Recital kicks off Octubafest at YSU

A veteran of both the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and Guy’s All-Star Shoeband from “A Prairie Home Companion” will kick off Octubafest at Youngstown State University.

This is the 12th year YSU has celebrated Octubafest, which was created in 1973 by musician / professor Harvey Phillips to showcase the solo and ensemble repertoire written for tuba and euphonium, instruments often relegated to the background in orchestral and band arrangements.

Michael Forbes will perform the opening concert Monday, accompanied by pianist Eric Jenkins.

Brian Kiser, an associate professor of tuba at YSU, said he’s known Forbes since they were both in college and played in an all-star collegiate ensemble together. Kiser also commissioned him to compose a duet that they have performed together several times.

In addition to the recital, Forbes also will be working with music students.

“In my studio, I have several composition majors and Mike is multi-faceted,” Kiser said. “One of my students will be playing tuba for him, but she’ll also be playing him some of her compositions.”

Forbes started his career as a tubist in the U.S. Army Band and currently is an associate lecturer of low brass at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. In addition to playing with Guy’s All-Star Shoeband, he is principal tubist with the La Crosse and Manitowoc orchestras in Wisconsin. He is the founder of Isthmus Brass and the Sotto Voce Quartet, and he performs his original compositions on the 2013 release “Forbes Plays Forbes.”

Forbes’ recital is the first of six Octubafest events planned in October, and many of the concerts will showcase YSU students.

“One of the benefits is the students get a chance to perform for each other and friends and family,” Kiser said. “That element, especially for first-year students just getting started, to be able to perform in front of a live audience as a soloist, really is a great thing for them and speeds up their development.”

Kiser also will give a recital Oct. 17, accompanied by pianist Jack Ciarniello.

“I’m going to play one jazz-based composition to showcase tuba in that style,” Kiser said. “I have two pieces written by Edvard Grieg not originally written for tuba but have been arranged for tuba. And I have three other pieces written specifically for tuba and written in the last few years. I want to promote new music and it’s something my students could then play for their recitals.”