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An Interview with Tubist, Andrew Hitz (part 4)

My Interview with Tubist, Andrew Hitz from May 27, 2011 (continued).

Me: What do you like best about being a tuba player specifically?

Andrew: I definitely like being the foundation.  I like being the bass line in a Dixie band.  In a band, the tubas control the intonation, for better or for worse.  I don’t care how good your lead trumpet player is, if your tubas are going to start at A440 and end every hour long rehearsal at 445, talk to me about how good your trumpet player sounds.  You control a lot.  I like that we’re the ones you hear in the trenches.  I’m not too sure about the war analogy.  Like the offensive lineman on a football team.  Tom Brady, who I jokingly refer to as my boyfriend to my wife because I’m such a huge fan of his as my quarterback and the best ever.  If his offensive line isn’t blocking, it’s kinda like the first three and a half quarters of the Superbowl against the Giants. It doesn’t matter how good he is.  The same is true. The foundation is what you build a house on and that’s what the tuba provides.

Me: What experiences prepared you for your current career?

Andrew: A number of things prepared me for my current career.  One thing was that Rex Martin was very hard on me about sight reading.  Very hard on me about sight reading. I was always a gifted sight reader.  He asked me when I first got to Northwestern, some time in my first quarter as a Freshman, how I was at sight reading.  I said, “I’m pretty good.”  He asked, “Are you pretty good, or ‘really’ good?” He seemed to be looking for an honest answer, so I said, “I’m really good.”  Then he said “OK” and he put up the “14 Characteristic Studiesor something like that which is lighting fast.  He’s like, “Let’s play this together.”  He absolutely just nailed it out of the park. I was able to stay with him and I was able to keep reloading and come back on in each down beat, I didn’t get lost or anything like that.  He just looked at me and said, “Alright, we’ve got some work to do.”  I think that he seemed like he was impressed but he didn’t let on to that but was really hammering home how important it is to sight read.
Sam (Pilafian) gave me a CD of the New York Trumpet ensemble.  An album called Trumpets in Stride [Personnel: Marvin Stamm (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn); Chris Gekker, Mark Gould (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, cornet); Tom Bontrager (trumpet, piccolo trumpet); David Bilger (trumpet); Mark Shane (tuba, piano); Sam Pilafian (tuba).]  He gave me that in 1991. Track 10 was Buddy Bolden’s blues.  Sam gave it to me and said “learn the beginning of this”.  It was a tuba solo with minimal piano comping in the background.  It’s got all sorts of bends and half valves and and all sorts of stuff.  He didn’t tell me about any of that or how to do any of that, he just told me to figure out how to make that happen.  I actually just played it at a Master class in Springfield, Ill.  I can still play that solo, which I’ve never seen written down, note for note, bend for bend and that was 20 years ago this Summer.  He just made me figure out how to do it.
I was at the Empire Brass seminar as a kid.  Which made me talk in front of audiences, which made me learn how to bow.  Which made me learn a new program over and over again.  Learning the business of performing chamber music.  That was great getting comments from the Atlantic Brass and the Empire Brass.
I listened to a ton of music growing up as a kid.  In high school, I listened to tons of Mahler, I listened to tons of Led Zepplin.  I saw lots of even non-classical live music growing up.  The bands I saw live, even before I saw Phish for the first time when I was a freshman in college which completely changed my life and my career.  I saw Aerosmith a couple of times, Van Halen a couple of times. AC/DC, Metallical, Faith No More, Living Colour, Soundgarden, Helmet.  The list just goes on and on.  Really great, very edgy rock and roll bands who play with a lot of energy.  I also got to see Wynton Marsalis and Ramsey Lewis.  I got to see a lot of great jazz musicians.
Me: What changes have you seen as a tuba player over the course of your career?

Andrew: One thing for sure that I’ve noticed as a trend, as has been the case throughout time, is that younger players keep getting better and better.  What Carol Jantsch is able to do on the tuba in her early 20′s is stunning.  Then I’ll bet you there will be somebody in 20 years from now that will be able to do something that she wasn’t able to do at that age, not that they’ll be better, but the bar is constantly being raised.  I think the tuba is getting accepted as more of a main stream instrument because it’s so much easier to make recordings and make CD’s. It’s easier to distribute any music now than it ever was. It’s easier to get tuba music out.  You go and hear a Beethoven symphony and there’s no tuba in it, so you don’t hear any tuba.  With YouTube and being able to self produce your own recordings, and the middle man being taken out of a lot of that process, there’s more tuba exposure then there ever used to be.

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