[Dixielandjazz] Fwd: A Tuba Giant Passes Away/my teacher

hsalotti at aol.com hsalotti at aol.com
Sun Oct 31 11:41:09 PDT 2010

I studied tuba with Harvey for two years 82-84 at IU.  Harvey loved Dixieland Jazz.  He played in a local band called the Royal Garden Irregulars. He recorded many Dixie albums with leaders like Jimmy McPartland, Billy May and an album called "the Leasebreakers" with Buddy Marrow and others.  Harvey was the tubist in the Sauter Finegan Orchestra.  We would end many tuba lessons by trading fours on tunes like Sweet Georgia Brown or Struttin with Some BQ. 
Harvey was great teacher and friend.
Harry Salotti

-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen G Barbone <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: Harry Salotti <hsalotti at aol.com>
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sun, Oct 24, 2010 7:38 am
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] A Tuba Giant Passes Away

For the tubists on the list. Harvey Phillips Obit. He was a master of  

classical and
Jazz and the force behind Tuba Christmas.

Steve Barbone
Harvey Phillips, a Titan of the Tuba, Dies at 80

By DANIEL J. WAKIN NY TIMES - October 24 2010

The tuba players mass by the hundreds every year on the Rockefeller  
Center ice-skating rink to play carols and other festive fare, a  
holiday ritual now ingrained in the consciousness of New York.

The tradition began in 1974, the brainchild of Harvey Phillips, a  
musician called the Heifetz of the tuba. In his time he was the  
instrument’s chief evangelist, the inspirer of a vast solo repertory,  
a mentor to generations of players and, more simply, Mr. Tuba.

Most tuba players agree that if their unwieldy instrument has shed any  
of the bad associations that have clung to it — orchestral clown,  
herald of grim news, poorly respected back-bencher best when not  
noticed, good for little more than the “oom” in the oom-pah-pah — it  
is largely thanks to Mr. Phillips’s efforts. He waged a lifelong  
campaign to improve the tuba’s image.

Mr. Phillips died on Wednesday at his home, Tubaranch, in Bloomington,  
Ind., his wife, Carol, said. He was 80 and had Parkinson’s disease.

Like many towering exponents of a musical instrument, Mr. Phillips  
left a legacy of new works, students and students of students. But  
even more, he bequeathed an entire culture of tuba-ism: an industry of  
Tuba Christmases (252 cities last year) and tuba minifestivals, mainly  
at universities, called Octubafests.

“The man was huge in putting the instrument on the map as a solo  
instrument,” said Alan Baer, the New York Philharmonic’s tuba player,  
two of whose teachers were Phillips students. “Our repertory is so  
limited, and it would be horrible if he had not done the amount of  
work that he did.”

Mrs. Phillips said her husband had either commissioned or inspired  
more than 200 solo and chamber music pieces, many wheedled out of  
composers by persistence or other methods. “I remember Persichetti was  
a case of Beefeater gin,” she said of the composer Vincent Persichetti.

Mr. Phillips once said, “I’m determined that no great composer is ever  
again going to live out his life without composing a major work for  

Harvey Phillips was born on Dec. 2, 1929, the last of 10 children, in  
an Aurora, Mo., farming family. The family moved often, and he  
attended high school in Marionville, Mo.

After graduating, Mr. Phillips took a summer job playing tuba with the  
King Bros. Circus. He left to attend the University of Missouri but  
was quickly lured away by another circus offer: playing tuba with the  
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was the pinnacle of  
circus bands.

One of the band’s duties was to give “alarms”: play pieces to alert  
circus staff in the case of, say, a high-wire accident. “Twelfth  
Street Rag” was the alarm for that, a signal to send in the clowns to  
distract the audience, Mr. Phillips said in a New Yorker profile in  
1976. He spent three years with the Ringling band.

On a circus trip to New York, where he played duets with the clanging  
pipes in his hotel room, Mr. Phillips met William Bell, the tuba  
player of the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Bell soon arranged for him to  
study at the Juilliard School and become his pupil.

Mr. Phillips spent two years in the United States Army Field Band in  
Washington but returned to New York, drawn by the many opportunities.  
He became a successful freelancer, playing regularly with the New York  
City Opera and New York City Ballet orchestras, recording and making  

In 1954 he helped found the New York Brass Quintet. The combination  
(two trumpets, French horn, trombone and tuba) was less common at the  
time than it later became. Brass quintets proliferated, a boon for  
tuba players, because brass players on university faculties needed a  
tubist colleague to form a group. More tuba professors meant more tuba  

Mr. Phillips also played jazz, performing in clubs and recital halls.  
As his reputation grew, composers began writing for him, and Mr.  
Phillips introduced another rarity, the tuba recital. In 1975 he  
played five recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall in nine days.

Writing in The New York Times in 1980, the music critic Peter G. Davis  
said first-time listeners to Mr. Phillips “could scarcely fail to be  
impressed, and probably not a little astonished, by the instrument’s  
versatility and tonal variety, its ability to spin a soft and sweetly  
lyrical melodic line, to dance lightly and agilely over its entire  
bass range, and to bellow forth with dramatic power when the occasion  

Mr. Phillips’s entrepreneurial abilities emerged in his New York  
years, too. He served as the orchestra contractor for Leopold  
Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky and Gunther Schuller, among others. When  
Mr. Schuller took charge of the New England Conservatory of Music in  
Boston, he recruited Mr. Phillips as vice president for financial  
affairs. Mr. Phillips held the position from 1967 to 1971, commuting  
to New York for evening performances.

The punishing routine took away from practice and family time. Coming  
home late one night and missing his family, he took out his tuba while  
his wife and two of his children slept in the bed nearby and practiced  
until dawn, playing so softly that they did not wake up, according to  
the New Yorker profile.

He often practiced in the backseat of his car while his wife drove and  
their children kept eyes on the road to warn of approaching potholes.  
“They would yell, ‘Daddy, bump!’ ” Ms. Phillips said.

In addition to Ms. Phillips, Mr. Phillips is survived by their sons,  
Jesse, Harvey Jr. and Thomas.

In 1971 Mr. Phillips joined the faculty of Indiana University. He  
retired in 1994.

In his tireless efforts to raise the tuba’s profile as well as to  
honor Mr. Bell, his teacher, Mr. Phillips — perhaps touched by the  
showmanship of his circus past — decided to gather tuba players for a  
special holiday concert in Rockefeller Center. (Mr. Bell was born on  
Christmas Day, 1902.)

He called an official there with the suggestion. “The phone went  
silent,” he later recounted. “So I gave the man some unlisted  
telephone numbers of friends of mine.” They included Stokowski,  
Leonard Bernstein, André Kostelanetz and Morton Gould. “He called me  
back in about an hour and said, ‘I’ve spoken with your friends, and  
you can have anything you want.’ ”

The Tuba Christmas extravaganzas took off. Volunteers hold them around  
the country under the auspices of the Harvey Phillips Foundation.  
Sousaphones and euphoniums are also welcome.

At the tubafests, the musicians play “Silent Night” in honor of their  
fellows who have died, Mrs. Phillips said. On Dec. 8 when tuba players  
gather again at the skating rink, the carol will be played in Mr.  
Phillips’s memory.

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