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Thread: A High School Tuba Prank - 1962

  1. #1

    A High School Tuba Prank - 1962

    At my high school in a small farming town in Southern California, we had a wonderful band teacher, who taught us all from elementary school through high school. Our little school, with only about 600 students had a band of over 100 players when I was there. He was great and the band wasn't at all bad. But that's not the story:

    The Four Sousaphones

    Every morning, our high school school had a flag-raising ceremony. The trumpet players in the band took turns playing "To the Color," as the flag was raised every morning. All of the students were expected to face the flag, stand at attention and participate. It was a pretty good tradition, and gave even the last chair trumpet player a chance to solo on that bugle call.

    I was a clarinetist and oboist in the band, and felt left out. The band did own four Conn sousaphones, though, and low brass always interested me in some way. I fiddled with them from time to time, learning some scales and enjoying playing the things. One day, an idea popped into my head, and I talked to one of the sousaphone players and a couple of trombone players who were close friends. After all, isn't a sousaphone just a big-assed bugle?

    So, we began practicing. We played "To the Color" before band practice every day for a couple of weeks. A quartet of sousaphones doing bugle calls. Finally, we felt ready. One morning, we told the trumpet player to take a hike and marched out of the band room, shouldering all four of the school's sousaphones. We played "To the Color" ff as the flag rose, all in unison, all in tune, and without a false note. It was beautiful!

    As the ringleader of this motley group, I found myself in the school principal's office later that day, being thoroughly dressed down for our performance. "A mockery!" he called it. "Disrespectful!" he said. Since I was well known as the chief prankster at that school, I suppose he may have had some reason for his reaction, but I wasn't having any of it. "No, sir," I countered. I then gave him a brief history of brass instruments and told him that the sousaphone was, in fact, just the contrabass of bugles. I then explained that the four of us had practiced for two weeks so we could deliver a perfect performance of that bugle call. "No disrespect was intended at all," I told him, with a very sincere look on my face.

    There wasn't much he could say to all of that, so he dismissed me, shaking his head sadly. Truly, it was one of the best school pranks that year. The "Four Sousaphones" were the talk of the campus and all four of us became mildly notorious for our performance, which was recognized by the student body as we intended it to be recognized. Our band director, patient as always, did suggest that we might consider not playing an encore of our performance, but allowed as how we had done a very nice job on our gigantic bugles.
    3-valve Blessing B-350 Euphonium

  2. Very cool! A prank that was inventive and well executed! :-)

  3. I wouldn't call it a prank at all. All four of you should have been complimented on your desire to show your patriotism and the perfect execution of your rendering of respect at the flag raising.

    When my son was a Boy Scout, I volunteered not only with the troop, but also at the monthly district leaders' meetings. One month it was my turn to call everything to order, including the singing of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee." Well, as luck would have it, two days before the meeting, I got laryngitis and could hardly whisper, to say nothing of singing (pun intended). But I went and took a sousaphone anyway. In the whisper, I apologized for my losing my voice, but since I was tasked to lead, and as all Scouts should be prepared, I was going to do my best. I shouldered the sousaphone, gave a starting pitch, and played the melody two octaves down with my right hand on the valves as I directed the assembly of Scout leaders with my left hand (now you know why I took a sousaphone instead of any other instrument). Actually, they were quite impressed with my "Plan B," and the meeting went very well, indeed!

    Edit to add that as a Scout leader, I have heard many renditions of all of the bugle calls. Depending on the ability of the bugler, some were excellent, some could hardly hold a note. We never criticized any person for trying their best, and we all showed our appreciation for the courage it takes, especially for a young gentleman, to actually stand up and be a leader of a flag raising or any other ceremony involving a bugle call.
    Last edited by iiipopes; 02-22-2016 at 02:01 PM.

  4. #4
    I have a slightly different story on "To The Colors". I was living in Germany in the late 1950's when my dad, who was a career Army officer, was stationed at Stuttgart. I had joined the Boy Scouts, and I got to attend a large Boy Scout Jamboree one summer. I had started playing trumpet a couple years earlier. I was no great trumpet player, but turns out, I somehow got picked to play "To The Colors" on one of the morning flag raising ceremonies. I got all dressed, shined up my horn and got ready for the big event. And then it came and I started. Got the first three notes out, and when I landed on the trumpet player's G, I noticed with horror that I had not emptied my spit valve. I was too nervous and afraid to stop to do this, so I played the whole bugle call with the gurgling at every quarter note in the piece. How humiliating!! And this was my very first real performance in front of a large crowd. I suppose I could have been ruined for life, but I got over it, and when I returned to the United States the next year, I switched to baritone, and life has been good since.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

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