Former student of world-renowned Tech tuba professor Winston Morris named his successor

Preston Light with his tuba.When Tennessee Tech University alumnus Preston Light of Kingsport returned to the university to teach in the School of Music, he found himself among familiar faces. Many of the professors who taught him while he was a student in the music education program are still around today, and this semester he has stepped into the shoes of his old mentor and tuba professor, Winston Morris.

“If you look at his reputation and what he has built here, it’s a little intimidating; I’m not going to lie,” laughed Light. “If you look at universities now, they pretty much all have a tuba ensemble, but the first tuba ensemble started here at Tech.”

In addition, Morris is regarded as the leading authority on the literature for the tuba, was one of the founding members of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association and is acknowledged worldwide as the major authority on the development of the tuba ensemble. He is also responsible for the R. Winston Morris Tuba Collection on campus, featuring more than 2,000 tuba-related items and artwork on the top floor of the University Center.

“Hiring somebody to ‘replace’ Winston Morris is a nearly impossible feat,” said Colin Hill, director of the School of Music. “Not only did Professor Morris teach at Tennessee Tech University for 55 years, but he built an internationally acclaimed tuba and euphonium program in Cookeville. His expertise and notoriety in the tuba world is unrivaled, and his high standards have created a culture of excellence within our School of Music for decades. All of that said, I can't think of a better and more deserving successor than Dr. Preston Light.”

Light was introduced to the tuba as a child through his cousin, who was a Tech music major at the time. When Light got into high school and started playing the instrument, he met Morris during events such as the All-Star Instrumental Symposium and Festival of Winds and Percussion.

“I was always really impressed with him,” Light said. “He always had any open door. He would say, ‘Come down and talk to me. I’m happy to meet with you.’”

When it came time for Light to decide where to go to college, he said he was watching a PBS documentary on Morris and the Tech tuba program with his father.

“My father hadn’t met Mr. Morris yet, but after watching that documentary, he said, ‘I don’t know much about music myself, but it seems like if you want to go somewhere and study tuba, then that’s where you need to go.’”

Light went on to receive his bachelor’s in music education from Tech, and master’s and doctorate in music performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In addition to teaching private lessons, he has also taught at Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University.

He has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Summit Brass, Dayton Philharmonic, and Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra. Light has also recorded with the Cincinnati Pops on their "Voyage" album and with the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble on "Evolutions (Carnegie VIII)" and the upcoming "Live at 55" album, which should release in the coming months. He has also won numerous local and national competitions.

“As an alum of the program, Dr. Light has experienced Professor Morris' brilliance first-hand and understands – and values – the importance of continuing this long-time tradition of excellence,” said Hill. “Further, with a highly active and supportive alumni organization, his pre-existing relationship with this group has made for a seamless transition. Lastly, Dr. Light is a supreme talent. He is a world-class performer, 2016 winner of the prestigious Leonard Falcone International Euphonium-Tuba Competition and an excellent teacher. Students and faculty adore Dr. Light, and we are thrilled to have him on our faculty.”

Some of Light’s own favorite musical memories come from going on tours with the tuba ensemble as a student to perform at places like Carnegie Hall and with the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” Tuba-Euphonium Workshop. Just recently the tuba ensemble held its 55th anniversary celebration where alumni came back to campus to celebrate with current students and faculty, as well as honor Morris’ retirement. Now, Light is looking forward to the chance to help create similar memories for future students.

“I had told some close friends of mine, that if I could have any job in the world, this was always one of them,” said Light. “I never thought it would happen, but now it's starting to sink in that it really has. I'm thrilled to be taking over this historic studio and to be teaching at Tennessee Tech.”

WCTE PBS will broadcast and stream a recording of this year’s 55th anniversary celebration of the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29. Watch the stream at:

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