This Saturday, Dec. 10, University of Akron President Matthew Wilson will be playing tuba for the first time ever in Akron’s 37th annual TubaChristmas at E.J. Thomas Hall. Performances are at 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and are free for the public and $10 for participants.
President Wilson is a well-seasoned tuba veteran of less than one week. He was invited to participate in TubaChristmas by UA’s music department and Tucker Jolly, professor of tuba and euphonium, and has been working on a few lines of Jingle Bells since last Wednesday. However, for our top brass, this is just another addition to his experience in the brass section.
In middle school, Wilson played trumpet and then switched to French horn. “I am very competitive and simply could not beat the first trumpet out for his seat,” explains Wilson. “As such, I decided to switch over to French horn and actually enjoyed it more than the trumpet.” Wilson has also played the piano since the age of seven, taking lessons from a concert pianist in middle school.
Although you won’t see a solo album anytime soon from the president, he does enjoy sharing musical talents with his family.
Wilson’s wife plays piano and so do three of their four children. The fourth child plays the violin. His 15-year-old son James has been playing piano since the age of six and is already an accomplished piano prodigy. Wilson’s son-in-law is a tuba player and Wilson sees the chance to learn tuba as a great bonding experience.
That is just one of the benefits for President Wilson. He says, “Although I may embarrass myself on stage, I thought it would be a great way to engage with students, parents, families, faculty, staff, contract professionals, the community, and tuba players.”
TubaChristmas first took place in 1974 in New York City and was created by the late legendary tuba player Harvey Phillips. Currently, performances are held yearly both nationally and internationally.
Akron’s version of TubaChristmas, founded by Tucker Jolly in 1980, began with 55 musicians. Over the years it has grown immensely. If Wilson misses a beat or plays a sour note it won’t be noticed because he’ll be only one tuba player in a sea of tubas decorated with colorful garland, tinsel, and lights.
In any case, Jolly is optimistic about Wilson’s ability to carry a tune and keep up with the rest of the band. “We had his first lesson last week and he was an extremely quick study,” he says, praising WIlson’s tuba chops. Jolly also adds, “I think he will do a great job and…all of us involved with TubaChristmas are delighted and pleased that he is taking time out of his very busy schedule to join us.”
For Wilson, the feeling is mutual, and he is “humbled and flattered by the invitation to participate.”
If you would like to join President Wilson for this year’s TubaChristmas, just bring your low brass instrument and $10. On Saturday, the day of the performances, registration is at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby and rehearsal is at 9:30 a.m. on the stage.