Tuba Bach Quartet to engage community in outreach events

BIG RAPIDS – With the second concert in the Tuba Bach Chamber Music Festival approaching, the Tuba Bach Quartet is preparing to return to Big Rapids. Before its performance on Sunday, the quartet will spend time performing in outreach concerts at two area retirement homes and also will lead a workshop open to interested tuba and euphonium players on Saturday.

“It’s nice to have a chance to be closer and intimate with the audience,” said festival founder Ed Mallett. “Like our two performances on Friday, which are in fairly small rooms, the quartet will be right next to the audience. They’ll be able to ask questions. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

The Tuba Bach Quartet is comprised of Mallett, on euphonium, Gail Robertson, on euphonium, Charles Guy, on tuba and Phil Sinder, on tuba. It has become a tradition for the quartet to give extra concerts and workshops as a part of the festival. This week, in anticipation of its performance on Sunday, the group will give two concerts on Friday, Sept. 19, and oversee a low brass clinic on Saturday, Sept. 20.

The performances Friday take place at 10:30 a.m. at Evergreen Terrace Assisted Living in Big Rapids and at 2 p.m. at Royal View Retirement Community in Mecosta. The workshop is slated to take place from10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at Big Rapids High School. All three events are open to the public.

“Anytime anyone hears live music, it can cause that person to bring up a memory of a past performance they’ve attended,” said Sinder, professor of tuba and euphonium at Michigan State Universityr. “And if it’s a really good memory, that's a great enthusiasm-builder for our audience. We enjoy bringing that to the retirement homes.”

In the past, the quartet has played at several schools in the area, including Reed City High School, Reed City Middle School, Crossroads Charter schools and at Pocket Park.

While people are encouraged to call ahead to attend the workshop on Saturday, the clinic also will accept walk-ins. The workshop will attract players from all over the area and across West Michigan, such as Spring Lake.

“We’ll have anywhere from four to 40 students there,” Mallett said. “We’ll have a good mix of tuba and euphonium students, from high school-age to college students. Hopefully we’ll have some adults attend as well.”

During the workshop, all four members of the quartet will work with players in a Master Class-type setting, working on tone, technique and efficient warm-ups and practice behaviors.

“We’re really trying to work hands-on with students in these districts,” Sinder said. “Not many students in this area have experienced what a professional tuba and euphonium sounds like up close. We get to sit side-by-side with the students and go over things like technique, their range. Every detail becomes magnified with such close proximity.”

Sinder said he still values the early instruction he had on his instrument – something he hopes resonates with Saturday’s attendees.

“I’ve been playing the tuba for 40 years and I still remember the experience of first being in an educational setting while learning the tuba,” Sinder said. “It was really stimulating.”

Mallett hopes the workshop will draw female players as well.

“With Gail coming this week and Deanna (Swoboda) coming at the end of the concert series – they’re both very active in the tuba and euphonium world internationally,” Mallett said.  “It's a nice chance for the community to see some women onstage with the tuba. Hopefully we’re getting to a point where we’re getting past the stereotype of big guys who play the tuba. We hope to encourage girls at the workshopon Saturday to pursue the tuba if that is the instrument they want to play. I’m looking forward to that.”

Mallett is excited to once again bring the quartet to the community.

“All three of the other folks in the quartet have amazing international and professional careers as solo artists and in major symphonies across the country,” Mallett said. “To be able to share that with the students and do some master class-type work will be great. The students get to play alongside the quartet and the quartet gets to play alongside the students. It’s fun for all of us.”

For more information, visit tubabach.org.