Alan Baer, Principal Tuba

The New York Philharmonic

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Alan Baer

Alan Baer joined the New York Philharmonic on June 21, 2004, as Principal Tuba. He was formerly principal tuba with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. His other performing credits include recordings with The Cleveland Orchestra led by Vladimir Ashkenazy, performances with the Peninsula Music Festival of Wisconsin, New Orleans Symphony, Los Angeles Concert Orchestra, Ojai Festival Orchestra (California), Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed as a featured soloist, touring several countries in Europe, including Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and France.

Mr. Baer began his undergraduate work at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with Dr. Gary Bird. He completed his bachelor of music degree with Ronald Bishop at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and has done graduate work at the University of Southern California, Cleveland Institute of Music, and California State University, Long Beach, where he studied with Tommy Johnson. While in Long Beach, Mr. Baer taught at California State University, where he also directed the university tuba ensemble and the brass choir. In Milwaukee, Mr. Baer was adjunct professor of tuba and euphonium at the University of Wisconsin and director of the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble.

“The tuba is the largest of the brass instruments, and has one of the largest usable ranges. It can amplify and enrich the sound of the orchestra. It’s like thickening the stew.”

Q&A with Alan Baer
THE FACTS: Born in Erie, Pennsylvania. Studied at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Gary Bird. Completed bachelor of music degree with Ronald Bishop at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and did graduate work at the University of Southern California and Cleveland Institute. Prior to the Philharmonic: Principal tuba, Milwaukee Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, and Louisiana Philharmonic orchestras. At the Philharmonic: Joined June 2004. Teaches privately, and at the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University, and Bard College.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: As a kid I enjoyed listening to Hansel and Gretel. I started guitar lessons and also tried the violin. In fifth grade I got to choose an instrument. I was always a big guy, and the tuba seemed more fitting than the violin.

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? Tommy Johnson and Roger Bobo for sound concept, Ron Bishop and Gary Bird for musical ideas within the orchestral and solo literature.

HOW MANY TUBAS DO YOU HAVE? Five. I use three at Avery Fisher Hall — small, medium, and large — and two at home for practice. I’m a consultant to the Meinl-Weston Corporation in Germany; I work with them in developing new tubas. I’m also a brass repairman, with a full shop in my house.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING ASPECT OF THE TUBA? The tuba is the largest of the brass instruments, and has one of the largest usable ranges. It can wear many different hats in the orchestra — sometimes playing with the brass section, or adding to the string bass section for extra depth. I sometimes act as the fourth trombone, or even a fifth French horn. The tuba is very powerful and the conductor can use it like a bulldozer to push or pull the orchestra in the direction he may want to go.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA? The concerts we did on tour in Asia with Maazel, and the excitement of those audiences; also, performing with the Philharmonic’s Principal Brass Quintet

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSER: Prokofiev. He was one of the first composers, if not the first, to use the tuba as a true "contrabass" instrument. His writing is so lyrical, and works wonderfully for the tuba.

WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER RIGHT NOW? I like all styles of music and usually have my iPod set on shuffle. This gives me the opportunity to check it all out.

ARE THERE OTHER MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? My wife, Noreen, is a trombonist; our daughter, Julia, is an aspiring violinist.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK? I like physical activity and working with my hands. I'm an avid motorcyclist and now a Jeep enthusiast. Our Vail residency gives me a chance to challenge the equipment on- and off-road.

As of May 2011
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