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Sykes leads workshop

Tuba star Steve Sykes recently led a great day at the 2007 SCABA Annual workshop.



After a year’s break, the SCABA Workshop came back to the small town of Cranleigh, and a great day was had by all.

Steve Sykes was the presenter as bass players from all over the region came together to witness the maestro at work.

Twenty two players registered for the event, the vast majority bringing their instruments with them, both E flat and B flat basses. The first thing that became apparent was the amount of room the equipment required. The cases alone took up a lot of floor space so effort had to be made to store things neatly.


The day started with Steve giving us a recital, which was simply astonishing.

Even though it was at a time when most of the population were just thinking about breakfast, Steve put himself and the tuba to work and gave a display that showed every characteristic of the instrument; slow melody, triple tonguing and tremendous speed left the delegates dazzled before he finished with notes that were so high in pitch that the average trumpeter would have thought twice! That alone would have been worth making an effort to hear.

Hints and tips

The vast majority of the day was taken up with a selection of hints and tips to improve performance, including the moving of the head when playing (‘the pivot system’) and the three different methods of achieving vibrato.

All this was punctuated by numerous anecdotes from his own experiences and his opinions on various instruments, pieces and players. All those in attendance soaked up every morsel of information and in a number of cases they wore pencils away as they noted every point.

Playing in a masterclass is a nerve-wracking experience, but each of the four volunteers said how much they enjoyed it, and two others said they were sorry they hadn’t volunteered too. Maybe next time4BR

In the Section

One of the most interesting aspects of the day came with a section called ‘In The Section’.

Four volunteers (two E flats and two B flats) came forward and formed a typical brass band bass section. They were then led through a piece and attention was given to articulation, intonation, balance and every other factor of ensemble work, notably staggered breathing.

Learned something

Everyone agreed that they had learned something here, things they didn’t normally think about when playing for their own bands. So, having been briefed on how things should be done and having heard them demonstrated, it was the turn of our volunteers for the masterclass section.

Four players came forward and performed pieces, with constructive criticism provided by Steve.

Teaching skills

This is where Steve’s teaching skills came in. With a tremendous sense of encouragement about him, Steve offered advice to all four players, and although each of them played very well to start with, a noticeable difference was noted in a matter of seconds.

Playing in a masterclass is a nerve-wracking experience, but each of the four volunteers said how much they enjoyed it, and two others said they were sorry they hadn’t volunteered too. Maybe next time.

Tuba choir

To close, everyone got together and formed a massive tuba-choir, which was tremendous fun, amazingly loud and must have been terrifying for the local population.

The first piece was the beautiful 'Nocturne' from 'Mid-Summer Night’s Dream', and if you ever heard it like that at night time then sleep would be out of the question!

Steve provided everyone with a fascinating experience that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

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B.Mus (Hons), LTCL, PGCE
Conductor, adjudicator, arranger