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Sacramento State News - California State University, Sacramento
May 2, 2008

Big brass heads to Sac State for tuba festival


Photo: Sacramento State’s tuba players are ready for the upcoming festival: Robert Murray, left, professor Julian Dixon, Portia Njoku, Brian Schlegel, and Bryan Stroh on bottom right. Sacramento State’s tuba players are ready for the upcoming festival: Robert Murray, left, professor Julian Dixon, Portia Njoku, Brian Schlegel, and Bryan Stroh on bottom right.

The band’s big gun, the tuba, will finally get the attention it deserves during Down in the Valley 2008: A Festival of Tuba and Euphonium, an all-day event at Sacramento State’s Capistrano Hall on Saturday, May 31.

The day begins at 9 a.m. and includes clinics and master classes. It concludes at 7 p.m. with a concert in the Music Recital Hall featuring international soloist Velvet Brown.

Most people think of marching bands or the music of a German beer garden when someone says “tuba.” Even organizer Julian Dixon, director of Sacramento State’s tuba studio, acknowledges the instrument is an isolated one, often limited to one or two in a band.

“Part of the festival is to enlighten the general populace and young players about this whole spectrum of the tuba world,” Dixon says. The festival offers tuba performers a chance to get together and challenge themselves, he adds.

When a tuba ensemble performs music written specifically for the instrument, Dixon says it’s quite an experience. “It’s a beautiful sound. It’s powerful and rich.”

Guest artist Velvet Brown is proving how versatile an instrument the tuba can be, performing solo and ensemble programs throughout Europe and the Far East.

Portia Njoku, a master’s student in Sacramento State’s Tuba Quartet, says a tuba group envelopes the room with sound.

Senior Bryan Stroh, another quartet member, describes the tuba sound as “touching velvet.”

He and Njoku also note the contributions tubas make to larger ensembles. Without it, says Njoku, a band sounds bland. Stroh says a band needs the “cannon” of a tuba to give a piece a triumphant feeling. “We’re the heavy artillery in the back,” he says.

The closing concert also will feature music composed especially for the festival by tuba pioneer Barton Cummings—“Four Short Pieces for Four Tubas” and “The Down in the Valley Suite.”

For the University’s Tuba Quartet, the festival is just the beginning of a big summer. They’ll perform a 20-minute program at the International Tuba Euphonium Conference in Cincinnati in June. The performance includes “Elegy for King,” a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., composed by Njoku.

Because the tuba has only recently broken out on its own, new music is being written every day, offering more chances for people to catch the brass instrument’s rich sound. “It’s a really beautiful, expressive instrument,” Dixon says.

Festival registration costs are $30 for adults and $20 for high school or younger students. A reduced price of $25 and $15 is available to those who register before May 21. Concert-only admission is $10 general and $5 for students. To register, visit For more information, call (916) 278-2784. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs Office at (916) 278-6156.



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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •