Wittenberg’s Music Department welcomed a unique performer to Krieg Recital Hall last week: Tim Northcut, a professional solo tuba player and currently the tuba and euphonium instructor at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).
The tuba has always held a supporting role in the music world. Whether it’s in an orchestra, marching band or the Veggie Tales theme song, the tuba is in the background, its constant beat providing a vital foundation that the other instruments can build off.
But who’s heard of a solo tuba? A violin or piano piece is more common, but there are almost no pieces just for tuba. When there are, they’re given goofy names like “Effie Goes to the Carnival” or “The Jolly Dutchman,” much less serious than “Concerto in F major for solo violin.”
Northcut, or ‘TimMer’ as he likes to be called for no known reason, was an old instructor of Andrew Jones, the current tuba teacher at Wittenberg, who invited Northcut to the school for a tuba recital and subsequent masterclass, a two-day event he playfully called “Octubafest”.
Northcut displayed his significant skill as a solo tubist at the tuba recital on October 24, playing a series of different styles of tuba pieces. The first piece he played was originally written for flute and piano which he transcribed into a tuba and harpsichord piece, which sounds bizarre, but was effectively entertaining. There was also a tuba and electronics piece written for him by a student at CCM that resembled an epic film score.
At the master class on October 25, Northcut listened to tuba students play a piece and then critiqued their technique. While most of the students were tuba players here at Witt, the first student to perform was a junior in high school, and after listening to her performance, Northcut asked for a chalkboard to be brought in so he could write on it.
“When we play other instruments’ music, we need to learn as much as we can about what it was composed for, about the composer,” Northcut emphasized to the small audience at the master class, “it’s so important, especially while you’re a student, to do your homework and do your research.”
“Octubafest” hopes to make another appearance next year to expose students to unusual styles of solo performance on instruments that are often left in the background.