It’s High Time For a Smile

Before heading into some serious discussion about pension plans and other such non-funny topics, everyone deserves a good smile first. In this case, not every crossover idea is a good one…

The August 1, 2007 edition of The Onion (think of it like a print version of The Daily Show and its mock-apple pie spin-off, The Colbert Report), featured an article entitled “Activision Reports Sluggish Sales For Sousaphone Hero,” a fictitious spin-off of the popular video game Guitar Hero .

First off, kudos to the crack team at The Onion for not getting a sousaphone and a tuba confused whereas I can honestly say that I’ve seen “real” newspapers make that very mistake. As a tuba player I have to say this piece made me laugh out loud from the first paragraph and kept me laughing through to the end.

Thanks to Deceptively Simple’s Marc Geelhoed for sending me a link to the article which, in turn, was sent to him from NewMusicBox’s Molly Sheridan via her “Friday Informer” column.

Apparently, tubas (and sousaphones) have been a popular topic for mainstream humorists. For example, the Fox television program “Family Guy” had a funny bit involving a tuba (just click the video still to your left to watch the clip). Perhaps unsurprising, the article and video play to stereotypes for tuba players: fat guys (although the “Family Guy” clip is guilty of calling a sousaphone a tuba).

Even though I’m a tuba player (and not fat) I don’t mind the stereotypes. In fact, I even remember talking to a potential donor and during the conversation when she found out I was a tuba player she said – in all seriousness mind you – “but you’re not fat.” I don’t have a problem with that – after all if you can’t laugh at yourself then you probably don’t have a sense of humor in the first place. At the same time, learning more about the tuba in your orchestra will likely yield some fascinating discoveries.

And just so you don’t think all tubas sound like the one from the “Family Guy” clip above (thankfully, they don’t), here’s a clip from Music For Two Big Instruments which you can find on a new CD featuring music from composer (and blogger) Alex Shapiro (purchase).. Alex wrote this piece for New York Philharmonic tubist, Alan Baer, an uncompromising musician and a really nice guy.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “It’s High Time For a Smile

  1. In the spirit of the day, what’s this about spit valves on Sousaphones (The Onion article)? If hornists can pop out a slide and spin the horn around until it all runs out, why can’t Sousaphonists? That would sure add to the entertainment value at performances (especially with 8 Sousaphones in a line at the back of a marching band — synchronized spinning so you don’t crash bells)!

  2. Hey, we all thought the article would be about you! And now we find out you don’t even admit to playing the instrument that looks like a tuba SHOULD look…

    For the record: Yes, I hold a degree in tuba performance but I do not play the sousaphone ~ Drew McManus

  3. I completly agree. Of course I play the tuba too and I’m not fat. I don’t mind that stereotype either it makes me feel good that I can carry a sousaphone and still be relatively skinny. Right now the other person on our sousaphone line for marching band, our drum major, and I are trying to figure out a tuba spinning routine. It’s going to be awesome to watch if it can be done.

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