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Diatribe: Banda Music And Black Market Tubas.

03/12/2012

About half-way through my college music experience, the baritone horn player in the concert band graduated and I was asked to take his place.  I had never played a baritone before but was quite proficient at the trombone and the two instruments are similar in many ways.  I borrowed a baritone horn from the school’s inventory and set out to learn its intricacies as quickly as I could.  I found that the transition from a slide to valves was not as difficult as I feared and was proud to enter the rehearsal room for the first time as a baritone horn soloist.

We were rehearsing “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets Suite that had been arranged for concert band.  It was to be part of the college’s annual recruitment tour during which the band played at various venues in multiple cities across the nation in hopes of attracting new students into its music program.  I was seated in the back row of the band beside the tuba players and in front of the percussion section.  I learned about the tuba as well and that I couldn’t do it justice because it’s really a very difficult instrument to play.

The tuba is featured in traditional Mexican brass-based Banda music including, rancheras, corridos, cumias, baladas and boleros.  The music is a relative of the polka and has similarities to other traditional German and Polish music.  Once relatively unknown north of Mexico, banda has become the fastest growing genre of Latino music in the United States.  Apparently, it’s become so popular that bandits are stealing tubas from the high school marching bands of Southern California to supply a fast-growing black market for banda instruments.  Tuba players are said to earn twice as much money as other members of the bands/

Tubas are expensive and the instruments favored by banda players are the lighter sousaphones like those carried in marching bands.  But thieves have also been stealing the heavier tubas used by concert orchestras.  The instruments can weigh as much as fifty pounds so they’re difficult to steal.  Even before the rise in popularity of banda music, the tuba’s high cost has always made it vulnerable to theft.

I’ve always known that both the tuba and the baritone horn are valuable instruments in all types of bands, but it never occurred to me that they would be the target of thieves.

Copyright © 2012 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com
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5 Comments
  1. Tuba thieves? Now I have heard everything!

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    • I remember, years ago, that tubas would occassionally get stolen from marching bands to be sold as scrap metal. Today’s thieves, at least, have more artistic motivation. 😉

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  2. The things I learn from reading your blog!! Tubas are difficult to play, really? I have never given tubas any consideration whatsoever. I used to play the trumpet in grade school so I just figured tubas were the same as trumpets only bigger and harder to look cool playing! How interesting that thye are the target for theives. I can honestly say I never saw that one coming! Ha!

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