were surprised to see burgundy walls and a white ceiling along with matching yellow-green venetian blinds and linoleum. OK, so it wasn’t stylish, but it had character to spare! I was finished with decorating our room.

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