(Click HERE to Link to Article and Podcast)
Legendary tuba player talks his 40+ years career as studio musician in Los Angeles and his collaborations with John Williams, including the “Voice of the Mothership” solo in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and his work on Home Alone, Hook and Jurassic Park
Tubist Jim Self is one of the true legends among both the international tuba community and the Los Angeles studio musicians. In a career spanning more than four decades, Jim has performed internationally as soloist, orchestral player, chamber musician and studio musician. He performed in more than 1,500 film and television soundtracks and can be heard playing solos on many of them. He has been John Williams’ principal tuba for 25 years (from 1990...
Jim Self of Locals 47(Los Angeles, CA) and 7(Orange County, CA) has performed internationally as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral tubist, and studio musician for 43 years. He’s recorded on more than 1,500 soundtracks and has performed tuba solos for major films and hundreds of TV shows. His skills as a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, doubling on string and electric bass and bass trombone earned him a reputation as an exceptionally versatile player. At 75, he is principal tuba in four orchestras—the Los Angeles Opera, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. This month, he will release his 15th CD of original classical scores, titled Flying Circus: Music for Brass Quintet.
Self, who routinely works with union players in Los Ange...
A couple of months ago my friend Michael Moore called and asked me if I would like to play 2nd tuba with him and the Atlanta Symphony on Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastic. Just by chance he was in the audience 10 years ago when I did the same with Gene Pokorny and the Chicago Symphony. When he needed a 2nd for Atlanta he thought of me and it just fit in my schedule. So I said yes and the orchestra hired me for the week.
After finishing a week of Harlequinade with the Pacific Symphony and American Ballet off I went to Atlanta—fearful of travel hassles due to the federal shutdown and possible winter weather. Neither happened and my trusty Yamaha F tuba and I spent a wonderful week with that fine orchestra...
William “Bill” Becker passed away three days ago after a long life of 90 years.
Bill was my teacher all through my bachelor’s degree at Indiana State College (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania). He was NOT a tuba player but was a trumpeter. At that time he taught all the brass except horns. He also conducted the Brass Ensemble and taught other classes–as was common in many smaller colleges at the time. I went there in 1961. I believe Bill was just in his 2nd year on the faculty–right out of a PhD from
The Univ. of Iowa. A trumpeter with doctorate was VERY rare at the time.
My memories of working with him are that he gave me my first ever private tuba lessons. He was honest about his limited knowledge of the tuba and its (at the time) sparse literature...
The China Tour was a milestone for the PSO. It has had some impressive musical successes lately and is becoming a force in the symphony world. The concerts we played and the goodwill and connections we made were important. Audiences were enthusiastic and I believe our rather unknown orchestra made a mark in Asia. The 1st 10 days and 5 concerts were spent in Shanghai, Hefei, Wuxi, Chongqing and Beijing but the purposes of this report is not to relate those fine musical experiences but to talk about my feelings about this exotic and ancient country and civilization. As a serious student of history and a frequent foreign traveler I am intrigued by other cultures. I have traveled many times to Japan, once to Korea and once to (nearby) Australia...
Jamie and I just spent a wonderful week in New York City. It has been over 30 years since I was in there. My first time, when I was 15, I went there to compete in a National Majorette Drill Team Competition with Oil City’s own Indian Bonnettes. I played bass drum in the rhythm section and we won the National Championship. In 1965 went to the NY World’s Fair with The US Army Band. While there we also played a concert in Carnegie Hall. Later I took private tuba lessons with the great Harvey Phillips in 1976/77–commuting from my gig in The US Army Band in Washington DC. In 1977 I was in the city with the unique Don Ellis Big Band. We played Avery Fisher Hall on our way to 3 weeks of Jazz Festivals in Europe...
I have been visiting San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California for many years. It was an easy “escape” place for me to fly to. The weather is perfect, the ocean is very near and the restaurants and shops are wonderful. In 2009 (when the housing market crashed) Jamie and I bought a townhouse there and visit as often as we can.
On one of my trips I went to the Granada (an upscale eating place) in downtown SLO for a glass of wine. Sitting next to me at the bar was a man who, over the years, became a dear friend. His name was Don Grant and he was a retired Architecture Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. We hit it off immediately. He had a VERY interesting life. Born in extreme poverty in dust bowl Oklahoma in the 1930’s he raised himself to get a Ph...
Jim was interviewed in the first episode of Last Row Music Podcast. Click on following image to listen the Podcast in full.
Read more about the interview HERE
Bone2Pick: Jim Self Interview – YouTube interviewed by Michael Davis (42:34).
Today Magnolia, our dear Basset Hound, went to the Rainbow Bridge. It was very difficult for Jamie and me. But she was suffering so much that we decided it was time. She was not yet seven years old.
We called her Nolie–after the character in Show Boat.
I have had Basset Hounds for 46 years and they have been a big presence in our lives. I named my little music business Basset Hound Music and my record label is Basset Hound Records. 20 years ago I built a big music room onto our home and named it Basset Hall. Throughout our home we have dozens of Basset figurines. One of my CDs and a song I wrote was called “The Basset Hound Blues”. It and all of my subsequent solo CDs ended with “Dog Tags” (basset howls).
We’ve had many Bassets: Barney, Beauregard, Stanley, Augustu...
At the end of May I spent one of most interesting and important weeks of my life. Jamie and I attended the International Tuba Euphonium Conference at Indiana University. The subtitle for this conference was “Where It All Began”, a reference to the first conference in 1973 hosted by Harvey Phillips–there at Bloomington. At age 29 I was honored to be a guest artist and a member of the planning committee at that 1st amazing event. I have often said that it was the most important event in the history of the tuba and euphonium. This year’s conference was meant to honor 1973 and to demonstrate the great progress our instruments have made in those 41 years. They have been the years of my career as a tuba player and teacher and are mirrored by my experiences...
In Loving Memory
Ethel “Dutch” Brink
Today I heard the sad news from my high school buddy Dan Brink that his mother, Ethel Brink had passed away. Her nickname was “Dutch” and she lived a long life of 94 years.
Dutch was a very special person to me-?-?like a surrogate mother. The entire Brink family was so kind to me. My own mother Helen had a stroke when I was 6 years old and was in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Then when I was 15 my father Pete passed away. Bob Brink, Dutch’s husband, had the difficult task of telling me that my dad had died. I lived with my grandparents until finishing high school.
Bob was Assistant Manager at the Oil City A & P Grocery Store. Later that summer, when I turned 16, he gave me a job as a bag and stock boy. It was a HUGE thing for me...
Read this article at Davidbrubeck.com
April 15 - 21, 2013
I just finished a very interesting week of work in my life as a free-lance musician. I have had so many of these in the last (nearly) 40 years as a musician in Los Angeles. I am grateful that, at my age, I am still relevant and changing and growing.
April 15th came with the news that I was getting a good tax return— yippee!
Monday morning began with two less-than-pleasant visits to dentists— one in Encino to remove my temporary bridge in preparation for the other doctor in Beverly Hills to “open up” the six implants I had a few months earlier. Like a fool I accepted a movie session for that afternoon. I was in quite a lot of head pain for the first part of the session but it got better...
I just finished another interesting and unusual week—this one in my role as a composer. My composition, “Tour de Force”
was performed by the River City Brass Band in Pittsburgh and the Omaha Symphony. It began on Sunday with a flight to Pittsburgh and a rental car to my hometown of Oil City, PA. There I spent two days visiting my “step mother”, Ethel “Dutch” Brink for Mother’s Day. She is 93 and nearly blind. I hope my visit cheered her up. She has the most wonderful children who get her meals and see to her needs. With this she is able to stay in her own home—and she does very well. I also saw my friend Doug Dinberg on this visit. He is a regional judge of the court and an avid musician.
Then on Wednesday I drove down to Pittsburgh and went to the home of James Gourlay a...
Visit the Wikipedia Article on Jim Self
The USC Bass Tuba Quartet has put the following video together in thanks and appreciation for making it possible for us to go compete in Austria this summer. It was an unbelievable and life changing experience for all of us! Thank you!
Video slideset with audio from ITEC 2012, Austria
(The first two pieces heard are the Allegro from Mozart’s 13th Symphony and John Stevens’ Moondance. These are the recordings we sent in to get into the competition in Linz. The third piece is a clip from Bruckner’s 4th symphony and then Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube finishes the slide show.)
Our experience in Austria began two days before our semifinal round, when we arrived in Linz...
Oil City newspaper artcile about a new Sousaphone donated to the high school by Jim. Read More Here
Today I am reminded of that famous soliloquy from Carousel called “My Boy Bill”: a proud father going on about his son.
I got a call this morning from my nieces Kelly and Suzie. Their father (and my brother) Bill died this morning. I am very saddened by this news and I don’t know how best to express my feelings other than to write my memories of my brother Bill. He is the first of the Self-siblings to die. It affects me greatly--as I am sure it does Barb and Joe. He was 78.
This memoir is strictly my feelings and experiences and I hope my facts are accurate. His life was so much more than I saw from afar.
For many reasons our family was spread out all over the country...
Festival of Friends Celebration Remembering
(December 2, 1929 – October 20, 2010)
Saturday, Octuba 15, 2011 3:00pm MAC Center For The Performing Arts Indiana University
Distinguished Professor Phillips performed as tuba soloist throughout the world. His music career began as a teenager with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Band. From 1950-?71 he maintained an enviable freelance career in New York City, performing, recording and broadcasting with famous artists, conductors, bands and orchestras. In 1954, he was a founding member of the New York Brass Quintet. He served as personnel manager for Symphony of the Air, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, and Gunther Schuller. He was New England Conservatory Vice President for Financial Affairs (1967-?71)...
Jim reminisces about his youth and High School friends
Last week one of my best friends in high school died. He was John Velier. I am at the age where too many friends and family are dying. It helps me to reminisce.
We met in junior high as members of the South Side Junior High Band in Oil City, PA. He was a drummer and a very popular kid in school. He was short but cute and the girls liked him. I always thought of him as rich but looking back our families were both middle class –but his was upper and mine was lower. It’s funny but in small towns like Oil City everyone knows everyone else and small relative differences meant huge things to kids and parents alike. These things were overblown in the 1950s...
A personal Memoir
In 1969 I was hired to teach tuba at the University of Tennessee and play in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. One of my colleagues was Bill Scarlett who was the Clarinet professor, Principal Clarinet of the KSO and a uniquely gifted jazz saxophonist. We became great friends and have remained so ever since. Bill passed away this week and I want to write a few words so I will be reminded of how important he was in my life.
In those days in my twenties I was a bumbling guy trying to find my way as a musician and teacher. Bill became my mentor—the older, wiser professor. He seemed to understand me and he was razor shape in pointing out the things that I needed to grow as a musician...
Jim remembers the gregarious, warm, friendly, mentor and colleague Dan Perantoni.
My relationship with Dan Perantoni began in April 1965. I was the newest member of the tuba section in The US Army Band in Washington, D. C. Dan had been there a year and Chester Schmitz two. I was a country bumpkin for sure--from a small college and Dan was the confident graduate of Eastman. He was and always has been a self- confident man and gregarious, warm and friendly. He (and Chester) took me under their wings and taught me all the evil ways of life – (sinning, drinking, womanizing) and how to avoid as much work with the band as possible. One of the earliest things I remember was the Army Band recording a whole bunch of German Marches and only four tubas were needed (of the six)...
Jim Self – 2011
I take the liberty of calling him Harvey even though he had many titles including Mr., Dr. and Distinguished Professor. But he always made me feel comfortable with calling him by his first name. I don’t worship anything (especially other mortals) but Harvey Phillips was as close to a “tuba god” that I have ever known—he was inspirational!
My special relationship with Harvey Phillips began in 1966 when I was in the US Army Band in Washington, D.C. I was studying for my Master’s degree at Catholic University and the man who taught tuba was a distinguished trumpeter but had no interest in teaching tuba and so I was pretty much left on my own. I needed direction. My band mate Dan Perantoni had been commuting to New York City and taking lessons from Harvey Phillips...
Jim recounts two weeks in early 2011 spent with playing, coaching, listening, and conducting.
The U.S. Army Band Tuba Euphonium Conference
New England Conservatory Brass Bash
These two events were real highlights of my life and career as musician. They took place within 2 weeks of each other and put me in situations where I could demonstrate my best playing, composing skills and clinic/master class stuff.
Last summer I took my grandson Omar to Washington DC to see our nation’s capital (just as I had done at age 11). While there I decided to go to a rehearsal of The US Army Band (my alma mater) and to give a copy of Tour de Force for Wind Band to Col. Rotundi...
Jim’s perspective – both musical and business – on his first full Ring cycle performance
Tonight we finished the last Gotterdammerung at LA Opera. It was the end of a two-year commitment to the most elaborate, longest, and (arguably) the most important work of music ever written.
I feel humbled, proud and fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it – once in my life. The Ring has been a LIFETIME experience. Los Angeles Opera is a strange company. It is not a full time orchestra or job but it operates on a very high level. To tackle the Ring is said to be the mark of distinction for an opera company—a sign that you a have arrived. The opera world is very picky, with knowledgeable critics and audiences that judge it on a high level...
Read this article HERE
In 1996 R. Winston Morris and Edward Goldstein published the first edition of the Tuba Source Book. It was a monumental effort to compile complete lists of all music written for tuba by category, composer, publisher and recordings. It produced thousands of entries of all the music they could find at the time and has become the best and most complete source of tuba literature. Dozens of scholars participated in the compilations. The editors wanted the book to be more than music lists and asked a few musicians to write articles on related topics of interest to tuba players. I was asked to write a chapter on Doubling for Tubists. It is a lengthy report from my many years a freelance tuba player and doubler and reflects only my observations and opinions.
After many years there had been hundred...
I just finished a very interesting and challenging week playing 2nd Tuba on Symphonie Fantastique with the Chicago Symphony. Gene Pokorny invited me to play with him and it made a profound impression on me. I was conscious all week of the entire CSO operation from the musicians, to the physical plant, to the management, to the audience, to the city. I felt greatly honored to play with Gene and that superb ensemble but to also be so warmly welcomed by everyone. The guest conductor was Fabio Luisi, who I found to do a terrific job.
We had very little rehearsal – only about 10 minutes on the first part of the 4th movement on the first rehearsal, a slightly rehearsed 2nd rehearsal and a real, straight through dress with a large comp audience (of mostly musicians from the Mid-West Band ...
The 2009 Southwest Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference finished last night and it was 3 days of terrific artists, clinics, master classes, and concerts. Those who came were duly treated to an amazing series of concerts and clinics. Several instrument, equipment and music vendors displayed their stuff too.
Young LA Pros Beth Mitchell and Dave Holben took on the difficult task of organizing SWRTEC. Last year ITEA Conference Coordinator Tim Northcutt asked me if there was any way to have a regional conference in the Los Angeles area. There had never been one because of the busy schedules of the local pros and the lack of professors in the area with facilities and desire to tackle all the hard work. I hosted the 3rd International Conference at USC in 1978 and that was 31 years ago...
I was working on a picture over at Sony tonight and we finished early. So I decided to drop in at the Jazz Bakery and see who was playing. Well it was Billy Childs, a string quartet and a great group of players. WOW it was one of the most incredible evenings I have ever had. It was new and fresh and beautiful stuff. And I just stumbled into it.
It was all Billy Childs’ music and was interesting harmonically. And the rhythmic fluidity of the group was very intense—listening and creative. I come away feeling like I heard a new level of music a real synthesis of jazz, rock, R and B, and especially classical. I have watched this talented man Billy Childs since he was a student at USC. He has developed into one of the leading innovators in all of music an amazing life altering artist...
Last week I played a week of Stravinsky’s Petrushka with the Pacific Symphony. Ever since I got my FLUBA in 2000 I knew it could be a great classical instrument. My main use of it since then has been as a jazz instrument. But playing certain high tuba solos was a piece of cake on it so I always wanted to try it on the Bear Solo or other orchestral parts. Convincing a conductor might be a problem however. My chance came last week. We had a last minute substitute conductor, Christian Knapp, who is young and adventuresome. It’s been a few years since I played Petrushka but after many performances and teaching it forever I thought I knew it cold. During the first two rehearsals I had my Yamaha 822 F and stumbled through the solo...
The following is a sampling (about 300) of the nearly 1500 motion pictures scores that I have recorded from 1974 through 2008. I remember that these films had particularly good scores and/or tuba parts, or were pictures where I had important tuba solos.
(In Alphabetical Order)
- 102 Dalmatians
- 48 Hours
- Agent Cody Banks
- Airplane I
- Airplane II
- American President
- Anastasia Angela’s
- Ashes Anxiety
- Management Apollo
- 13 Armageddon
- Back to School Batteries Not Included Beetle Juice
- Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Bewitched
- Bicentennial Man Big Fat Liar
- Big Top Pee Wee
- Black Cauldron
- Black Stallion
- Blade II
- Blue Thunder
- Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
- Bruce Almighty
- Cat in the Hat
- Catch me If You Can
- Cats and Dogs
- Cheaper by the Dozen 2
- Chicken Little
From the writer’s notes for an upcoming episode of the hit TV Show “House”.
INT. MUSIC PRACTICE ROOM — DAY
TIBALT OYYLANT, 30s, joyous, bubbly, plays “Carnival of Venice” on TUBA for one of his college tuba students. This is an almost impossible piece to play on the trumpet; on tuba, it’s almost stupid. But Tibalt is one of the world’s best tuba players and he delights in the technical difficulty. The student has a huge smile on his face watching Tibalt play.
Tibalt takes a deep breath, but suddenly coughs violently, blood squirting out of the corners of his mouth. As he attempts to hold it in, the blood forcefully goes into the tuba and sprays out the bell end. And Tibalt tumbles awkwardly onto the tuba…Dead.
What an interesting coincidence...
Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony
General introduction, Comments R.Winston Morris (circa 2:00 minutes)
(rwm comments in italics)
Recently a major summer music camp decided to host a one-week session just for tuba players. First, they needed to attract the finest faculty they could to run the camp. Advertisements went out in the appropriate professional journals: Wanted, one administrator with appropriate academic credentials, doctorate required. Wanted, one classically trained tuba solo artist to present master classes in all areas of tuba performance and to present recitals of major repertoire composed for the tuba...
To Read More Click Here…
The Recording Musicians Association of Los Angeles publishes a bi-annual Directory of recording musicians, studios, composers and useful information for the members. Each year they recognize a few of the prominent musicians who passed away. Both Tommy Johnson and his wife Pat died in the period of less than a year. She was an important violinist in our business and both are to be recognized in the 2008-09 issue. I was asked to write the tribute to Tommy. The following is what I wrote for that feature.
It’s been over a year since my dear friend Tommy Johnson passed away. In that time a lot has crossed my mind about our special and complex relationship...
In April 2008 the Pacific Symphony will premier a new orchestra piece that they commissioned from me. The following was wrtten for the PSO Musicians web site and parts of it will be included in the Program Notes and publicity for the concerts. http://www.pacificsymphonymusicians.com
Tour de Force
Episodes for Orchestra
(Process — Program Notes – Synopsis)
Tour de Force is dedicated to Sandy and John Daniels who generously donated a very large amount to the Pacific Symphony to sponsor the orchestra’s first European Tour in Spring 2006—hence the title. It was a very special milestone for the orchestra and had a profound musical effect on me. It was truly fun to play great music in great halls and to feel we were really “making music”...
I wrote this and it was published in the AOPA Pilot magazine monthly column: “Never Again”. They gave me $100 for the article!
I Learned About Flying From That
In the fall of 1987 I had been a pilot for nearly three years, had an instrument rating, 550 total hours and owned a l970 Cessna l72. I am a professional musician and planned a flight to Fallbrook, Ca. to perform a symphony concert on a Sunday evening with an earlier stop at Oceanside for a matinee concert. My passenger, a prominent Southern California musician, loved to fly with me but was not a pilot.
I had flown into Fallbrook many times and understood its shortcomings. It is a short field (2165 ft.), sits on top of a mesa with drops at both ends of the runway...
from a Tube-Net Post September 2004
I heard that there is a discussion about who is the MOST RECORDED TUBA PLAYER and want to weigh in on it. The lack of information and the mis-information on this topic is really amazing.
TOMMY JOHNSON IS ABSOLUTELY THE CHAMPION.
NO ONE ELSE EVEN COMES CLOSE!!
Tommy started recording in the Hollywood Studios right out of college and has had a long and busy career. He has recorded many THOUSANDS of movie scores, television shows, records, jingles, cartoons, theme park music, video games–you name it. And he has recorded music almost every day for over 40 years. There were many times when he would work double and triple sessions 7 days a week...
Tourists are forever writing of their experiences so I will give my take on part of a recent cruise to the Baltic Sea. This was nearly a year ago. Sleep was my bugaboo!. The hassles brought on by jet lag, engine noise, lost bags frustrated my whole experience on this trip. I tried everything to fall asleep–booze, drugs, gambling, reading, sheep.
About 4 AM one morning after another sleepless night I went out on the balcony (by this time we had moved to a much better room). I watched the sun come up while cruising through the long waterway/canal that leads from the Baltic to St. Petersburg. I was really spaced out and was watching this incredible sunrise half way on the other side of the world. We were going into that amazing city that Peter the Great built in the early 18th Century to give...
The following was first published in 1988 in the Instrumentalist magazine. It is followed by an update to February 2004– outlining the many changes in the “business” and how it affects the contemporary tubist. Jim Self
This report on the contemporary recording scene for tuba players is a reflection of my fourteen years as a free-lance musician in Los Angeles. The points expressed are specific for my city but will generally be true for New York, the only other city where large amounts of recording work are done. All kinds of recording sessions are done in both cities but Los Angeles is the center for motion pictures and television and New York the center for jingles (ads for radio and T.V.) and jazz records. Pop records are done in both cities...
Wow, what a day!
Today was that “rare” day when I felt the essence of what being a real studio musician is–and should be. I was proud to be a part of this group and proud to be able to keep up with them. The business is very slow. Things just happen to be slow for everyone but, like a typical paranoid studio musician, I was wondering if my career was over! The last minute call reminded me of the date I did (as a sub for Tommy Johnson) for John Williams for the Conversation in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That was 28 years ago.
The contractor, Leslie Morris, called me just last night to do a session with Tom Newman today at Paramont. It turned out to be one of my most memorable recording sessions...