Constance Weldon, Pioneering Virtuoso of the Tuba, Dies at 88

Loads of folks had one query for Constance Weldon, she as soon as recalled, once they noticed her lugging a 40-pound bass tuba down the road:

“Why didn’t you take up the piccolo?”

The reality was that she had already tried her hand at the flute — and the trumpet, the trombone and different devices — however had fallen in love with the tuba after her father had introduced one house from a pawnshop.

“I played it and said, ‘This is for me,’” Ms. Weldon advised The Miami Herald in 1981. “On no other instrument I played had the sound come so naturally.”

Ms. Weldon, who’s believed to be the first lady tubist to earn a place in a serious American symphony orchestra, died on Aug. 7 at an assisted dwelling facility in Southport, N.C. She was 88.

Her loss of life was confirmed by her longtime buddy and caretaker, Linda Broadwell.

Constance Janet Weldon was born on Jan. 25, 1932, in Winter Haven, Fla., to George and Edythe (Roebke) Weldon. The household quickly moved to Miami, the place her father took a job as a groundskeeper at Vizcaya, an property constructed by the agricultural equipment magnate James Deering. (It later grew to become the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.) Her mom labored as a trainer.

Constance started taking part in devices in elementary faculty, and after graduating from Miami Jackson High School she determined to review tuba efficiency at the University of Miami. She auditioned for the Tanglewood Music Festival, and spent her first summer season there as a pupil in 1951.

At the finish of that summer season she was provided a place in the Rio de Janeiro Symphony, however she turned it down to complete her diploma. After graduating with a bachelor’s in music in 1953, she continued finding out at the college and obtained a grasp’s in schooling.

She returned to Tanglewood in 1954, and a 12 months later started taking part in with Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops orchestra, apparently making her the first feminine tuba participant in a serious American orchestra. After two seasons touring with the Pops, she carried out with the North Carolina Symphony from 1956 to 1957.

Following her time in North Carolina, Ms. Weldon moved to Amsterdam on a Fulbright fellowship, finding out and taking part in with Adrian Boorsma, the principal tubist with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. For a time she was the orchestra’s performing principal, and he or she additionally carried out with the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra.

When she returned to the United States, she joined the Kansas City Philharmonic.

“We’ve got a lot of men auditioning for this,” her buddy and former pupil Jack Weinstein mentioned she was advised at that audition. “You can’t just be better; you’re going to have to be much better.”

“Fine with me,” she advised him she had responded. “Unless I am, I don’t want the job.”

Mr. Weinstein famous that it took 50 years for an additional lady to be appointed to play tuba in a serious U.S. orchestra: Carol Jantsch, who has been at the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2006.

After two seasons in Kansas City, Ms. Weldon returned to Miami to teach tuba at her alma mater while moonlighting with the Miami Philharmonic. In 1960 she formed a tuba ensemble, at the time one of the few groups of its kind at any university.

In 1972 she became the assistant dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Miami’s School of Music, now the Frost School of Music. She held that position until her retirement in 1991.

Many of the next generations’s most accomplished tuba players were her students. They included Mike Roylance, the current principal tuba with the Boston Symphony Orchestra; James Jenkins, principal with the Jacksonville Symphony; and Sam Pilafian, the virtuoso who founded the influential Empire Brass quintet.

In a field dominated by men, Ms. Weldon sometimes worried about how audiences would receive her.

“If you have a stereotype of a tuba player — big, fat and huge — then Connie and I don’t fit it,” Mary Difulco, one of Ms. Weldon’s students, said in 1981.

In 1991, Ms. Weldon was given the University of Miami’s Distinguished Alumna Award, and she was later declared the university’s Distinguished Woman of the Year. She was given a lifetime achievement award by the International Tuba and Euphonium Association in 2004.

Once she retired, she split her time between Lake Placid, Fla., and Beech Mountain, N.C., finally settling in Southport, on the state’s southern coast, in about 2004. No immediate family members survive.

Even as Ms. Weldon became a mainstay in her field, performing for new audiences could still be nerve-racking.

“When you go on a new gig, you have to warm up the crowd,” she told The Miami Herald in 1981. “They sit there with a look that says, ‘We’re not going to like you.’ You wonder if they are going to start throwing things at you or what.”

“We’re trying to live down an image that when everyone looks at a tuba, they laugh,” she said in the same interview. “There is nothing that you can’t play on the tuba.”

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