Tuba suite honors ASU's Sam Pilafian
When a university professor has a huge impact on your life, what do you do to honor him or her?
In Thomas Bough’s case, that professor is the ASU School of Music’s Sam Pilafian, and you write a tuba suite for him.
The Scottsdale Concert Band, directed by Arizona State University alumnus Chris Hulet, will give the Arizona premiere of Bough’s “Suite Tuba,” which he wrote in honor of Pilafian, at 3 p.m., Dec. 5. Bough will be the soloist.
The free concert will take place in the Saguaro High School auditorium, 6250 N. 82nd St, Scottsdale. The band’s Saxophone Ensemble will perform at 2:30 p.m. preceding the concert.
Also on the concert will be holiday music, including “Fantasia on a French Carol,” arranged by band member Edward J. Madden; “Winter Wonderland”; “Deck the Hall and All That Jazz”; and “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.”
Additionally, the program includes “The Magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and "Universal Judgment," a symphonic poem by Camillo De Nardis, long time director of the Conservatory in Naples, Italy.
“Universal Judgment,” which won first prize in a national band contest at Naples in 1878, is based on a religious concept of a journey of purification consisting of hardships with glimpses of hope and joy for those who are awaiting the universal judgment before receiving final blessedness. The music follows this progression with alternating sections of hardships (heavy brass parts), hope (high woodwinds frequently representing angels), and joy (also woodwinds and including lyrical brass parts), and with a triumphant conclusion representing final blessedness.
Bough holds master’s and doctoral degrees in tuba performance from ASU, where he studied with Pilafian and Dan Perantoni. He now is director of athletic bands at Northern Illinois University, where he also conducts the Wind Symphony and teaches courses in music education.
From 1992-1999, Bough was the band director at Westwood High School in Mesa. Bough also is founder and owner of Downbeat Design, a company that designs marching band shows.
Bough said of Pilafian, “Although Sam is best known in the brass world for his ground-breaking performances as the tuba player and founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet, he was also the primary arranger and business manager for Empire for nearly 20 years.
“He is also an incredible teacher, who has trained thousands of musicians around the world. Sam had a profound impact on my career in all four areas, that is, as a player, a composer and arranger, entrepreneur and teacher. This composition is designed to reflect different elements of training and studying with Sam.”
“Suite Tuba” is in four movements. “The first movement, ‘Shifting Sands,’ reflects Sam’s love of rhythm and groove, not to mention the sands of the Sonoran Desert where we met,” Bough said.
“In the second section, ‘Swingin With Sam,’ there are frequent shifts from major to minor and back again, which reflects the high level of technical fluency Sam expected, inspired and required. This movement starts with the soloist playing the bass line, since bass line construction was a skill Sam passed on to all of us. This movement is loosely based on a traditional jazz tune called ‘That’s a Plenty.’
“The third movement, ‘Lullaby,’ is self-descriptive. Sam talked about letting your sound ‘glow’ in music like this, so that’s the goal….to play with a truly beautiful, resonant sound and let the simplicity of the music speak for itself.
“The final movement, subtitled ‘Finale,’ combines themes from the other movements with new material and a second cadenza.”
The Scottsdale Concert Band has more than 70 members, ranging in age from students to retirees. Many of the members are former music teachers and performers. The band rehearses Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Scottsdale Community College. For membership information about the band, send an e-mail to email@example.com.