Tuesday, October 27, 2009
History of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association
by Carter I. Leeka
Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association, though relatively new as a named organization, had its beginnings in New York City in the 1930s, when William Bell joined the NBC Symphony. In an interview with Harvey Phillips, he traced these early years for the author. Phillips stated that with such a great tubist and teacher in their presence, it was only natural for other tubists, both professional and student, to be attracted to Mr. Bell. They met informally at McSorley's Old Ale House, in Manhattan, for beer, food and friendship. Because Mr. Bell was not always available, these meetings were very irregular; sometimes twice a week or more, sometimes not for several weeks at a time.
Seated at a large, round table, the discussions concerned the tuba and how to improve its playing. At the table everyone was an equal, a part of the group. A sense of camaraderie prevailed, where all were no longer teacher or student, but people who had an interest in the tuba.
It was suggested by some members that the group should devise an official name. After much discussion around the table, Mr. Bell rumbled that they should call it the “Royal Order of ----pots” [expletive deleted]. And thus it became, complete with membership cards.1
From the ale house meetings, until his death in August of 1971, Mr. Bell is considered by Mr. Phillips to have been a major force in the organizing of tubists. His death created a tremendous void in the tuba world.2
In 1966, Robert Ryker, principal tubist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Brass Quintet, and editor of the Montreal Brass Quintet Series, sent notice to several music publications announcing an attempt to organize an official organization of tubists. He called it the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association or T.U.B.A. for short. The Conn and Mirafone companies contributed money towards the expenses that would be incurred in mailings and printings. Three tubists were made honorary members of T.U.B.A.: William Bell, Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips.