Five Things I’ve Come To Terms With While Pursuing a Freelance Tuba Career

Allison Lazur has explored various aspects of the arts, including work in the art of baking as well as life on stage as a performer. After obtaining a degree in the pastry arts from The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, Allison baked for five years at various outlets throughout the tri-state area. She returned to school in 2011 to pursue life as a tubist, graduating with a degree in Tuba Performance from the Hartt School in West Hartford, CT.

Allison enjoys an active freelance career by performing with several groups including The New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, Smiling Rhino Theatre and Chatham, New Jersey’s Community Players. In March 2015, she premiered a tuba concerto with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra written by Charles Menoche at Central Connecticut State University. 

She is currently the instructor of tuba at Wesleyan University, while also keeping a small studio of private students. Her most recent endeavors include a 1920s Dixieland Jazz group, French 75, as well as currently being a member of the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO), which performs new music throughout the state of Connecticut.

1. Financially Filling in the Gaps

As a former pastry chef, promotional girl, retail worker, insurance biller and current journalist, I’ll admit I’ve worked several jobs unrelated to tuba to fill in the financial gaps. I’ve always struggled with the idea of dedicating focused time and energy to jobs unrelated to playing my horn. I have felt as though I was cheating on music by flirting with jobs that weren’t nearly as fulfilling as playing tuba, but paid the bills. I would dabble in one field, then switch to another and then another until landing in a profession I could tolerate or maybe even enjoy while also pursuing music. And I’ve decided this is okay! I have finally found a balance between having a steady, weekly paycheck and wholeheartedly continuing to pursue my tuba career. I’ve learned to accept that at the end of the day, as long as you’re pursuing your purpose, everything works out.

 

2. Creating gig opportunities

Tuba might be the least popular instrument in the brass world. There’s only one of us in an orchestra (maybe two, depending on the piece), most people have the misconception that the tuba is only used for “oom-pahs” and often times when someone imitates what a tuba sounds like there’s usually a demonstration mimicking flatulence of some sort. However, despite the misconceptions tuba players face daily, I love this instrument. I believe the tuba is one of the most important instruments in any ensemble. The tuba often lays the foundation for the rest of the group, but in other scenarios can truly act as the solo instrument. Because I see the value of the tuba in an ensemble, I will continue to convince others of its value. I have accepted that I will oftentimes have to convince the one calling the shots that a tuba is needed. I can recall one specific situation where I had discovered there were several parts not covered in the pit for the show Oliver. Although there’s no tuba book for Oliver, I convinced the conductor I could cover several parts from different books all on tuba. With a bit of planning and arranging on his part and mine, it worked!

Create opportunities. Don’t take no for an answer and convince people of your worth.

 

3. Staying active on all fronts is a full-time job

I think I often get so caught up with learning the music, I forget that showing up at concerts, meeting new people and maintaining an online presence are all so crucial to a successful freelance career. The dixieland group, French 75 (www.facebook.com/F75music), was founded only about 2.5 years ago by myself and the clarinetist of the group. And over these last 2.5 years, I’ve learned a ton about what it means to really stay active. Our facebook is crucial. If not regularly updated, we look as though we aren’t on top of things. Our recordings on youtube also hugely contribute to our online presence. Finally, just showing up to venues as a group, even if we aren’t playing helps those who are booking gigs remember us, like us and book us!

 

4. Female tubists deal with nonsense

I’ve accepted that when I show up for a gig there will probably be at least one comment made about being a woman and playing such a large instrument. I’ve also accepted that there’s probably more than one individual at said gig who has already decided how I play before they even hear a single note. Instead of verbally acknowledging the obvious – that yes, I am female and yes, the tuba is pretty large – I just play. I don’t foresee the stereotypes that are associated with being a female brass player being eliminated from the minds of some anytime soon. So at the end of the day, all we can do is play our best, always.

 

5. Reveling in the small accomplishments is crucial

It’s incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re one, lonely, little, tuba player practicing day in and day out, hustling, working multiple jobs, navigating social stigmas and sometimes unable to figure out what the next step is towards your goal. So instead of giving in to feelings of defeat, acknowledge the small achievements and revel in those achievements. Even if it’s just finally mastering five measures of music, revel in that. Five measures of pure gold coming out of your bell, means your five measures closer to your goal.

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