Going Full Circle with an Old Tuba

You get it?  Circle… tuba… tubas are round?  No?  Oh well, it was worth a try.

This past weekend, it was homecoming for my alma mater, The University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Like every year, alumni of the marching band are invited to come back and play the pregame show, as well as some pep band tunes during the football game.  It’s been 10 years since my last active season with the band so I decided to go back to see some familiar faces before I dawn the shackles of being a parent.  Not that I’m not looking forward to being a parent, but I figured I’d do some socializing so that people know I’m still alive before I disappear into a world of dirty diapers and soccer games.

When I got to Aloha Stadium, I was pointed over towards the available tubas.  Actually, let me technically correct myself.  They were actually sousaphones… tubas that were designed for marching.  Majority of the cases were already emptied out by some other eager alumni that probably got to the stadium 8 hours earlier to be sure they could show off their bald spots to the current 19 yr old girls in the band.  What was left was an old, black busted up case that said “Pearl City High School” on it.  What you probably don’t know is that I played sousaphone for the Pearl City High School “Charger” Marching Band from 1994-1996.

In my head, I had told myself, “no freakin’ way.”  Could it be my old high school band sousaphone?  The wood of the inner workings of the instrument case were almost fully exposed, having the outer leather layer dangling off.  Sort of like what the dead skin of a moose looks like when it’s dangling from it’s antlers after it’s fully grown.  Look at that, you just learned a moose fact in a blog about a tuba, who would’ve guessed.  You’re welcome.

Anyway, I opened up that bad boy and sure enough, it was my old sousaphone.  I was eager to assemble it until I began to remember how heavy that son of a bitch was.  Then I remembered how much it smelled because majority of the lacquer had been worn off, leaving that lovely stench of exposed brass.  Then I noticed a new feature on this sousaphone.  The first valve was stuck, which left me in a position of marching around with a sousaphone that was abnormally older and heavier than the other sousaphones on the field and not even being able to play it.

What was interesting about this sour experience was that I initially intended to reach back to my college days, when in fact, I unexpectedly reached farther back to my high school days.  While standing with that heavy hunk of junk on my shoulder in the hot Hawaiian sun, I reflected on what was important to me back then.  You know, when that heavy piece of crap was still playable.  Back then, my dream was to play sousaphone/tuba for UH.  That meant the world to me.  Geeky I know, but nothing made me happier and I never thought I’d be as comfortable on any other instrument.

Funny how things change.  Up until a couple years ago, nothing meant more to me than making it big with PIMPBOT.  Plus my comfort level on the tuba has considerably changed.  I can rock the basics on the trombone in my sleep, while the odds of me hitting the right note on the tuba are like the [insert crappy sports team] winning the [insert championship].

And now, just a couple years later, things have changed for me again.  What means the most is my new budding family.  The wife and the kid.  I still love my band to death but if we don’t make it big… I’m gonna live.  Performing makes me happy and I don’t have to be living in a tour van to do it.  I’m still comfortable on the trombone but what floats my boat the most is being on the microphone.  Not just singing but I love interacting with audiences.  Lively ones, lame ones, it doesn’t matter.  There’s an organic give and take that I experience that doesn’t compare to my delivery on any other instrument.

The thing is, sometimes we don’t see our growth until we take a step back.  This past weekend, my old, heavy, smelly, broken sousaphone was not an instrument of music… but rather, an instrument of reflection.

How was that?  Pretty freakin’ deep eh?



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