Riva del Garda is a small town located in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy at the northern tip of Lake Garda, the second largest lake in Europe. My history in Riva goes back to 1992 with the Musica Riva Festival, which I did the next ten years. Since the finish of Musica Riva my association with the town Riva continued with numerous independent masterclasses, the 1997 ITEC, (International Tuba/Euphonium Conference) where we hosted a gathering 500 tubists and Euphoniumists from all over the world. And starting tomorrow, March 11, 2007, I will have another masterclass in Riva, a very special masterclass.
I'm very proud to say that most of the professional tubists (and many other brass players) and the teachers in Italy have been my students, many of them will be at this masterclass and most of them will bring their students; I'm happily anticipating meeting the new generation of Italian tubists--- just call me Maestro Grandpa! There will be a separate blog (with pictures) about this masterclass when it's over.
But the most significant part of my Riva del Garda history is that it was the venue where I decided to play my final concert before retiring from 50 years of tuba playing. With the help of my manager and secretary, Emily Harris, we organized my final concert for May 29, 2001. Riva is one of the most beautiful small towns in the world and it's more or less central in Europe, which made it easier for my friends to come. And they did come! Four very full carloads of students and friends came from Lausanne, friends from Hungary, Germany, Holland and France (mostly students) were there and, of course, the friends and students from Italy. I played several solos with piano with my accompanist of many years Roberto Arosio, the Aratiunian Concerto, which was dedicated to me, with the Corpo Bandistico Riva del Garda and finally I conducted the Band. I played well, it was a good concert, however, the parties that followed were absolutely unforgettable, most of my favorite people in the world were there helping me celebrate my 50 years as a tubist.
I've had two extraordinary parties in my life that I will never forget, the party after my Carnegie Recital Hall concert in New York on March 31, 1961 and this Riva del Garda party on May 29, 2001.
Early this morning I got up and went into the Rocca, a lakeside medieval castle surrounded by a moat and with a picturesque drawbridge; this was the location where I played that last concert. I suppose the time this morning in the Rocca could appropriately be called a meditation; I sat for a long time, there was a lot to remember and the memories were all good. I heard a lot of echoes during this meditation.
After the final notes of the final encore of that final concert six years ago, I quickly escaped to my dressing room in the Rocca and had about thirty seconds to consider the magnitude of my decision to stop playing before all my friends would come to the dressing room door; for fifty years I played the tuba several hours a day and the decision to stop would have a huge effect in my life.
I had one small but very special personal thing planned for the moments my friends and students would come to that dressing and say whatever words they were going to say. I wanted to give my mouthpiece to my very special student, my best student, and my good friend Shuko Kuramoto. It was highly symbolic to me, like passing the torch on to the next generation. The mouthpiece was in my pocket and I was ready.
Strong men don't cry and I have embarrassed myself more than once by loosing control in emotional situations, but I was determined not to loose control at this high profile moment. I was very happy and relieved that the first person to arrive at the dressing room door was Shuko. When she arrived I took her hand and placed the mouthpiece in it; no words were spoken, she stepped back and leaned against the wall and I lost control of my emotions only for a few seconds. I regained control very quickly and the next person to arrive was my daughter Melody who is very socially aware and has an uncanny gift of always saying and doing the right thing; I was very happy to have her there at that moment.
For the next twenty minutes or so I met all my friends and made jokes, especially about the party we would soon enjoy at the Pizzaria in Riva where even today they still have the Pizza Bobo printed in their menu: cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, spicy salami and anchovies, which I will have tomorrow evening after the first day of the masterclass!
Shuko is still a good friend and the translator of all my articles for rogerbobo.jp, my Japanese web site, and Pipers, a very well known wind instrument magazine in Japan.
And I keep my eyes set toward the future while I keep the sights and sounds of the rich memories and resonant echoes alive.
Riva del Garda, Italy. March 10, 2007