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Carnegie-bound Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble coming to the Tri-Cities

January 24th, 2014 4:02 pm by Amanda J. Vicars

Carnegie-bound Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble coming to the Tri-Cities

The world-renowned Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble (TTTE), from Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, is coming to the Tri-Cities later this month.

The award-winning musical group is scheduled to perform at several local high schools en route to its 'unprecedented' eighth appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City on March 13.

TTTE was established in the fall of 1967 “as a means of providing the tuba and euphonium students enrolled at Tennessee Technological University an opportunity to participate in a musical group that featured [exclusively instruments that belong to the 'tuba family'],” said R. Winston Morris, the founder and director of TTTE. “This primarily consists of the large contrabass and bass tubas and the tenor tubas (frequently referred to as baritone horns or euphoniums).”

Morris said the ensemble received notice from the start by breaking new ground in the world of music for multiple tubas. Morris' idea to construct a large tuba/euphonium choir (often doubling parts) was effectively realized.

“By the very early 1970s, the ensemble had already generated enough repertoire and recognition to be invited to regional and national conferences,” Morris said with pride. 

TTTE was the first musical organization to release a commercially-produced recording that exclusively featured the tuba ensemble in 1975, and was the first ensemble of its kind to ever perform in Carnegie Hall in 1976. Since that time, aside from seven (soon-to-be eight) Carnegie appearances, the 47-year-old tuba troupe has played at some of the nation's most revered landmarks/venues and music festivals from Preservation Hall in New Orleans, La., to the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. They have also performed at two World's Fairs.

As “the most recorded ensemble of its kind in the world,” TTTE is responsible for 26 recording projects, which Morris said “consist of transcriptions of early classical music, original contemporary compositions, marches, jazz of all types, pop and Christmas music.”

TTTE's recent recordings on the Mark Records label will be included on the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences “Grammy Entry List.”

The multigenerational ensemble has influenced the formation of single instrument groups and performances of TTTE music in countries around the globe. According to their website, the ensemble is “responsible for the composition and arrangement of more music for the tuba than any other single source.”

With international prestige, honors of other types have accrued for Morris' company of tubists as well. Most recently, TTTE was chosen to receive the Tennessee Board of Regents Academic Excellence and Quality Award and was featured  both in the PBS documentary “TUBA U: Basso Profundo” and the Scarecrow Press publication of “The Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble and R. Winston Morris: A 40th Anniversary Retrospective” written by Charles McAdams and Richard Perry.

Morris said, at present, the TTTE is comprised of 26 members: 10 tenor tubas, 6 bass tubas and 10 contrabass tubas. And, he added, “from time to time, depending on the requirements of the compositions, percussion instruments and rhythm section instruments will be added.”

Of the 26 students, Morris said four hail from the Tri-Cities (and nearby) region(s).

Principal tuba player and featured soloist in the Kingsport program (sponsored by the Dobyns-Bennett High School band and to be performed at Robinson Middle School this year) is Kingsport native and former D-B student Preston Light, who follows in a “long line” of D-B grads turned TTTE players. Church Hill natives Travis Roberson and Nolan Derrick, both products of the Volunteer High School band, are also a members of TTTE, along with Mary Tallman from Bristol, Va. In addition, TTTE member Curtis Hoeppner spent his sophomore and junior years at Volunteer before moving out of state for his senior year.

No doubt excited to return to their hometowns to perform, these talented musicians will represent the surrounding region with pride as they travel to every stop on the tour leading to TTTE's highly-anticipated appearance at the famed Carnegie Hall.

The upcoming local concerts, which will exhibit a wide array of TTTE music, are free of charge and open to the public. They will be presented as follows:

* Jan. 29: Volunteer High School, 1050 Volunteer Blvd., Church Hill, 7 p.m.

* Jan. 30: Science Hill High School, 1509 John Exum Pky., Johnson City, 1 p.m.

* Jan. 30: Robinson Middle School, 1517 Jessee St., Kingsport, 7 p.m.

* Jan. 31: Greeneville High School, 210 Tusculum Blvd., Greeneville, 10 a.m.

* Jan. 31: Holiday Inn Conference Center, 3005 Linden Dr., Bristol, Va., 6:30 p.m.

For more information about the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble, visit their website at http://orgs.tntech.edu/tuba/.

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