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ASU music alum releases album featured at environmental film festival

Alumnus David Earll, assistant professor of tuba and euphonium at Ithaca College.

August 02, 2021

Arizona State University music alumnus David Earll, who graduated with a Doctor of Muscial Arts in tuba performance in 2014 and is an assistant professor of tuba and euphonium at Ithaca College, was a featured artist at the virtual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, an annual multi-arts, interdisciplinary, cross-media festival in Ithaca, New York, dedicated to showcasing global media projects focusing on issues pertaining to sustainability.

Now in its 24th year, the film festival is held at Ithaca College and is directed by faculty member Patrician Zimmerman, an accomplished pianist and tuba enthusiast.

“I was introduced to Zimmerman when I first arrived at Ithaca and performed a piece for tuba and trumpet at the festival,” Earll said. “When my album was released in October, Zimmerman contacted me to include my album launch in the next film festival as a featured event.”

Deanna Swoboda, associate professor in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, conducted the live filmed interview with Earll, which showcases Earll’s playing, his career and his first album release, “Winding Pathway.” The film also included a live Zoom performance with Earll and ASU alumnus Joanna Hersey, Pembroke University professor and president of the International Women's Brass Conference.

“One of the neat things that came out of their conversation was that Zimmerman also asked David to compose and record the main music theme for the event,” Swoboda said. “So, with every film that is shown, you hear tuba music that is an original composition by David. The solo tuba piece that opens and closes the film was also his composition.”

Earll said albums of tuba and euphonium music might seem uncommon to the casual music consumer but recording albums has recently become part of developing a professor’s or performer’s professional portfolio.

Earll’s album features the music of two Arizona composers and former ASU music professors. “Tapestry III” was composed by emeritus professor James DeMars, and “Relentless Grooves Armenia” was composed by emeritus professor Sam Pilafian. Pilafian was also Earll’s teacher at ASU.

“Winding Pathway,” published on the Potenza Music label, was recorded in Arizona at Tempest Recording with sound engineer Clark Rigsby and was produced by Swoboda. ASU alumna Gail Novak was the pianist. The album is available on Apple music, Spotify and Amazon.

Earll initially began his album project in Arizona, recording pieces for job applications. After graduation he entrenched himself in his first teaching position in Wisconsin but realized he had recorded enough work for almost half an album. He decided to complete the album and incorporated more current electronic media and tuba pieces that had become his specialty while touring with ensembles. As he became more familiar with DeMars’ pieces and a new English composer Andy Scott, he selected DeMars, Pilafian and Scott as the heart of his album project.

When completion of the album was delayed due to COVID-19, Earll took the time to focus on recording rights and selecting a title.

“Something good that came out of quarantine and COVID is tapping into our own creativity – having enough time for ideas to come and enough time to actually finish projects that we've started,” Swoboda said. “We shift, we pivot and find new ways. Boredom is the foundation of creativity and sometimes you need that quiet space. This was one of those times for David that’s significant and really great.”

“One of the writers I follow online, Matt England, wrote about the idea that creativity is like breathing,” Earll said. “When you create something, you breathe out. But if you breathe out forever you will die. So, to regain the ability to breathe out, you have to breathe in. This is what the time of COVID has been for a lot of people – a chance to breathe in and fuel that exhale with new energy, and different energy that you can find outside of the energy of creating.”

Besides teaching, Earll maintains an active soloist, chamber musician and clinician schedule. He performs with the Northern Lights Duo, the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, the International Willson Low Brass Quintet, Symphoria/Syracuse Symphony and the Ithaca Brass. An International Willson Artist, Earll also makes regular appearances abroad and has performed in Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands.

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