More than 100 tubas to take the stage in TubaChristmas at Baytowne Village in Sandestin
Dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters, beanies and scarves, more than 100 tuba and euphonium players will converge on Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Dec. 4 as part of TubaChristmas at Baytowne Wharf.
“You never know how many will show up. We’ve had as many as 130 … and when you get that many together, it can get crazy,” said Bob Rockwell of Playground Music of Fort Walton Beach and coordinator of the event.
What is TubaChristmas?
It’s tuba and euphonium players gathering together to play Christmas music. The event was conceived by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in 1902.
The first TubaChristmas concert/event was held in New York City on the Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Dec. 22, 1974.
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Now in its 48th year, the event is held all over the world.
Sandestin has been a host site for a TubaChristmas for more than 10 years.
The first year at Sandestin, Rockwell said they had about 50 to 70 tuba players and for the last three or four years they had more than 100.
TubaChristmas, which is part of the Harvey Phillips Foundation, has events in 261 cities from Florida to California, Alaska and Hawaii and everywhere in between. There are also international TubaChristmas concerts in Australia, Canada and Costa Rica.
But the one thing they all have in common is the TubaChristmas “book.”
“Once you get a book, you can go anywhere in the world that hosts a TubaChristmas event and play. It’s all out of the same book,” said Hank Rockwell, also of Playground Music.
Hank told of a man that played in three different TubaChristmas concerts in one day. He said he started in South Florida and finished playing at the one in Baytowne Wharf.
“He timed it perfectly,” Hank said, noting he got to Baytowne right when they were starting.
And people come from all over to play.
“We get a lot of locals, but they’ll come over from Panama City and Dothan. And we get people from Pensacola,” Hank said, noting the next closest one would be in Mobile, Alabama.
Local tuba player Evan Harvey of Fort Walton Beach has it on his calendar to participate again this year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Harvey, who’s been playing the tuba for 30 years off and on.
Last year was the first TubaChristmas event for the 43-year-old who graduated from Choctawhatchee High School. Harvey said he had known about the event, but got interested in it when some of his high school friends suggested they give it a try.
He wore an ugly Christmas sweater and decorated his tuba with tinsel and lights.
“A lot of people go all out with it … they like to have a lot of fun with it,” Harvey said.
Destin’s John Stephens and his daughter Savannah Klink will be participating again this year as well.
“We did it last year. It was a lot of fun,” said Stephens, who is a former tuba player for the Choctawhatchee Style Marchers.
When Stephens was in high school, they used to have the event in Orlando.
“We always joked about going,” he said.
But last year, Stephens used it as a way for him and some of his old school buddies to get together.
As for his daughter, Savannah, she is a freshman at Fort Walton High and is looking forward to playing at TubaChristmas.
Savannah, who’s been playing tuba since her sixth-grade year at Destin Middle School, said the music was “pretty simple” and it was definitely the most tubas she has played with at one time.
“It was very fun … a good way to join the community. It brings people together, closely,” she said.
The tubas gather on the stage at Baytowne Wharf.
“It’s a perfect little venue,” Harvey said.
The event is free to the public to come out and watch.
Registration for tuba and euphonium players is at 2 p.m. with rehearsal from 3 to 4 p.m. Cost to participate is $10.
The performance begins at 5 p.m. and typically lasts about an hour.
For more information, call Bob Rockwell at Playground Music 850-830-4775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.