By LINDA M. LINONIS
TubaChristmas celebrates the uniqueness of the largest brass instrument with the lowest pitch.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of TubaChristmas in the Mahoning Valley with a concert at noon Dec. 7
at the Eastwood Expo Center. The first concert was Dec. 22, 1974, at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Teresa Kirkland is founder and coordinator of TubaChristmas in the Valley. Wes O’Connor, director of bands at Austintown Fitch High School, has been conductor since the beginning.
Kirkland, who works in community outreach and career services at Stautzenberger College in Brecksville, Ohio, said she took her daughter more than 15 years ago to a TubaChristmas concert in Akron. She found its uniqueness appealing and decided to organize an event in the Valley. At the time, she worked at Trumbull County Visitors
Bureau and said she saw the concert as a way to draw people to the area.
Kirkland said she had to apply for rights for a
TubaChristmas performance and get approval from nearby Akron’s event. She was successful in both — and the Valley’s TubaChristmas was born.
“I think it’s a way to draw people here while promoting the arts,” Kirkland said, adding she appreciated “the range” of the instrument.
O’Connor said Kirkland contacted him about serving as conductor, and he’s been doing it ever since. “I’ve been playing the tuba since eighth grade,” he said. “I appreciate the instrument’s specific space in the band.”
O’Connor said the “rich and robust” sound of the tuba has contributed to the success and popularity of TubaChristmas.
For the performance at the Eastwood Expo Center, tubas and euphoniums, which are small tubas, will be played, O’Connor said. “They’re part of the low brass family,” he said. He also explained a concert tuba sits in the player’s lap, and the sousaphone, made for marching bands, wraps around the player. Tuba players at Fitch use both.
Kirkland said TubaChristmas was at Eastwood Mall for 13 years. “We had to move to the Expo Center because we outgrew the mall,” she said, noting the mall had been a wonderful host throughout the years.
TubaChristmas attracts about 100 musicians and about 2,000 in the audience; the size of the event prompted the move.
O’Connor said there is no registration. On the day of the concert, Dec. 7, musicians will rehearse at 10 a.m. with the concert following, O’Connor said.
“Generations in families play together,” Kirkland said.
O’Connor said the age range is from 12 to 87 years old and among them will be Fitch tuba players. “There’s a standard TubaChristmas book of carols,” O’Connor said.
Kirkland said for many Valley families, TubaChristmas sets the right seasonal note, and attendance has become a holiday tradition.