The Philadelphia Orchestra's Carol Jantsch Names Her Top 5 Tuba Pieces

LISTEN: Jantsch narrates her five favorite works for tuba

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Carol Jantsch, tuba player, Philadelphia Orchestra Carol Jantsch, tuba player, Philadelphia Orchestra (Ryan McDonell)

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


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Comments [15]

Jerry Byers from South Carolina

Ms Jantsch is a top-notch musician, a lovely lady, and does great things for young aspiring musicians. Philly is fortunate to have her.

Dec. 31 2015 09:20 AM
Jerry B from South Carolina

Ms Jantsch is a very talented, and very skilled tuba player. The talent comes naturally, but the skill comes with an enormous amount of hard work. I hope her career will be long, happy, and rewarding. I had an opportunity to audition for an east coast symphony decades ago, but I couldn't afford to buy 2 tubas, nor to make the trip from a small town in Indiana. (So I joined the Marine Corps and ended up phlying the phabulous eph pgour B Phantom phighter-bomber phor much of the Vietnam war instead. I wish now that I'd tried harder to find a way to come up with the money to pursue a career with the tuba.

Sep. 03 2015 11:25 AM
Ian Hopper from Orem, Utah

I appreciate seeing a female tuba player. As a tuba player myself I see so many female brass players and they have always stopped right after high school, or within their first few years of college simply because they think it's too much work, and it wouldn't be fitting to see a woman doing that kind of thing. Thank you much for sharing this. As a side note, I also deeply love and appreciate V. Ewald's 1st. Beautifully composed works, Ewald does. I hope to someday to study under great tuba players like her.

Nov. 08 2014 02:32 AM
Steve Marcus from Chicago area

Please correct me if this is not accurate, but Carol is married to a trombone player who studied at Curtis.

May. 10 2013 07:33 AM

@G from PA- Velvet Brown another female Tuba player is currently with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra and the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra.

May. 10 2013 06:35 AM
Richard Romano from poughkeepsie, nY 12601

OK, my neighbor was Meyer Kupferman and he had written a tuba concerto. Not a super well known composer, but not unknown either.

Check the tuba concerto out. Well, I'm still trying to figure out a female tuba player. It isn't an easy instrument to play, but ... whatever.


Apr. 05 2013 05:35 PM

I find it interesting that the commenters use the word "tubist" but I haven't heard any on-air talent using the term. Just a random tought.

Apr. 05 2013 05:33 PM
Richard Romano from Poughkeep

When I lived ... recently .. .in Rhinebeck, NY, my neighbor was an extremely well-known, and very contemporary, composer. He had written, among many many works, a concerto for tuba. So, guess the composer, who recently passed away, and talk about the tuba concerto.


Apr. 05 2013 02:26 PM
Chris from Cedar Grove, NJ

There's a delightful tuba part in Stookey & Snicket's "The Composer is Dead," a macabre young person's guide to the orchestra. Daniel Handler recounted that when they asked musicians to give them input, the tubist was the only one to do so, so they rewarded him with a lovely solo.

You can hear the tuba solo at 21:30 and 23:50 in this YouTube version, and I encourage you to listen to the whole composition (also available in book from with an enclosed CD).

Apr. 05 2013 09:17 AM
Marvin from NY

Did Ms Jantsch ever play in the U of M marching band?

Apr. 05 2013 09:12 AM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

Favorite Tuba Moments:1-The end of the prelude to 'Die Meistersinger' when the tubist has the majestic opening theme all to herself and 2-In the third movement (Rag) of the 'Pop Suite' by American composer Arthur Frackenpohl the tubist has some fun licks to play. Also, the Tuba Concerto by Vaughan Williams.

Apr. 04 2013 03:22 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

I always enjoy hearing the short tuba solo "Petrouchka and the Bear" and, since I don't play tuba, can only imagine how difficult it is to play the diminished fifth in that...ditto when the bass tuba plays the dragon motive in "Siegfried". In the "tuba can be jazzy category, my favorite is "When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba Down in Cuba", played and sung by William Bell at a Stokowski-New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert on March 12, 1949, that's on the 1982 WQXR Radiothon album. If that doesn't break the "oom pa pa" stereotype, I don't know what does! It's written by Herman Hupfeld.

Apr. 04 2013 10:08 AM
Sammy from NYC from New York, New York

While Constance Weldon may have played with the BSO, she did not hold have the position of principal tuba.

Apr. 04 2013 12:04 AM
GV from PA

Connie Weldon was a female tubist with the Boston Symphony in the 50s, so while Miss Jantsch is the only woman presently Ina a major symphony, she wouldn't be the first.

Apr. 03 2013 10:13 PM
Dirk from LES

Is she single?

Apr. 03 2013 04:10 PM

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