Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

DU duo, Lamont hit high note in tuba world

Tuba-teaching is a forte at the Lamont School of Music.

The Lamont faculty includes two of the tuba world’s premiere figures. Kathy Aylsworth-Brantigan and Warren Deck—each with decades of experience in pedagogy and performance—tutor tuba with the best of them.

And this summer, DU was the center of the known tuba universe as hundreds of professional and amateur players descended on the campus for the International Tuba Euphonium Conference.

The music world already had a pretty good idea about DU’s tuba-teaching team before the University was selected to host the prestigious conference.

Brantigan has been a fixture in the Lamont brass department for 12 years and taught the tuba studio solo for most of that time. She serves as the executive director of the Denver Brass—a 12-part symphonic brass ensemble and one of the few such performing groups of its kind—and is the tubist for the Aries Brass Quintet, which has toured extensively around the globe, from Russia to Costa Rica. She also serves as treasurer of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association.

Deck served in leading positions with two of the world’s most prestigious music institutions. He served as principal tuba for the New York Philharmonic from 1979–2001 and made his solo debut with the orchestra in 1989. He also taught at the Julliard School of Music from 1989 until 2001. He’s recorded several albums with the Canadian Brass, and in summer, he teaches at the Aspen Music Festival.

His illustrious tuba career got its start when he picked up the instrument as a Denver Public Schools fourth-grader. But in 2001, Deck was diagnosed with focal dystonia in his upper lip, a disorder where sustained contractions of a muscle cause twisting or repetitive movements or abnormal postures in a single muscle or group of muscles. Writer’s cramp is a form of dystonia, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The diagnosis ended Deck’s playing career.

He now focuses on teaching at DU and Aspen.

“It’s been a gift,” Deck said. “The colleagues here are marvelous and we feel like part of the community.”

The duo has known each other since Brantigan’s college studies at the University of Michigan. By then, Deck’s family had moved to Michigan and he had become an up-and-coming high school tubist who visited the Ann Arbor campus frequently. Their history has created an easy working relationship that allows them to divide the DU tuba studio, which ranges from three to five students per year.

Both agree the arrangement allows them to address each student’s individual needs and keeps them mentally sharp as they mentor young tubists through a battery of lessons, master classes, rehearsals and performances.

“I never feel burned out,” Deck says of the arrangement. “With these kids, I look forward to seeing them every day.”

Steven Glenn, a tuba performance major who has studied with both teachers, couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. Each instructor, he said, provides different perspectives on the craft of tuba playing that complement the other.

“There are other places where you can study with other big names,” Glenn said. “But there’s not a place that you get people who are as well versed in what they are doing.”

During the conference, Deck taught several courses on subjects such as winning auditions and managing stage fright. Brantigan, as chief organizer, attended to the various logistics that go with hosting conference this large.

About 500 tubists and tuba enthusiasts from around the world visited DU and the Newman Center during the conference.

With the conference and Lamont’s superstar tuba teachers, DU could get a reputation for heavy metal.

For more, visit

This article originally appeared in
The Source, June 2006.

Comments are closed.