IU Press publishes ‘Mr. Tuba’
Jazz legend David Baker uses a rarely heard word to describe longtime friend and associate Harvey Phillips: magnanimous.
Then again, Phillips, distinguished professor emeritus and famous tuba player, was a rare breed of musician.
That spirit is captured in his recently published book, “Mr. Tuba,” which he wrote during the last 10 years of his life. The book was published by IU Press.
Phillips died in October 2010 at the age of 80 in his Bloomington home. He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.
Before Phillips joined the faculty at the Jacobs School of Music — five years after Baker became chair of the jazz studies program — the two recorded “The Golden Striker.” Baker played jazz trombone and Phillips played tuba.
Later, Phillips commissioned a tuba piece for Baker as he did for more than 100 people throughout his life.
Phillips’ family asked Baker to write the foreword for “Mr. Tuba.”
“Despite the fact that we were closer in age, Harvey was like a mentor to me,” Baker said. “I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t quote him in some circumstance or another.”
After graduating high school in Marionville, Mo., Phillips took a summer job playing tuba with the King Bros. Circus and eventually played for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Phillips then trained with William Bell, his predecessor at IU, at the Julliard School. He later joined the U.S. Army Field Band and helping form the New York Brass Quintet.
Soley credited with establishing the tuba as a respected instrument, Phillips started the annual concert series TubaChristmas and Octubafest in 1974 in honor of Bell.
Daniel Perantoni, Jacobs School tuba professor said to be Phillips’ protégé, said his students helped Phillips put the book together because he was ill. Perantoni met Phillips in New York, and they became good friends. Phillips ultimately led Perantoni to become a college instructor . He knew Phillips for 45 years.
“We have a lot of good, funny things going back and forth, but he was an absolute giant of a man in all aspects,” Perantoni said. “A wonderful player, a wonderful teacher and a wonderful friend. He’s just one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.”
Peranotoni said “Mr. Tuba” is about Phillips’ life, what it meant to him and how he documented everything he did.
Mary Campbell, a retired music writer for the Associated Press, began transcribing the stories Phillips wanted to include in the book in 2001. The two met when she interviewed him for an AP article.
Before the book became a memoir, Phillips asked Campbell if she would interview people who knew him. She spent 2001 and 2002 interviewing people who “praised his tuba playing.”
Much of that content was thrown away, Campbell said. IU Press denied the version of the book, which largely consisted of what other people said about Phillips.
“His telling of his story was more interesting than anybody commenting on his story,” Campbell said.
In 2010, the book was submitted again, and IU Press decided to publish it.
Phillips’ wife Carol helped edit “Mr. Tuba,” but she said there are some omissions in the book she thinks should have been included.
“He told wonderful stories, but in editing sometimes things get lost, personalities get lost,” she said.
Baker said he hasn’t had the chance to “really do the loving of the book,” only in portions when he has time.
“It does capture you that way,if you have another life like I do as a teacher and a performer,” he said. “So, I read it in chunks when the day doesn’t feel good. I read it, and then my day jumps up, and it feels great because of Harvey.”
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