Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble celebrates 40 years at Nov. 5 show

Forget the Chinese zodiac that hails 2006 as the year of the dog — at Tennessee Tech University, it’s the Year of the Tuba!

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the acclaimed Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble marks the milestone with a blowout celebration that kicks off on campus at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Wattenbarger Auditorium of the Bryan Fine Arts Building.

The show will include world premieres of major commissioned works by nine renowned contemporary composers, a performance by an all-star alumni tuba ensemble and the “Tubas of Mass Destruction” finale that will bring around 100 tubas and euphoniums to the stage at one time.

“More than 200 former members of the TTTE — essentially, any of these people who can still hold a horn — have been invited back to campus to participate in the 40th anniversary reunion celebration,” said founder and director R. Winston Morris.

“After we blow the roof off the Bryan Fine Arts Building, we’re taking the TTTE and the all-star alumni ensemble performance on the road,” he said.

Additional shows are scheduled for Roosevelt University in Chicago, the U.S. Army Band Tuba Conference in Washington, D.C., Southern Division Music Educators National Conference in Charleston, S.C., and an unprecedented seventh appearance at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall.

As well as being the only tuba ensemble to perform multiple shows at the famous venue, the TTTE has also been responsible for the creation of hundreds of new compositions throughout its history, Morris said.

Among the composers who wrote pieces commissioned in celebration of the student ensemble’s 40th anniversary are David Baker, John Cheetham, TTU’s own Gregory Danner, Martin Ellerby, Eric Ewazen, TTU graduate Aldo Rafael Forte, Adam Gorb, Tony Plog and Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winner Gunther Schuller.

Other pieces that will be featured in the 40th anniversary celebration include Gene Steinquest’s “Fanfare and Fugetta.”

“This was the first original piece composed specifically for the Tennessee Tech tuba ensemble, and we’re reviving it for this show,” Morris said. “It was composed in the spring of 1968 by TTU’s then marching band director and woodwinds professor.”

Another piece being revived for the show is Morris’s own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s famous “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” which the TTTE performed at its first Carnegie Hall appearance on March 13, 1976.

Founded by Morris in the fall of 1967, the student ensemble has toured extensively throughout the eastern United States and is the most recorded group of its kind in the world.

It has been included on the Grammy Entry List for its various 19 studio recordings, and it’s the only music group in the state to receive the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Academic Excellence and Quality Award.

The group’s 20th compact disc recording will consist of the members of the all-star alumni ensemble performing the nine pieces commissioned for the 40th anniversary celebration.

“The tuba ensemble’s greatest legacy, though, is nurturing dozens of professional music teachers and tuba and euphonium performers who are active throughout the world, as well as nurturing many other members who’ve pursued and excelled in other professions,” Morris said.

Performances for the TTTE’s annual Octubafest celebration are set for Nov. 6-9, following the 40th anniversary performance on Nov. 5.

For a complete schedule of activities, visit the TTU tuba web site at http://orgs.tntech.edu/tuba/index.html or call Morris at 931/372-3168.

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