Editor's column: Tubas are made for melodics sounds
Tubas can do more than oompah.
Mike Odello can guarantee that because he's been playing tuba for about 35 years, ever since he gave it a try in seventh grade. Odello even has a bachelor's degree in music performance in tuba.
Still skeptical? Odello is a tuba instructor in the music department at the University of Minnesota Morris. He plays in the Central Lakes Orchestra. He performs in a tuba quartet. He works at Sarlettes Music. And he taught music to kids for 10 years.
Most people think of tuba players as the big guy in the back row. Or the person who "gets to play oompah, oompah in every polka," Odello said.
Odello will show that tubas can do more in a faculty recital for euphonium and tuba at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in the HFA Recital Hall at UMM.
Wes Flinn, a professor at UMM, will play the euphonium and Odello will play the tuba.
The recital will also be the world premier of Flinn's "Concerto for Tuba."
"The chance to play a beautiful melody is really fun," Odello said of the recital.
Flinn's concerto is the result of Odello's insistence he write one. "I really like it. It's a really neat piece," Odello said.
You could say the two men are tuba aficionados or fans of big brass.
The euphonium is similar to a tuba but different. The euphonium resembles a tuba but it has a structural difference. It's also referred to as the tenor tuba, Odello said. Odello then referred to a baritone, which isn't exactly a tuba or a euphonium.
But, the main point here is, tubas and similar instruments are made for more than making big, brassy sounds like your aunt Clarinda makes when she's had too many gin and tonics or your college buddy Dirk when he's defending Big 10 football to a SEC fan.
There aren't many tuba players in rural western Minnesota. So when Odello learned Flinn played the euphonium, he figured they would bond.
It seems like tuba players are extroverts. When they learn there is another tuba player in their midst, they find them and invited them to play along. Odello sought out Flinn. The two became friends and share not only a love of tubas and euphoniums but also of the Mel Brooks' movie "Blazing Saddles."
When Odello learned first-year music instructor at Morris Area Schools Erica Volz played the tuba, he honed in on that. Odello is also a member of the Morris Area School Board. He good-naturedly joked that when he learned Volz played the tuba, he thought, "absolutely, you are hired."
Volz now plays along with Odello, Flinn, and Minnewaska music instructor Caitlyn Drayna in a tuba quartet.
Drayna was one of Odello's students at UMM.
Odello makes the tuba sound fun. It's not just a heavy brass instrument that, according to various websites, can weigh as much as 29 pounds.
I'm not sure the recital will inspire dozens of kids and adults to want to learn to play a tuba, but I am betting it will give the audience at least a new appreciation of the tuba.