21 Chapters
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18 On Being a Teacher

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

On Being a Teacher

BECOMING A TEACHER of music is a calling equal to that of religion. Teaching personifies a devout life of selfless giving and sharing all that you have with others. Instrumental teaching is like being a parent, a lifetime commitment concerned with every aspect of life. It demands that you continually seek to add to your knowledge and experience so that you have more to give and share. We who teach one-on-one hope our offspring will be good musical citizens, sharing their gifts of talent and achievement with the world in future generations.

Let me quote Phil Woods, friend and colleague of fifty-four years, and in my opinion the greatest jazz alto saxophonist of his generation. In a major magazine interview about the teachers of great jazz players, Phil related the experiences he had with his first teacher, Harvey LaRose of Springfield, Massachusetts. Phil spoke of the profound influence this teacher had on everything he had accomplished professionally. The publishers notified Phil that his interview would not be published because no one connected with their publication had ever heard of Harvey LaRose. Didn’t Phil study with a famous saxophone player or teacher known to their readership? Phil’s response was perfect, and shared by many: “The unsung heroes of our music profession are often the local teachers who help us discover ourselves through their concern and toil. It was Mr. Harvey LaRose who turned me on to Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, and Charlie Parker (!) plus he taught me the American songbook and gave me advanced improvisation lessons when I was thirteen years old!”

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8 A New York Professional

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER EIGHT

A New York Professional

AFTER MY DISCHARGE from the Army, Carol and I took an apartment at 42-25 80th Street in Elmhurst, Long Island, one block away from Elmhurst Hospital. A lot of musicians had apartments in that big building. The owner and manager of the building was very musician-friendly. If someone came to complain about musicians practicing at all hours of the night, he’d tell them to move. He said, “I’ve never been stiffed by a musician.”

New York musicians often said, “If you want to learn the art of music, go to Juilliard. If you want to learn the profession and business of music, go to the Manhattan School of Music.” I had the good fortune to attend both schools, but my motivation for enrolling in the Manhattan School of Music was so I could leave the Army in time for the start of the 1956–1957 concert season, which began in mid-September. After completing four years of music studies at Juilliard, I didn’t feel like I was in dire need of academia. By the time I returned to New York, I had more than twenty gigs booked already, including the rodeo, ice show, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Brass Quintet.

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6 Carol

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER SIX

Carol

THROUGH MUCH of the summer of 1952, I performed as a replacement for Mr. Bell with the Asbury Park Municipal Band, conducted by Frank Bryan. The proud traditions established in the 1930s by conductors and legendary co-founders Arthur Pryor (trombone) and Simone Mantia (euphonium) were carried on. My teacher, William J. Bell, was a close friend of both Pryor and Mantia and loved playing with the band. Bill Bryan (the conductor’s brother and band manager) had no trouble recruiting top freelance musicians from New York City.

The concerts were always challenging. Rehearsals were not in the budget, so good sight-readers were always in demand. Like most band programming, each concert started with a spirited march to get the adrenaline flowing. Also featured were major orchestral works transcribed especially for band. Other featured numbers could be Broadway medleys (Victor Herbert, George M. Cohan, Richard Rodgers, etc.) and descriptive medleys (Battle of Little Big Horn, circus music, waltzes, galops, trombone smears, characteristic pieces, etc.). Circus music had an excitement and flavor all its own. And there was always a soloist, usually a cornet player like Armando Ghitalla, but sometimes there would be a trombone, euphonium, or occasionally tuba, when William Bell was so inclined! Whatever the musical menu, programs of one-and-a-half hours were always well received by loyal and enthusiastic audiences.

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17 Renaissance of the Tuba: A Summary

Harvey Phillips Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Renaissance of the Tuba: A Summary

IN DISCUSSIONS WITH FRIENDS and associates, I would occasionally hear, “Harvey, you take the tuba too seriously.” When appropriate, my response was, “The tuba is my vocation and my avocation; it houses, clothes, and feeds my family. Don’t you think I should take it seriously? If everyone took their profession more seriously, their life with their families and friends would be more fulfilling.” I’m just as serious about what I do, about my instrument, as my two sons, who are surgeons, are about their scalpels! We try to work with the same precision, the same artistic concern for the patient, for those who will listen to us, and hopefully learn to admire what we do. As Bruce Duffie, a Chicago radio personality, said, “The surgeon works on the physical body; the musician works on the immortal soul!”

As I look back on my life as a dedicated tuba player and musician, my proudest achievement is the role I have played in helping to elevate the quality and abundance of tuba repertoire in all music disciplines and styles. I have prompted many composers to be aware of the tuba as a principal instrument in the symphony orchestra, to recognize its potential in brass quintet and other chamber music combinations, to include it in their compositions, orchestrations, and arrangements, and to be familiar with the world’s great tubists, gain their acquaintance, and know their individual qualities and special sphere of activities.

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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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