Written on June 8, 2016
Longtime D.C. resident Blair Goins, a tuba player and musical composer, stopped by the Logan Fringe Arts Space to talk about his personal story and his new piece, commissioned for Capital Fringe’s (RE)education concert on June 23. Goins is a member of several groups, including the Great Noise Ensemble, which will join musical forces with the Go-Go Symphony to perform his composition, “A Classical Jazz Journey.”
I’ve been in D.C. about 28 years. I fell in love with this wonderful woman and packed up eight suitcases, a tuba, and myself on one of the old airlines where you could show up right before the flight and just get on. I didn’t know anything about the city, but I fell in love with it because there are so many opportunities you wouldn’t expect. You can play in a quintet one day, go to an unusual play the next, and hear a string quartet at the Library of Congress the day after. I was shocked to find out how much stuff was happening on almost a daily basis — culturally, musically, theatrically. I love being surrounded by that.
I actually make my living doing several things besides performing and composing. I do music typesetting, which is like setting up the music and typesetting on a computer from the things composers and arrangers create. I prepare it for the performers and publication. I’m also a career consultant. I help people figure out what they want to do with their life based on their talents and their gifts.
In fifth grade, which is when I started playing, I wanted to be a bassoon player. Well, there were already enough bassoon players, and what they needed were tuba players. I said OK, and I fell in love. People associate it with that Sousa “oompa” style, but what I really love is that you can take an instrument that has this association and then make great music that isn’t expected. When you get to play in a brass quintet, the tuba does as much as the trumpet. It’s a great challenge, and a joy to play with other people.
I don’t really enjoy playing alone. What I love is playing in ensembles where you get to interact with other musicians. And practicing — I love it even though I don’t practice enough, that’s the irony. I love practicing alone and in an ensemble. I love finding out what still doesn’t work in my playing and making it so good it looks easy. The audience thinks it was easy and they don’t know that you practiced for hours. I love that.
When this concert was first mentioned to me, it was like, “What time? Where?” People are going to be walking to work, and I realize they’re not going to take the time to hear every note. They probably won’t hear more than 10 seconds of it, let alone the beginning to the end. I was hesitant, but the opportunity to have a group play my music is a huge gift that I do not take for granted. I don’t want to write music for no one to hear — it’s pointless. With this concert, so many people who wouldn’t normally hear my music are going to hear snippets of it as they walk to work.
“A Classical Jazz Journey” is about bringing jazz to classical players. It’s big-band jazz feel and style, just for a harp or bassoon. Classical music has a reputation for being very serious: you sit in your seat and are careful not to clap between movements. But I want people to get up and start dancing. If I’m successful, they’re definitely going to move to this.
Make sure to catch (RE)education on Thursday, June 23, at 9:00 am in the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Park (wheelchair accessible).
Presented in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation.