I’m writing a profile of Berklee study-abroad student Josh Story, who toted his tuba all across Freiburg to play with a variety of groups. I got to see a particularly impressive one: the Hochschule für Musik orchestra. If you peer in, you’ll see that dash of gold in the back of the brass section.
(Those with a childhood doused in musical theater may hear “76 Trombones” on their mental jukebox: “And I modestly took my place as the one and only bass. . . .”)
Walking into the polished wood auditorium of the city’s classical music conservatory, I was pretty much struck dumb. The orchestra was that good. (Even in a rehearsal!) Conductor Scott Sandmeier was exacting as he calibrated the strings’ waves of sound in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, switching, as Josh had told me, between German and English. Which meant I could understand Sandmeier’s poetic instructions to the bassoon soloist: “You as the soloist have to tell me, the conductor, what’s in your head and your heart.”
What’s a classical music academy doing without a tuba player in the first place? “We haven’t had a tuba teacher in several years,” Sandmeier explained to me. Though someone’s starting soon, it meant tuba students went elsewhere. Meanwhile, Josh got this opportunity from the private tuba teacher the Jazz & Rock Schulen found for him—because JRS didn’t offer tuba either. Unexpected, Freiburg. . . oompah bands everywhere, but barely a classical (and funk, and jazz) tuba player to be found. Good thing Josh was on hand, huh?