A conversation with tuba player Sergeant First Class Scott Devereaux

King of the March: John Philip Sousa
(1854 – 1932)

The first LP I ever owned was a collection of marches by John Philip Sousa (amongst others) conducted by none other than Felix Slatkin, first violinist of the legendary Hollywood String Quartet. Slatkin also moonlighted as conductor of Sinatra’s orchestra during the Capitol years of the 1950s(!). To this day I automatically start humming marches and settle into a rhythm when on any long walk. Who can resist “Anchors Aweigh” with that carefree piccolo counter-melody chirping away (drop the needle at 1:21)? Like all able-bodied men until 1973 when the draft ended, my father and his brother both served in the army (my dad stationed in Europe after Korea, my uncle serving in Vietnam) and my mom’s brother was in the air force. My Jewish grandfather (Edward Gureasko) was a mechanic in the Army Air Corps during WWII while, over in Asia, my Chinese grandfather (Ho-Ching Yang) was superintendent of an army field hospital during China’s war with Japan.

Two men fighting wars a world apart:
Ho-Ching Yang (far left, above) during the
Sino-Japanese War, Suzhou, China, 1937 and
Edward Gureasko (below) with my mom, Linda, in Rome, NY, 1942

There is something about military band music that makes me want to stand up a little straighter. Watching the inauguration, I was struck by all the music: JLo, of course, and Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks, but also the trumpets and brass that filled the space between speakers and oath-taking. What is it about a march that stirs something in so many of us? I asked that question of tuba player and Sergeant First Class Scott Devereaux of the US Army Field Band. He’ll be joining us at the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival this summer playing the world premiere of Eric Ewazen’s quintet for tuba and string quartet - outside and socially distanced. There will be more on this in a later post.

Scott gives insight into his experience in the band playing everywhere from presidential inaugurations to small town performances, what it is like being a professional musician in the US Army, and his experience playing certain marches thousands of times and still being moved.

As the son and grandson of veterans, if you've served or you're a family member of someone who has served, I'd like to thank you for your service.

David Yang, Artistic Director

Interview with Scott Devereaux

Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa (1854 – 1932)

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