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“In the same line as Casals who put the cello on the map,
Segovia who put the classical guitar on the map,
and Rampal who put the flute on the map,
Harvey Phillips has put the tuba on the map.
That’s his historical role.”
“Harvey Phillips IS the tuba.”
“Harvey put class in the low brass.”
“Harvey Phillips is Mr. Tuba U.S.A.”
Harvey Phillips (1929–2010) was
Distinguished Professor of Music
Emeritus at Indiana University
Bloomington. World renowned
as a tuba soloist and brass quintet
leader, he founded and directed
and the Matteson-Phillips
“The Paganini of the Tuba.”
Author photo: Courtesy of Indiana University
Bloomington & Indianapolis
DAVID N. BAKER
ith warmth and humor, tuba
virtuoso Harvey Phillips tells
the story of his amazing life and
career, from his Missouri childhood
through his days as a performer with
the King Bros. Circus Band and the
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Circus Band, his training at the
Juilliard School, a stint with the
U.S. Army Field Band, and his freelance days with the New York City
Opera and Ballet. A founder of the
New York Brass Quintet, Phillips
served as vice president for financial
affairs of the New England Conservatory of Music and became
Professor of Music at Indiana University. The creator of an industry
of TubaChristmases, OctubaFests,
and TubaSantas, he crusaded for
recognition of the tuba as a serious
musical instrument, commissioning
more than 200 works. Enhanced
by more than 60 color and blackand-white photographs, Mr. Tuba
conveys Phillips’s playful zest
for life while documenting his
important musical legacy.
“Possibly the greatest tuba player of all time.”
—The New York Times
Front. Harvey Phillips in a
C. G. Conn publicity photo, 1966.
Back. Phillips and the New
York Brass Quintet, 1966.
Foreword by David N. Baker ix
Growing Up in Missouri
King Bros. Circus Band
Traveling with the Greatest Show on Earth
Juilliard, Studying with William J. Bell
Chamber Music, New York Brass Quintet
A New York Professional
On Tour with the New York Brass Quintet
Family, Friends, and Summer Activities
New England Conservatory of Music
The Search for TubaRanch
Institute for Advanced Musical Studies
Bassed in Bloomington
Carnegie Hall Recitals
Indiana University Retirement
Renaissance of the Tuba: A Summary
On Being a Teacher
Friends and Colleagues 451 Appendix 459 Index 471
the 21st Century Bebop Band, featuring flute, trumpet or sax, cello, and
tuba, with bass, drums, and piano. When Dizzy Gillespie gave a concert at
the IU Auditorium, the 21st Century Bebop Band warmed up the audience.
Dizzy didn’t play with us. But, when the concert was over, Dizzy told David
Baker about Hot House (which had a very convoluted arrangement), “I’m
glad I didn’t have to play on that!”
The 21st Century Bebop Band performed the same service later for
Maynard Ferguson. David is a very creative composer and one of the fastest writers of music I know. We played standards from jazz and bebop
repertoire like “Preacher Man” and David wrote a lot of original tunes as
well, such as “PaDoSpe” for Patty and Dominic Spera and “CaHaPhi” for
Carol and me.
Another of my prime interests was to have time for activities with the
IU Band Department. I appeared numerous times with the IU Symphonic
Band, and appeared as a solo clinician with Frederick Ebbs, director of the
IU Band Department, at music conferences. When Fred Ebbs left the position, he was replaced by Ray Cramer, who had been one of his assistants.
The First OctubaFest—Starting a Tr adition
I realized that all the components of the IU Music School scheduled their students for recitals, most of them in the spring. Early in the
fall, the Recital Hall was already being booked for spring dates. I decided I
would like to have my students present concerts early in the first semester.
I wanted to do five evening concerts, in one week.
The upper class students would perform works they had prepared,
to illustrate materials entering students would be assigned later. Newly
enrolled students would perform works they had prepared for entrance
auditions, illustrating their potential. The idea was for everybody to get
acquainted as quickly as possible so they could start helping each other.
It wouldn’t bring special attention to these tuba recitals to have them
scattered in between recitals for violin, voice, piano, etc., in the spring. I
saw in these concerts opportunities to acquaint an audience of community
members with the repertoire and performance levels of tuba and euphonium students at IU.
The only time I could get a solid week for tuba in the Recital Hall was
the first week in October. So why not call that week a festival? In preparing copy for a publicity poster, I made several attempts about what to call
it until finally I wrote “OctoberTubaFestival.” Then it struck me. Why not
“OctubaFest”? My tuba studio was like the great German Oktoberfest
each fall. The Germans celebrated the harvest of crops, and we celebrated
the harvest of a new “crop” of freshman tuba and euphonium players at
our school. The first OctubaFest took place at Indiana University in 1973
during the first week of October (known to me as Octuba). Some years it
has been Septuba.
All five concerts were booked in the Recital Hall, Monday through
Friday at 7 pm. I insisted that all of my students appear onstage at some
point during those five days. The Friday program featured our tuba ensemble. On Saturday there was a reception at TubaRanch. Freshmen (and
everybody else, from IU and the community) were welcomed by my family and the William J. Bell Chapter of TUBA. I had thought about William
Bell’s incredible musicianship and how much he loved his parties at McSorley’s. I wanted to combine the two. Our reception quickly became an
OctubaFeast. The reception and the concerts were free. OctubaFest and
OctubaFeast had arrived!
We were proud to put Bill Bell’s stamp on our OctubaFest. I decided
to make these five recitals an annual occurrence, another annual event
dedicated to honoring his memory and celebrating his life. Actually, all
the things I did were inspired by my respect for and association with William Bell.
At the end of the week, for the OctubaFeast, we ordered a thirty-foot
cheese board to be placed on the patio at the TubaRanch. The centerpiece was a round of Danish bleu cheese and after that was a Norwegian
Jarlsberg, Swiss Emmenthaler, French Brie, Vermont cheddar, Wisconsin
Colby, and a few other special cheeses. As had been the center at McSorley’s Old Ale House, we encouraged a platter of cheese with an equal supply
of onion. Libations were made available to satisfy the age of each student.
People magazine came out to write an article on OctubaFest, and published
a picture of me near the barn. That week, everything went spectacularly.
The Search for TubaRanch 289
Over the years, the OctubaFeast expanded to include the Marienfeld dancers from Germany, Indiana cloggers from Solsberry, a German
band—from Germany—and lots of costumes. Sometimes, we gave out
door prizes, like fifty dollars’ worth of sheet music, tickets to a sold-out
Horowitz concert, a complete Western outfit, or a restaurant dinner for
two with a chauffeured Cadillac. I was the chauffeur of my own Cadillac.
Because the September and October weather can be rainy, one year
we put up a tent at TubaRanch and we put the cheese board inside. One
of the cheeses featured was an especially potent German Bierkase. It was
raining the day of our feast and we put the sides down on the tent. Just
before people arrived, Carol and a couple of the boys went out to roll up
the canvas sidewall, which exposed the cheese. The first thing the guests
did when they entered the tent was to look at the bottom of their shoes to
see if they might be the source of the odor. It was overpowering. The next
year we obtained a separate, smaller tent and put that particular cheese in
IU Chancellor Wells, who called himself “an old euphonium player,”
attended OctubaFest concerts and came out to TubaRanch for each OctubaFeast. When he was in a wheelchair, his driver would help him get
from his car to a table. If the weather was too bad, or he didn’t feel well
enough to sit at a table, we would serve him in the car.
One year, the Cleveland Orchestra had an OctubaFest as a fundraiser.
It was very successful and, in appreciation of being able to use the name
OctubaFest, a voluntary contribution was made to the Harvey Phillips
Foundation by a grateful supporter of the Cleveland Orchestra.
I accepted an invitation for an early morning appearance from Gene
Shalit to appear on the NBC Today Show in New York with my piano accompanist, Steve Harlos. We were soon joined by host Jane Pauley, a graduate of Indiana University. We had a lively conversation about the tuba and
the music being written for it by American composers. This prompted a
discussion about Alec Wilder and the special qualities of his compositions.
The interview ended with a performance of Wilder’s Suite No. 1 for Tuba
and Piano. Both Shalit and Pauley later accepted my invitations to guestconduct portions of the annual TubaChristmas concerts in Rockefeller
After the Today Show, it was a full day of OctubaFest activities for Steve
and me. Our next stop was a 1:00 visit to a Harlem elementary school with
a demonstration concert. It was fun to talk about music with some thirty
That evening at 8:00 we were joined at Carnegie Recital Hall by several
of my IU students and New York City IU alumni. The concert was well
attended and arrangements were made for a post-concert OctubaFeast at
the famous Luchow’s German Restaurant.
For three years, from 1983 to 1985, we produced OctubaFest as a joint
venture between the City of Bloomington and my tuba studio. I had good
relationships with every mayor. The first year of our collaboration, we
worked with Mayor Tomilea Allison. On the roof of a big parking garage
downtown we had a wine garden, a beer garden, and a kindergarten with
games for the children, with qualified babysitters. The music for the celebration was a tuba ensemble of my own students and students from other
schools. There was a polka-dancing contest. Fourteen restaurants signed
up to prepare special German dishes for the occasion. In cooperation with
Bloomington Hospital, we organized a volksmarch, which was a five- or sixmile health walk led by Bud Kohr, president of the hospital, which ended at
OctubaFeast. OctubaFest was kind of a big deal in Bloomington!
In German Oktoberfests, the Burgermeister is usually the mayor or
other male official of the town. Mayor Allison invited Indiana University Chancellor Herman B Wells to serve as Bloomington’s first honorary
Burgermeister. That pleased him. His smile was infectious. He was saluted
by the Bloomington South High School Band, the Bloomington North
High School Band, and the Ellettsville High School Band.
In 1976, my tuba/euphonium class at IU had an OctubaFest halftime
show at the football game, adding itself to the IU Marching Hundred, along
with tubas and euphoniums from the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan. We had a stage setup consisting of two flatbed trailers. I commissioned the Opera Department to create a backdrop canvas
measuring twenty-four by forty feet, depicting a German Bavarian village.
Since that first OctubaFest in 1973, the idea spread all over the world,
to more than one hundred college and university campuses.
The Search for TubaRanch
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