Faculty Friday with Chris Pearlberg
It's our favorite day of the week: Faculty Friday! For first time readers, our Faculty Friday blog is a series of questions and responses meant to feature instructors from Luzerne Music Center in a unique light. Focusing not only on their professional career, we ask faculty questions that give students and readers a glimpse into their daily lives.
This week's highlight is on Tuba faculty Chris Pearlberg. Currently living in Bloomington, Indiana, Chris is a doctoral student at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Having worked with various ensembles as an orchestral musician, soloist, and chamber musician, Chris has performed with varying groups ranging from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to the All Star Refugee Band from Prague.
In 2014, Chris helped create a brass ensemble called The Brass Roots in Pittsburgh, PA. This group has become very active in the Pittsburgh community through live performances and broadcasts on Pittsburgh’s classical public radio stations. But not limited to the classical music genre, Chris Pearlberg has also recorded two albums on electric bass with the band Renne. Read below and get to know Chris a little better!
Tell us a little bit about your history with LMC- how did you get connected and how many summers have you been on faculty?
I was fortunate enough to be recommended by some of my former teachers for the position at LMC. This will be my third year on faculty.
How did you initially become interested in the tuba?
As the old saying goes, the tuba chooses you! Music runs in my family, both my father and grandfather made careers as trombonists and music educators. My grandfather bought me a trumpet when I was very young, but I didn't stick with it long. I eventually picked up the euphonium (smaller, higher pitched tuba) in middle school, only really playing it in the summers at a music program where my father teaches. The euphonium's high register has a beautiful, singing tone quality, and is commonly featured as a soloist. My high notes at the time did not resemble anything close to a beautiful tone, so the euphonium had a similar fate as the trumpet. I didn't have a band program at school until I reached 9th grade, where I started the tuba. I would like to think it was my musical ability that awarded me the coveted tuba seat, but the truth is that no one else wanted to play it. Thus, the tuba chose me!
Besides practice, what is the number one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring young musicians?
Listen to as much music as you possibly can. Written/sheet music can only give you a fraction of what you need to become fluent in music. Musical practices are preserved through written history and passed down by oral tradition. Both are important! YouTube and Spotify are amazing tools for immersing yourself in the art form. If you live near a concert venue, make a point to go see live shows. Nothing beats the real thing.
We know that you are a tuba instructor at LMC during the summers. Are there any other instruments that you play or are passionate about?
When I was 13, my parents gave me an electric bass as a gift. I wanted to play the bass after seeing that some of my friends from school were learning guitar, but there was no one learning bass quite yet. When I got to high school, I was really inspired to take bass more seriously when I met a senior who was a fantastic electric bassist. I still remember exactly where I was when he asked if I had ever heard recordings of Jaco Pastorius (I had not). My life completely changed after that. I played in bands in high school, writing music and playing out with my friends. When I got to college, I started taking the tuba more seriously, but continued playing bass in bands and gig on the side. Some of my most important and memorable learning experiences were a direct result of the instrumental “double life” I led, whether it be the people I met, the music I was making, or the skills that I acquired. Today, I work on and off on projects as a bassist while focusing on my tuba career.
What was one of the most meaningful music learning experiences you had as an adolescent or beginner musician?
My freshman year of high school, I formed a band with two of my friends and we competed in our school’s Battle of the Bands. We were very inexperienced as a group -I personally had never played on a stage where a large portion of the musical responsibility was on me. We ended up crafting a medley of our favorite songs, purely instrumental. We thought we would not do well in the competition since most of the acts featured singers and more popular songs. I still have a very vivid memory of being on that stage under the bright lights. Eventually, my eyes adjusted and I was able to see the crowd at the foot of the stage......dancing and cheering to our music. We ended up winning 3rd place that night, not bad for two freshman and a sophomore! That show revealed to me two important values I still hold: the power music as a shared experience- using it to improve other's lives, and how being true to yourself brings something new and exciting to the world. Music’s ability to change the world is undeniable.
Other than classical music, what are some bands or musicians that you enjoy listening to?
I find that my listening tastes change constantly; I tend to consume everything an artist has released and put it on repeat for a month or so, and then forget about it for awhile. Currently I am doing that with Vulfpeck, a funk band from Michigan. Other artists I find myself coming back to are Weather Report, Dave Matthews Band, James Blake, Coheed and Cambria, Iron and Wine, Dave Douglas, Bon Iver, The Beatles, St. Vincent, Pogo, Michael Jackson, Sia, Donny McCaslin, Victor Wooten, Rush... the list goes on.
Snack wise, do you prefer salty or sweet?