The Front Row: Octubafest 2017

Oct 25, 2017

Dr. Kevin Wass, professor of tuba at the Texas Tech University School of Music, joins the Front Row to talk about the upcoming annual Octubafest.

Octubafest is a long-standing thing right?

Absolutely. It started in the late 60s, at some of the midwestern universities. I first encountered it at Indiana University when I was doing my master’s degree. They’re Octubafest is two weeks, every night. So here we spread it out over about six weeks. But the big concert is the concert this week with the ensemble.

It’s always a big combination of guest artists and faculty recitals and student recitals. For most people when they think about Octubafest, they think of the ensemble concert.

So Octubafest is obviously a fall concert of some kind. What all takes place there?

The ensemble concert, we try to feature things that are unique to us, but some of what we’ll be playing are traditional German tunes—if you went to an Octoberfest in Bavaria, this is what you would expect to hear. Anywhere in the country where you go to an Octubafest, you’re going to hear those tunes played.

The Tuba is the bottom of the brass family right? How then does that work in an ensemble of tubas?

It’s difficult because everything is really low. So we actually use different types of tubas…so we can cover a range of about four and a half octaves among the three instruments. What’s neat about it is you have this very nice choir of instruments that sound the same. The challenge for us then is how do you introduce other colors into the sound? So sometimes we’ll use mutes. We’ll add percussion as we’re doing on this concert.

And we have some really creative composers and rangers, that instead of looking at it as a challenge, they look at it as an opportunity to use all these low instruments and the kind of sounds that you can’t create with any other combination.

Listen to the full interview at the top of the article.