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An Interview with Tubist, Andrew Hitz (part 1)

An Interview with Tubist, Andrew Hitz.

I recently had the privilege of  interviewing Andrew Hitz.  Mr. Hitz is the tuba player for the Boston Brass and teaches at George Mason University and Gettysburg College.  As an Educational Ambassador for Jupiter Band Instruments, Andrew has conducted master classes in such places as Thailand, China, Germany, and England.  Andrew authors the blog “Andrew’s Hitz“.  Andrew spent the day at my husband’s high school teaching a Musicianship Lecture and performing a concert that evening.  Andrew is an exceptionally talented musician, full of energy and an advocate for music education.  I am extremely thankful to Andrew for sharing his time, talent and knowledge with us.  I learned a great deal from spending the day with him, and I would like to share his interview.  You can keep up with Andrew on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Me: I saw from your blog that your Dad played sousaphone, tell me about growing up in a musical family.

Andrew: By the time that I was a kid my Dad had not played in a really long time.  He stopped playing when he was in high school.  He was the president in his band in Florida, which was an elected position by the kids.  He was president as a sophomore.  He was very talented.  He stopped playing when he went to college to be an Electrical Engineer at the University of Florida.  When I started playing tuba was when he got back into music.  He played the sousaphone, trumpet, baritone and a lot of different instruments.  He started playing again once I got into it.  It was really great because he was able to play some duets with me.  He listened to a ton of classical music when I was growing up. He had a huge CD collection, which at the time was not all that common.  My parents took me to a ton of Boston Symphony concerts.

Me: Who were your influences?

Andrew: Canadian Brass was a huge influence, so Chuck Daellenbach for sure. Empire brass.  I heard Canadian brass first and was really, really impressed with them, but when I heard Empire brass I freaked out.  That was everything for me.  Chester Schmitz of Boston Symphony, who I heard play the tuba for the first time when I was 2 weeks old.  I grew up hearing him and he’s one of my favorite, if not my favorite orchestral tuba player ever.  I kinda thought it was normal.  I saw probably 200 Boston symphony concerts between my folks and studying at Tanglewood for 4 summers.  I heard him play the tuba an awful lot.  Those are probably the three biggest ones growing up. Rex Martin as soon as I got to Northwestern.  I didn’t know much about Rex or Northwestern in particular.  Sam said I gotta go check out Northwestern. So I went.  The day before, I was at Oberlin and I had an audition with Ron Bishop, who was with Cleveland Orchestra at the time.  I really liked that and I really liked studying with him and I really liked Oberlin.  I was with my Dad on this trip. I called my mom, and said “Yeah I could definitely see myself going here.   The next day I went to Northwestern and had a lesson with Rex Martin and called my mother after that and said “I AM going here”.  It was done. I remember I played one or two things for Rex, then Rex kinda nervously asked “how are your grades?”  I said, “Basically A’s and B’s.” and Rex pumped his fist.  At Northwestern, it doesn’t matter who you are, if your grades aren’t good enough they won’t let you in.

Me: Who were your teachers?

Andrew: I think I would list all of these people as influences for the previous question as well.  My first teacher was my elementary and middle school band director, Bob Mealey.  He was a trumpet player and he was the guy that gave me a group lesson and convinced me that I needed to be studying on my own.  He was very gracious and by the time I was done with 6th grade, he told my parents that he could still teach me and he would love to, but that as a trumpet player he really felt like I needed to be studying with a low brass player because he taught me most of what he knew.  He handed me off back before there was so much litigation so a band director could actually charge his own students for private lessons and it was completely legitimate. He was giving up money out of his own pocket to hand me off.  Then there was Peter Cirelli who was the jazz band teacher at the high school and he was a trombone player.  I studied with him for a year and he told me and my parents, that I needed to be studying with a tuba player.  Then I started studying with Bob Searle who was a former Sam student at BU.  He was an amazing player and teacher who actually doesn’t play any more.  He came very highly recommended by Peter and everybody else around.  A year after, that he moved and got me in touch with Gary Ofenloch who was the tuba player for that year, Chester Schmitz was on sabatical from the Boston Symphony.  I studied with Gary, who has been the tuba player for the Utah symphony for 25 years now, and he’s also been the principal tuba player for the Pops.  I studied with him for my Freshman year and then with Julian Dixon, who teaches at Sacramento State, for the last three years of High school, as well as studying with Sam Pilafian at Tanglewood each Summer of high school.  Then Rex Martin for my undergrad and then Sam Pilafian for my Masters.

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