AMES, Iowa — It’s an annual tradition here, Merry Tuba Christmas. For nine years, Ames has welcomed this gathering of low brass instruments, performing traditional Christmas carols.
“I used to teach in Akron, Ohio, at the University of Akron,” said Tuba Christmas conductor Michael Golemo. “The tuba teacher there, Tucker Jolly, does Tuba Christmas with 400 tuba players for each of their performances. It’s quite a big deal, so we thought he would bring it here to Ames.”
Golemo also serves as the director of bands for Iowa State University.
Ames Tuba Christmas welcomed 96 tuba players, as young as 10, and as old as 82.
“It’s the heavy metal event of the season,” said Golemo. “The Ames event has grown so big, they added a second show at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Ames.”
The event is so popular in Ames, people were showing up an hour prior to the first show.
“It’s standing room only. Originally we had one performance. The crowd is just blossomed, as has the number of players,” said Golemo. “We’ve gone to two performances, and as you can tell, we’re packing the place and we don’t know where to go next. It’s just a great event.”
There is no admission to the Ames event. Tuba players pay a small fee to purchase the Tuba Christmas music book. The same book is used every year and at every Tuba Christmas event in the country.
“Last year I auditioned for Marching Band on piccolo, and they asked a few of us if we wanted to play sousaphone,” said Lauren Bey, an ISU student from the Chicago area. “I said ‘sure that sounds like fun’. Now I play sousaphone.”
“Yeah, it takes a lot of air,” said Griffin Meadors, an ISU student from suburban Chicago. “I would say it’s the easiest instrument to be really bad at. I’m a tuba education major.”
“Something about that instrument — the sound — it’s almost like a pipe organ. You feel it,” said Golemo. “It goes through you it’s so slow vibrations of the bass instruments it’s just it’s overwhelming it’s really something you have to experience.”
According to TubaChristmas.com there are ten Tuba Christmas performances in Iowa. The next will be in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Des Moines.
If you would like to know more about the Des Moines Tuba Christmas, click here.