Octubafest: a definition and display of the euphonium

Laura Testino

October bursts with the sounds of larger-than-life instruments during Octubafest, the musical month-long celebration of the tuba and euphonium.

The University of Alabama’s tuba and euphonium department is celebrated this month by hosting a master class to expand students’ understanding of their instruments, as well as two concerts to expose the public to the melodies these instruments have to offer.

“I think [Octubafest] is a great opportunity for us to tell people what a euphonium is; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question,” Ian Toy, a sophomore majoring in music therapy, said.

Toy saw the euphonium on a band poster and was initially attracted by its odd appearance. He describes it as a smaller version of a tuba.

“I was a terrible trumpet player. And I just had a knack for euphonium,” Toy said.

He has found playing the euphonium essential to his daily routine over the past eight years and said he is thrilled to be showcasing his passion for the instrument in a solo piece by Fred J. Clinard.

“A lot of the other unaccompanied pieces … they’re inaccessible for most people. … This is something that is of that school of composition, but it’s just dripping with style,” Toy said.

Jeremy Crawford, instructor of tuba and euphonium at the University, decided to bring Octubafest, an event practiced by other universities across the nation, to Tuscaloosa to more intensely highlight the tuba and euphonium studio, he said. He also scheduled a master class via Skype with Roger Bobo, a professional tuba player, for his students.

Stephanie Landry, a second year masters student in euphonium performance, attributes the master class to Crawford taking the standard of performance “to a higher level,” she said.

Learning from Bobo, who performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for over thirty years and played in many film scores, was a profound experience for Landry, who hopes to become a tuba and euphonium professor.

“When [Bobo] was talking to all the different students about different struggles that they were going through … all the things that he addressed with them are new concepts and ideas that I can use in my future, or even my own specific playing,” Landry said. “It’s kind of like you’re just stealing his knowledge. It’s pretty amazing to be able to do that, especially with someone that’s such a seasoned musician and teacher.”

In addition to the insight provided by Bobo, Toy said he is grateful to have Crawford’s instruction over the past two months when rehearsals for Octubafest began with the start of the fall semester.

“[Crawford] is extremely professional and very skilled; he’s like a surgeon, when it comes to fixing problems… he’s very good at what he does,” Toy said.

This is Crawford’s first year as the tuba and euphonium instructor and third year as the conductor of the tuba ensemble.

“I have enjoyed getting to know the group personality and dynamic as they learn to work together on these different styles of music,” Crawford said.

The tuba and euphonium studio solo recital will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Moody Music Building. The event, which is the final installment in the University’s Octubafest celebration, is free of charge.