Thomas Bough is preparing to produce some low notes on a high stage.
The Grand Concert takes place in historic Fort Meyer, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and is the culmination of the annual Tuba-Euphonium Conference. The four-day event features performances, recitals, exhibits, master classes and lectures by leading low brass authorities from around the world.
On the program is Bough’s “Suite Tuba,” his 15-minute composition that received its NIU premiere in November.
“It’s a big deal to perform. It’s a big deal to have your work performed. To have those two combined is quite unusual,” says Bough, who was invited to play and submitted his score for review and approval of the band’s conductor.
“Honestly, it’s a dream come true and a huge honor. You’re in the nation’s capitol with really the equivalent of one of the world’s most prominent wind ensembles. That’s the pinnacle. That’s as good as it gets.”
Bough composed “Suite Tuba” in honor of J. Samuel Pilafian, his doctoral adviser and applied instructor at Arizona State University. Pilafian, Leonard Bernstein’s “hand-picked tubist” and the teacher of thousands of musicians around the world, is a founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet.
Published by Cimarron Music Press, the four movements of “Suite Tuba” reflect the four areas in which Pilafian deeply influenced Bough’s career as a player, composer/arranger, entrepreneur and teacher.
“The first movement is groove-oriented, with lots of movement and syncopation. Sam is really into that, and there are honestly some pretty complicated rhythms. The second is jazz. Sam is a great jazz player and taught me how to play jazz. My final doctoral dissertation was on the use of tuba in early jazz,” Bough says.
“Its third movement is a lullaby – Sam is a parent and a father, and all instrumentalists want to sing through their horns – and the final movement is just fun and crazy, fast and high, incorporating elements from all the other movements,” he adds. “The piece has been really well-received by my colleagues and by the Army.”
Bough, who lectured at a previous conference and will present “Bass Line 101” during this year’s event, is excited for his first performance with any of the four U.S. military bands.
“I’m not intimidated but I am appropriately aware of the caliber of these musicians,” says Bough, a Yamaha Artist whose trip to Washington, D.C., is partly sponsored by the instrument maker. “I’ve been practicing for months and months. I’ve been making my children listen to me play through portions of the solo.”