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Talking with the tuba player

Daniel Sherlock is MSO principal tubist

Daniel Sherlock is MSO principal tubist

October 08, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

Despite his love of the music of Jimmy Buffett, Maryland Symphony Orchestra principal tubist Daniel Sherlock is not wasting away in Margaritaville.

The 47-year-old Sherlock, who grew up in Arizona, shares his Severn, Md., home with his wife, LaGuinn, daughters Keara, 13, and Brenna, 10. Dugan, a 3-year-old Pekingese, recently joined the family.

Sherlock started his musical career playing drums in fourth grade, but began playing tuba in high school when the band director pointed to a sousaphone in the corner, handed him a book and said, "Here. Go learn to play that."

Sherlock said that with his father a World War II veteran and a brother in the reserves, he'd always been interested in the military. He did junior ROTC in high school. But because he didn't have time for both music and ROTC, he had to make a choice.

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"So I went the music route," he said.

He studied music education at Arizona State University, then student-taught for about two weeks and decided that wasn't for him. After a semester in mass communications, he "got the tuba" and went into music performance.

After college, he auditioned for the Washington, D.C., service bands and won a spot in the U.S. Army Field Band. He's in his 22nd year with the organization.

"It worked out very well," Sherlock said. "I got a job doing both -- military and music."

Music plays a big part in Sherlock family life. Dan met LaGuinn, a viola player, in their college orchestra. Keara's current interests are drama and gymnastics, but she played tuba for a while, then switched to viola; she also played a little piano. Brenna, a fifth-grader, plays tuba in her school band.

A recent family vacation took the Sherlocks to Prague in the Czech Republic. They got to visit the Antonin Dvorak museum and see where Dvorak and fellow composer Bedrich Smetana slept.

"It was just amazing," Sherlock said.

How long have you been playing tuba? When did you start?
I began in high school.

Why?
I was asked to play the tuba by my high school band director, who was breaking up all the troublemakers in the percussion section.

How long have you played with the MSO?
I actually started playing in 1988 -- substituting. (He's been a full member of the orchestra since 1991.)

Do you play with other musical ensembles?
The U.S. Army Field Band is the premier touring representative of the army. I like to say, Pershing's Own, another U.S. Army band, covers everything inside the Beltway, we cover the rest of the world. We spend four months out of every year on the road -- that's 120 days, though not in succession.

How do you prepare for a concert? How much time do you spend preparing for each performance?
I've probably played most of (the music) before. It's rare that there's anything new.

When it is new, I go over it as much as I need to.

I like to get to rehearsals an hour before rehearsal time to get a decent warm-up and go over the parts. If I'm not there (at the concert hall) 45 minutes before a performance, I consider myself late. I go over the parts with the bass-line musicians -- trombonists, bassoonists, strings.

Do you practice every day? How long?
I do. With the (U.S. Army Field Band), I have a three-hour rehearsal Monday through Friday in the morning. With two children in the house, I don't practice much on the weekends if I'm not playing.

Do you have a day job?
Master sergeant in the U.S. Army Field Band; tuba section leader and soloist.

Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.
The rehearsals are much more intense (with the MSO), much more focused -- better use of time. The desired results come much more quickly under (Schulze's) baton than with most people I've worked with.

I'm always flattered when I ask her, "What can I do?" or "Is there anything wrong with the tuba?" and she goes, "I don't worry about you, Dan."

Who's your favorite composer?
(Laughter.) Jimmy Buffett.

Gustav Mahler, of course. His first symphony was the first one I fell in love with in college -- which is odd, because there were no tuba parts in it. But when I analyzed it, it's just an amazing work. Then Beethoven.

And Elizabeth was good enough to let me rehearsal-conduct (Dvorak's) "Carnival" Overture.

Do you have a favorite composition?
I'd hate to say I have a favorite piece of music. I like it all.

What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time?
It's pretty much Jimmy Buffett or (classical music radio station) WETA.

What's the last CD you bought?
It was Jimmy Buffett's "The Far Side of the World"

What's your favorite nonclassical piece of music?
I truly do love classical music, but if I'm on the water, I'm listening to Jimmy Buffett. If I'm home and I don't like what's on the classical radio, I put in my Jimmy Buffett CDs.

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