Stephanie Frye, female tubist in a (previously) man’s world

Stephanie FryeAs a pre-college student, Stephanie Frye couldn’t help but notice that the world of tuba players (a/k/a tubists) was a predominantly male one. As a grown woman and professional tubist, she noticed a paucity of female composers as well. Now, as she prepares to leave UW-Madison to become a lecturer in tuba at East Tennessee State University, she’s not only made inroads in the first area but in the second one as well.

Stephanie, a student of tuba professor and music school director John Stevens, who is also a composer, will receive her DMA this spring. As part of her dissertation project, she not only recorded seven works for the tuba by female composers, and commissioned two new works, by composers Asha Srinivasan and Inez S. McComas.

Her time in Wisconsin involved a range of activities, including performing (she is a member of the trombone-tuba duo Bell(e) Collective, the Sweet Thunder Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, and is the regular tubist with the Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra), plus teaching at Concordia University, UW-Platteville, and UW-Madison, UW’s Summer Music Clinic, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, and more.

On Friday, May 3, she’ll give a talk about her personal experience in commissioning new works of music, including finding and selecting composers, working with the composers, and funding the commission. On Saturday, May 4, Stephanie will present a recital of many of the works on her new CD.

We asked Stephanie to fill us in on a few areas of interest.

Tell us more about your upcoming CD of music.

“The CD isn’t officially named, but the recital I’m giving is called “A Celebration of Women Composers.”  I’ve received a contract from Mark Records and am planning on releasing the CD with them.  The works on the CD include Libby Larsen’s “URSA” (for tuba and wind band, reduction for tuba and piano), Sofia Gubaidulina’s “Lamento” (tuba and piano), Elizabeth Raum’s “Sweet Dances” (tuba alone), Asha Srinivasan’s “Dyadic Affinities” (tuba and electronic accompaniment), Barbara York’s “Through the Tunnel” (tuba and piano), Elena Firsova’s “Euphonisms” (tuba and piano), and Inez S. McComas’s “The Middle Pigeons” (tuba, trombone, and recorded sound).  The two pieces I commissioned for the CD from the previous list is Srinivasan’s “Dyadic Affinities” and McComas’s “The Middle Pigeons.”

What will you say about the commissioning process?

I’ll speak on different funding options for a commission and personal, collaborative relationship I’ve established with one composer in particular. Commissioning new works of music has been one of the most rewarding collaborative processes I’ve experienced.  The composer-performer relationship is a unique one in the music world, where performers have the chance to assist in the creation of a new work of art.

You’ve been a student of John Stevens, our tuba professor, music school director, and long-time composer. Tell us more about working with John.

The first time I met John I was at a tuba workshop at Interlochen.  I was a high school student and somehow had the great fortune of getting a lesson with this “tuba god” (as my mother would say) in all places but a stairwell of one of the buildings.  That hour, even in a boomy, noisy stairwell, made an incredible impact on my excitement towards the instrument and music.  So much so, that a number of years later, I knew the right place for me for my masters degree was at UW-Madison, with John.  Then when I began considering doctoral programs, I knew I had lots left to learn and stayed.  As a teacher and performer, John emphasizes not just being a great tuba player, but a great musician.  From the very beginning John gave me permission to take musical risks, try new things, and break boundaries, not only increasing my ability on the instrument, but also my confidence as a musician and person.  I wouldn’t be the performer and teacher I am today without his incredible influence.

Meet Stephanie this week at her talk or  recital, or both. 

Lecture, Friday, May 3 at 12:30PM (Room 1321, Mosse Humanities Building): “The Commissioning Process: A Reflection.”

Recital: Saturday, May 4, 6:30 pm, Morphy Recital Hall. 

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