John Stevens' Journey" concerto for contrabass tuba and orchestra: a performance guide and a recording as a model for performance
John Stevens’ Journey: Concerto for Contrabass Tuba and Orchestra is a significant work for tuba for several reasons. One key attribute of the concerto is that the piece was commissioned by a major orchestra. The premiere of a tuba concerto by an ensemble as prestigious as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra prompted David Spies to do interviews with both the composer, John Stevens and the performer, Gene Pokorny. These interviews were printed in the major publication for tuba players, the ITEA Journal. Another reason Journey is important is because it was written for the CC contrabass tuba. This is significant for the tuba repertoire because most of the solo music is written in the higher register and therefore played on the bass tuba, which is smaller. With very few pieces written specifically for the bigger contrabass tuba, Journey has an important role to play within the standard tuba repertoire. Despite the initial excitement surrounding the premiere, and the lack of repertoire for the contrabass tuba, Journey has failed to become a staple in the tuba repertoire and is rarely performed. With a piece as difficult as Journey, the lack of a recording as a resource makes it more difficult to learn than works with available recordings. Due to statements by tuba professors about the lack of a recording and what we know from music education research about the importance of having a high-quality model for effective music learning, a recording would make this piece more approachable to potential players. As part of this project, a recording was made and is now available for easy access online. Along with the recording, the project includes updated interviews with the composer and performer, and a performance guide with discussions about techniques to help tubists learn and perform the piece effectively. The recording, interviews, and performance guide in combination are intended to provide a helpful tool for performers in hopes that more performances will secure Journey’s place within the standard tuba repertoire.