October is an unusual month in the Jacobs School of Music. While many students are getting prepared for Halloween, for tuba students the last week of the month marks Octubafest, a combination of guest performers and student recitals, orchestrated by Provost Professor of Music Daniel Perantoni.
Octubafest kicked off this Thursday with a guest performance by world-renowned euphonium player Misa Meade and will continue through Monday with “Octuba 31st.”
“What I do here is about five or six concerts where I make every one of my students play a major piece, and we try to schedule it so that it’s interesting to the audience,” Perantoni said. “In other words, a variety of pieces, however they fit nicely, so people can get an idea of what they sound like.”
Perantoni said Octubafest, which has been going on since the early 1970s, was the brainchild of his predecessor, distinguished professor Harvey Phillips. He said Phillips created a celebration for the tuba and also wanted to spread the event to other schools. Portraits of Phillips can be seen on the walls of Perantoni’s studio.
At the time Octubafest began at IU, Perantoni said he was teaching at the University of Illinois. He and Phillips were good friends, and he said he considers Phillips to be one of his mentors.
“When he did this, I jumped on at Illinois and other schools I was at,” Perantoni said.
Octubafest went from being on only a few college campuses to being an international event. Perantoni said when Phillips retired, he came to IU to fill the vacancy he left.
Perantoni said Octubafest serves multiple purposes. Along with creating more appreciation for the tuba, he said the event also serves to prepare students for auditions in the coming year. Perantoni invites guest performers to participate in the series, which he said gives his students both role models and contacts in the industry.
“The fact is we broaden their horizons,” Perantoni said. “Students meet new people from around the world, and there’s contacts.”
Perantoni said these first-person connections are necessary to survive in the music industry. He said he wants his students to be professional in every sense of the word, so he holds them to high standards.
Perantoni said unlike being part of a band or orchestra where one can get covered up, tuba players need to be assertive with their sound. As a solo artist, he can assist his students with this aspect.
“There’s no place to hide,” Perantoni said. “You’re a solo instrument.”
He said Octubafest puts students in good shape for auditions they may have coming up. Perantoni compared it to a student writing a major paper, but in this case it occurs only in October. He can pick up on problems individual students may be having early on.
“I can see what they’re doing on stage, like if they have stage fright or ‘Is this little thing happening?’” Perantoni said. “I know exactly, and then we go back to the drawing board and try to correct the problems and make them better musicians.”
Perantoni emphasized how being a soloist is not the same as playing as part of an orchestra or band section. He said the pieces he assigns for Octubafest to each of his students really get them to work at this aspect.
“There’s a difference,” Perantoni said. “We are singers on our instrument, really.”
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