Toledo Jr Sr High School

Striving to hit the low notes

As band returns to Toledo Jr/Sr High School, students have their choice of instruments, but a tuba remains out of reach

I have never shopped for a tuba, so when I learned that Toledo Jr/Sr High School applied for and received a $1,300 grant earmarked for the instruments, I had to wonder just how many tubas that money would buy. And yes, I admit, I was beyond surprised when I heard: none.

“They are a little spendy,” said Elizabeth Soper, music teacher at the school. “We’re hoping to get one beginning tuba and one intermediate. The cost is a little bit different for each, but one will cost between $6,000 to $8,000. The good news is, if they are well taken care of, they are good for 75 to 100 years.”

"Der Tubaspieler" ("The Tuba Player") by Josef Kinzel, 1892 (oil, 6 by 8 inches, private collection)
“Der Tubaspieler” (“The Tuba Player”) by Josef Kinzel, 1892 (oil, 6 by 8 inches, private collection)

This is the first time in a year and a half that the Toledo school has had a band program.  When Soper, who teaches middle and high school band and choir, as well as a rock history class, signed on in July, one of her first tasks was to take inventory of the musical instruments. She found the usual array — clarinets, saxophones, flutes, trombones – but no tubas. And tubas, it turns out, are quite important.  

THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series

“The tuba is the lowest part of the band,” said Soper, a first-year teacher. “They typically play the bassline. What is so important is that for us to reach our national standards, students need to learn how to balance and listen to other parts of the band. But you don’t have the balanced sound if you don’t have the really low instruments. You don’t have that full sound without the tuba … the sound tends to be very top heavy.”