The Henry Fillmore Special Fund at the University of Miami is unique only insofar as it is publicly acknowledged to exist. Elsewhere around the country (except in the Ivy League) secret funds have been set up by music-minded alumni to nourish tuba players or any other specialists who may be in short supply.
Incidentally, there never seem to be too many tuba players around, deserving or otherwise. Not many boys take readily to the tuba. It is very rarely a solo instrument, never in a college band. It is not glamorous. Brass tubas (as adapted for marching bands they are called sousaphones) are big and heavy, and it takes a stout fellow to go sashaying down the field with one. Fiber-glass tubas (weighing about 12 pounds, or one-third the weight of the brass tubas) are coming in (even in the Ivy League), but oldtime tuba fanciers consider them an abomination. The tuba is not a romantic instrument. If (as New York Mayor Jimmy Walker said) no girl was ever ruined by a book, certainly no girl was ever tempted beyond her strength to resist by a tuba serenade.
Tubas are expensive; brass tubas cost from $700 to $1,000. College bands must supply them because few tuba men own their own instruments. Tubas can also be hazardous. "I've seen a sudden gust of wind," says Band Director Hazelman of Greensboro, "catch a tuba and send a boy sprawling horn over backward. Tubas are also a target for peanuts, wads of empty cigarette packages and paper cups, beer cans and whiskey bottles. I would say the tuba player is in as much danger, taking one thing and another, as the average football lineman. Big college bands hardly ever have enough tubas."
Ronald Broadwell, director of the University of Southern California's marching band, agrees. "We are usually hurting for tubas at USC," he says, "and one year we had to switch a trombone player to the tuba." Such conversions are common. Irving Dreibrodt, bandmaster at Southern Methodist University, says, "We frequently have to flip a boy from some other brass instrument over to the tuba. The boys are very proud of the band and are glad to cooperate.
As an example of a dedicated tuba player who selected the instrument in high school and has stayed with it exclusively, Dr. Revelli points to Dick Bittie, who (his fellow bandsmen say) plays a very hot tuba. Bittle, tall and limber, comes from Sturgis, Mich. and made last year's marching band as a freshman—an achievement that reflects considerable credit on his high school bandmaster, who happens to be his brother Jack, once a drummer in Michigan's band.
At the University of Kansas, Band Director Russell L. Wiley depends on a summer camp and tips from high school contacts to keep talent coming along. He doesn't have much to offer. He is able to get 15 or 20 boys an average of $125 each, and he splits the $2,500 paid to the band by the athletic department among 125 musicians. He also scrounges around to get part-time jobs for students who need them. But sometimes he runs into knottier problems in which money is not the question at all.
"A couple of years ago," Director Wiley says, "I had my eye on two boys in the Winfield, Kans. band. Trumpet player and trombonist. I talked to the boys and thought everything was set. But about 2 o'clock one morning I got a call from their bandmaster. 'You'd better get down here fast,' he said, 'or you are going to lose those boys.' I threw on my clothes, jumped into my car and headed for Winfield. When I got there I found out that some musical bird dogs from some small religious colleges had been telling the boys' parents that Kansas, being a state school, was a heathen institution. Well, sir, I went right out to see the parents, and I gave them a big pitch about all the religious activities on our campus and I predicted that their sons would end up not only playing in that band but singing in the choirs of churches in Lawrence. The parents were impressed with my obvious sincerity, and I got the boys. They came through fine, played at the football games Saturdays, sang in church choirs Sundays."
So it goes with the hard-working, bird-dogging bandmasters—everywhere but in the Ivy League. The Ivy League does not look with favor on strutting and twirling and fast-stepping bandsmen, preferring to depend on pure musicianship and a few refined japes and capers. The Ivy League's attitude toward the other sort of thing was summed up succinctly by a Yale man who was persuaded by a friend to attend Michigan's big Band Day last season. After it was all over, the friend asked the Yale man what he thought of the show.
"It was all right, I suppose," said the Yale man, "but wasn't it terribly middlewestern?"