Philadelphia Orchestra principal tuba player Carol Jantsch names her five favorite pieces for the instrument – and there’s not an “oom-pah” among them.
It may come as a surprise, given the preconceptions attached to the tuba. To the uninitiated, the instrument is slow, plodding and a bit ponderous.
But if there was a performer who could emancipate the tuba from such stereotypes, Jantsch may have the right credentials. She was a 20-year-old senior at the University of Michigan when she secured the coveted spot of principal tuba in the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2006. She beat out 200 other applicants for a job that opens up once in a generation.
Jantsch remains the orchestra’s youngest member, at 28, and is also, by some accounts, the first female tuba player in a major U.S. orchestra.
"Stereotypes be damned," said Jantsch, when asked about the tuba's "tubby" image. "I'm a skinny girl playing the tuba so I’m already going against all kinds of preconceptions."
An Ohio native, Jantsch was drawn first to the tuba's smaller cousin, the euphonium, which she began studying at Interlochen Arts Camp in Traverse City, MI, at age 9. After switching to tuba, she attended high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy, and continued her studies at the University of Michigan.
Along the way she began transcribing un-tuba-like pieces for her instrument, including the Khachaturian Violin Concerto and Milhaud’s Scaramouche, both of which can be heard on her solo album, “Cascades.”
Jantsch has appeared as a soloist with Columbus Symphony and St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestras and her playing can also be heard on several Philadelphia Orchestra recordings.
Expanding the tuba repertoire with commissions is a growing priority. Jantsch is to give the New York premiere of Reflections on the Mississippi, a new tuba concerto by Michael Daugherty, on Friday at Alice Tully Hall. Joining her is the orchestra of Temple University, where she holds one of four teaching posts (the others are at Yale, Curtis Institute of Music and the Manhattan School of Music).
Jantsch said teaching provides a broader focus to her career. “Teaching’s been really important for me,” said Jantsch. “You are presented with the 'what now' question: When you reach your pinnacle job at 21 and you know what you’re doing for the rest of your life – or the next 40 years anyway – that is quite daunting.”
Carol Jantsch's Top Five Tuba Works
5. Victor Ewald Quartet – Brass Quintet No. 1
4. George Gershwin – An American in Paris
3. Miles Davis – "Birth of the Cool" (album, with tubists Ray Callender and Bill Barber)
2. Serge Prokofiev – Symphony No. 5
1. Michael Daugherty – Reflections on the Mississippi