• Ben Vasko

Tuba-Less 1.1: Welcome Edition

There are a few reasons you may have stumbled upon this blog:

  • You could be someone I have run into recently and heard me mention this project.

  • You could be my mom- hi, mom.


  • You could just be a tuba player/other instrumentalist who is wondering how to stay musically sharp while away from their instrument for a period of time.

That last reason is why I am here too.

At some point in your musical life, you reach a point where you have to go somewhere you cannot take your instrument. For most tuba players, this is anytime we go anywhere by plane. So often when we travel, we are given three options: buy an extra seat for your tuba and double your cost of travel, put your horn under the plane in a case that can cost thousands of dollars and still not fully protect it, or leave it at home. Sick of those options and feeling the need to explore my musicality away from my instrument, I have chosen the latter for the topic of this blog.

"When we teach, we discover what we truly believe in."

At this moment in time, I am in Concord, California teaching the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps. Not only are they the most decorated ensemble in the history of the sport, they are the organization in which I spent my formative years, touring the country all summer and solidifying my ideas on brass pedagogy. Coming back has made me realize that this is still the place I go to sharpen the tools I use when I play my tuba. However, I don't do this through daily practice, but through the daily relay of information to my students. Today was my first day back teaching since last season, and it made me realize something- when we teach, we discover what we truly believe in. So often when we go without taking or giving lessons, we fall into poor routines. We start practicing things lazily. We take shortcuts in our fundamentals. The worst of these occasions is when there isn't a deadline to be seen in our calendar. Being project-oriented as a performer is so necessary to maintaining and improving one's abilities. If your calendar looks like mine at the moment, and there isn't a performance in sight, teaching someone else can really help you focus in on what is important to you as a player.

While working with the members of the Blue Devils, I find myself being careful with what I say. I want my students to get a clear and concise message, one that won't leave them confused but rather will be simple in its approach and memorable in its impact. I preach slow practice, deliberate decision making while playing, and a scrutinizing attention to detail- all things that go away in my practice if I don't have a student to remind of them. But the thing is, I always do- myself. Allowing yourself to take the role of the student to your own knowledge can come with the benefit of your high standard as a teacher being applied to yourself. We wouldn't accept our own bad habits from our students, so why do we allow them to exist in our own practice?

It is my hope that through teaching extensively this summer, I can streamline my approach to playing my instrument and return home to my horns with a renewed focus and energy directed to all the right places. It is also my hope that if you continue with this blog, you will find reading it as worthwhile as I find writing it.

-Scroll down for Pic of the Day and Today's Listening-

Pic of the Day: Flying over the Sierra Nevada mountains entering California

Today's Listening: "Jazz Impressions of Japan" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet

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©2018 by Ben Vasko.

Boston, USA

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