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Big, Brassy and Beautiful

January 06, 2002|SONDRA FARRELL BAZROD

The sound of 250 tubas playing Christmas and Hanukkah music had music lovers in a holiday mood at the Alex Theatre in Glendale last month. The faithful were gathered for the L.A. area's 26th year of TubaChristmas. The L.A. installment of the concert, which is held around the country and welcomes all tuba players, is organized and co-conducted by virtuoso Jim Self, whose tuba is the voice of the alien mother ship in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." For the record, tubas range from 15 to 50 pounds, a sousaphone is a tuba that wraps around the body, and a euphonium is a smaller baritone tuba.

Hannah McLafferty, 16, Santa Monica, high school student

How did you get started?

I've been playing for about a year and a half. My middle-school band director needed a tuba player, so I volunteered.

What's special about the tuba?

It's such a different instrument compared to the flute or clarinet, which everybody plays. Why should a person take up the tuba

? If you're female, there's lots of guys in the tuba section.

Your favorite tuba music?

"Flight of the Bumblebee," even though I can't play it.

What does a tuba resemble?

It reminds me of an elephant.

Loren Marsteller, 55, Tujunga, professional musician

How did you get started?

I started when I was 8. My father played trombone with the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1946 to 1971. I started on the euphonium because my arms were too short to play the trombone.

What's special about the tuba?

The conical shape gives it the mellow sound.

How has playing the tuba changed your life?

Being a musician has allowed me to serve my country in a military band, play in a professional orchestra, travel around the world.

Do you dream of tubas?

I've had dream flashbacks of being in the Marine band.

Have you experienced anti-tuba discrimination?

Only from string players.

What does a tuba resemble?

A sousaphone could look like a giant twisted ice cream cone, I suppose.

Joseph Jackson, 22,Carson, tuba performance major at USC

How did you get started?

This is my 10th year. I started off playing trumpet but had a desire to play a bigger instrument, and the opportunity came in eighth grade.

Your favorite tuba music?

Mahler's Fifth Symphony and Vaughan Williams' tuba concerto because they show off technical aspects of the tuba.

Do you play alone for fun?

I try to play like Paul Robeson singing "Ol' Man River," but I can't do it as well as he does.

What does a tuba resemble?

An earlier version looks like a truck that's been wrapped in a different direction.

Barbara Saevig, 45, West Los Angeles, bookkeeper

How did you get started?

I started at 12. In seventh-grade music class, there was only one instrument--a baritone horn--left, so it was given to me to play.

How has playing the tuba affected your personal life?

In school I was made fun of a lot.

Have you experienced anti-tuba discrimination?

Mostly from people who don't have experience with music. People look at you like you're from Mars.

What does playing tuba do for your soul?

When there is a very melodic part, it feels like the horn and I are one.

What does a tuba resemble?

Maybe a Volkswagen bug.

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