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Entertainment & Lifestyle

TubaChristmas tradition continues at E.J. Thomas Hall

12/19/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Tucker Jolly, shown at far right during a previous performance, will conduct Akron’s annual TubaChristmas Dec. 21 with free shows at noon and 2:30 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall on The University of Akron campus.
Photo: Krista Galloway
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Tucker Jolly may be retired, but he’s not giving up his duties as bandleader for Akron’s annual TubaChristmas.

The 34th year for the low brass Christmas music concerts will take place Dec. 21 with free shows at noon and 2:30 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall on The University of Akron (UA) campus.

“It’s a delight to me that it’s lasted this long,” said Jolly, a Cuyahoga Falls resident.

Jolly started the local celebration in 1980. He retired as a professor from the UA School of Music May 31, although he noted he is back teaching part time at the school.

Joining him this year as guest conductors will be Robert Jorgenson and Andy Larson.

“Bob has done it every year except one,” Jolly said of Jorgenson, who is the recently retired director of bands at UA. “And Andy, I’m having him do it because he’s my replacement.”

Any low brass musicians interested in performing are invited to register the day of the concerts beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the E.J. Thomas Hall lobby. Rehearsal begins at 9:30 a.m. The cost for musicians is $10.

Jolly said that typically between 400 and 500 performers take part in the event.

“There are family groups, and we’ve had three generations with grandpa, father and daughter,” he said. “We’ve had twins, too. There’s a number of people that do make it a family event.”

Over the years, Jolly has seen some of the musicians go all out to decorate themselves and their tubas. Some musicians even use lights.

“There’ve been some very elaborate ones over the years,” he said. “They’re very creative, and it’s quite a sight when we go to a black house.”

Jolly is as surprised as anyone as to how TubaChristmas has endured. The first event took place in New York City 40 years ago this year, and it’s now spread across the country.

“[Akron’s] is one of the longest running,” he said. “There are a number that have been going for a very long time. In 1980, when I started this one, there were only three in Ohio. Since then, they’ve sprouted up all over Ohio.”

Jolly said the shows are filled to capacity. Last year, the noon show was full 15 minutes before start time. The later show also was full. That means 5,600 people attended, he added.

“I have the audience applaud if they’ve been to one, two, three, four and so on, and I’m amazed every year at how many new people there are,” Jolly said. “We have well over 1,000 new people every year.”

E.J. Thomas is located at 198 Hill St. For more information, go to www.uaevents.com.

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