Blurb: Ramón Garavito, Jr.

How Middle School Band Prepared Me for a Career in Music

It is easy to think of one’s career in terms of a professional resume, CV, or bio, wherein

one includes only the most significant achievements and honors that make someone stand out.

While working with tuba and euphonium students as young as middle school age, I have been

reflecting on how my experiences in middle school band contributed to shaping my path as a

professional musician and teacher. The following anecdotes describe some of my most impactful middle school band memories that I hope will inspire band directors and fellow private teachers to employ similar activities in some capacity with their students.

The Scales Test

Every semester we had a scales test, wherein we had to play all 12 major scales from

memory around the circle of fifths. Given that I was just starting out on the flute, my first band

director, Mr. Walavich, waived my memorization requirement for the first test. Despite this, I

chose to play it from memory, albeit very slowly and with many errors along the way. The truth

is that this was easier for me due to not being able to read music very well yet, so I was learning

my scales and fingerings based on what sounded right to me. It was not until years later that I

knew that I was inadvertently practicing ear training, which was extremely helpful when

switching to the tuba soon after.

The Scales Challenge

Apart from the required scales tests, we had an optional “Scales Challenge.” The challenge was to play all 12 major scales, full range (at the time that was mostly 1 octave scales with a few 2 octaves), at a minimum of 120bpm in 8th notes without any mistakes. There were unlimited attempts and those who succeeded would have their names added to a plaque, with the

tempo at which they succeeded. In 8th grade, now on tuba, my goal was not only to pass the

challenge, but also to break the record tempo (140bpm at the time). After three failed attempts, I

broke the record at 150bpm. This challenge taught me two very important lessons that have aided my career: it is okay to set high expectations, and it is also okay to fail in the process. Failure yields growth and improvement.

My Solo Debut

At the start of each semester, we had to choose a solo to prepare and perform for the class toward the end of the semester. I remember looking through solos and always picking out pieces that looked like they were a little too hard for me. For example, my first tuba solo was rhythmically simple, but I chose it because it went up to a fourth-line F in the staff, which was beyond my range at the time. Every spring semester, Mr. Walavich would choose one student from each grade to perform their solo from memory in the final band concert of the year and would personally arrange the accompaniment to be played by the band. In the spring semester of my 8th grade year, I played Professor Donald Little’s transcription of Handel’s Larghetto and Allegro. To my surprise and excitement, I was selected as the 8th grade soloist and had what I consider to be my unofficial debut solo performance in my final middle school band concert. I truly believe that my current love for performing as a soloist and any of my success in solo competitions has stemmed from that 8th grade performance. Since that day, my goal was to be a professional performer, and this experience has fuelled my ambition to this day.

Closing Thoughts

Reflecting on these memories has reminded me of my musical beginnings and has

inspired me to assign similar activities to my youngest students as well. My students have had a

positive response so far and I encourage band directors and private teachers to try these

activities with their young students as well.

Ramón Garavito, Jr. is a Mexican-American tuba artist and music educator from Tucson,

Arizona. An avid soloist, Ramón has been a prizewinner of various international solo

competitions including the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, and the Leonard

Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival. Other accolades include being a winner of

the 2020 U.S. Army Tuba-Euphonium Workshop Tuba Solo Competition, the 2019 Frost Bands

Concerto Competition, and Gold-Medalist of the 2015 Tuba Student Competition at the Falcone

Festival. Ramón competed in the 1st Geneva International Tuba Competition in Geneva,

Switzerland in 2020. He has also performed as substitute tubist with the Tucson Symphony

Orchestra Brass Quintet.

An active music educator, Ramón is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the

Tuba/Euphonium Studio at Florida State University and teaches private lessons both virtually

and locally in Tallahassee. During his studies at the Frost School of Music, he served as

Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Tuba/Euphonium Studio and taught private lessons in

Miami. Ramón is also on the teaching roster for Through The Staff, an organization that

connects students from low-income households with free private music lessons.

Ramón holds degrees from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami (M.M. Tuba

Performance) and Arizona State University (B.M. Tuba Performance). He is currently pursuing a

Doctor of Music in Tuba Performance degree from Florida State University.

Ramón’s primary tuba teachers are Dr. Justin Benavidez, Dr. Aaron Tindall, Dr. Deanna

Swoboda, and the late Dr. Kelly Thomas.

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