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Female tuba player enlightens, enriches SMS students

Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

December 17, 2013

On Friday, students and parents at Sampson Middle School enjoyed a concert with an extra special guest, one that is somewhat unusual in the world of band music — a female tuba player.


Dr. Joanna Hersey is breaking past barriers and has been performing all over the place. As part of the “Professors in the Classroom” grant Hersey has worked with students and provided them an opportunity for enrichment that otherwise might not be available for the students. She is an Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at UNC-Pembroke.


Hersey, who is originally from Vermont, received a Master of Music in Tuba Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. Her Doctor of Musical Arts in Tuba Performance was earned at the Hartt School in Hartford, Conn.


Hersey performed with the students as part of the “Professors in the Classroom” grant with the Simple Gifts Love of Learning Grant. Hersey says that this an excellent opportunity for the students. Currently she is a professor at UNC-Pembroke, and she particularly enjoyed this performance with the students. This was her first concert with this group and she said that she has occasionally visited to do clinics for the classes.


“Vevlyn Lowe’s tuba sections are on the ball,” said Hersey. “I usually go and spend the day with the students and sometimes I play the tuba for the entire band.” She said that the performance was a masterwork of coordination.


Lowe, Sampson Middle School’s band director, says that she has really enjoyed having these teachers come in from various colleges to work with her students. Lowe said that having a female tuba player is a special treat for all of them.


Tuba players are historically male and Lowe says that having a female tuba player come in to play with the students and work with them as a section gives them a great opportunity.


Dr. Hersey is a very accomplished player, Lowe said, and she also performed with the U.S. Coast Guard Band as the principle tubist. With the US Coast Guard Band, Hersey also had a chance to travel to places she would have likely never visited without the Coast Guard. In the military bands it is extremely competitive and difficult to find a job opening. She managed to get in young and she said that it opened a lot of doors for her. She met many different conductors she would likely have never met. Hersey said that the entire procedure to get into the program is very nerve wracking and that to do it one must be good with taking directions and be ready to make a serious commitment. Her time with the US Coast Guard band put her in an excellent position to further her education and it was great opportunity for her.


“This is nice for grade school kids,” said Hersey in a phone interview Monday. “It is fun for students.” Lowe says that this opportunity has been particularly great for the two female tuba players she has in her classes.


Hersey has performed all over the country and has performed for three U.S. Presidents and has also been on shows like Good Morning America and The Today Show. Dr. Hersey is also a founding member of the Athena Brass Band, which is an all female brass band group. It is the first band group of its kind in the United States. She is also the principle tubist with the Carolina Philharmonic and the Carolina International Orchestra.


“It has been exciting for them to see a female tuba player,” said Lowe. “It is a mostly male instrument … that’s why it’s even better for the students to see a female professor who plays tuba.”


Dr. Hersey’s group, the Alchemy Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, which was founded in 1976, also goes throughout the country and Europe performing. Alchemy also goes to perform each year in Jever, Germany for the Horn-Tuba Workshop which is a combination of group performance recitals, master classes and ensembles. The group also traveled to Linz, Austria to perform as part of the International Tuba Euphonium Conference.


As a professor with an outgoing personality and strong work ethic, she says that it has really helped her to get outside and go where the schools were good and that there wasn’t a predisposed bias because of her gender.


“We need more of all the cross sections of society,” said Hersey. She wants more minorities and women to follow their passions in music without focusing on gender stereotypes. She has had to deal with her share of breaking the boundaries especially since the majority of her teachers have been men. Hersey has worked with four different orchestras and has been teacher for a while.


Lowe says that she wants her students to know that a female can be successful as a tuba player. Lowe describes Hersey as the most energetic tuba professor she has ever seen.


“She gets my students so pumped up about playing,” attested Lowe.


Hersey has music available for purchase online. To find out more information about Hersey visit her website at joannahersey.com


Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at ebrown@civitasmedia.com