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Tubas sound in season at Valpo University

Jeff Doebler director music educatibands Valparaiso University directs almost 60 tubplayers SundChapel Resurrectifor fourth annual TubaChristmas.  |  Post-Tribune

Jeff Doebler, director of music education and bands at Valparaiso University, directs almost 60 tuba players Sunda in the Chapel of the Resurrection for the fourth annual TubaChristmas. | Post-Tribune photo

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Updated: December 8, 2013 10:31PM

VALPARAISO — Jim Sanstrom drove 180 miles from his home in Newman, Ill., to Valparaiso University on Sunday to participate in TubaChristmas.

This was the third year Sanstrom, whose wife graduated from VU, made the trek to play Christmas songs on his tuba in the Chapel of the Resurrection.

“I was looking at the TubaChristmas website and I saw there was one here and I told my wife, we ought to go,” he said. “It’s such a nice play to play, I thought we ought to come back.”

Sanstrom joined almost 60 other low brass players for the fourth annual TubaChristmas, which brought together players of all ages and experience levels in playing holiday favorites including “Away in a Manger” and “Jingle Bells.” The concert had a sing-along component for the audience as well.

Many of the players wore Santa hats and decorated their instruments with tinsel or battery powered lights to add to the festive mood.

Jeff Doebler, director of music education and bands at VU, conducted the concert and told the audience that the late Harvey Phillips, a music professor at Indiana University-Bloomington, started the TubaChristmas tradition 40 years ago.

The concerts now are held in more than 250 locations around the globe.

“In my opinion, there is no better place for TubaChristmas than the Chapel of the Resurrection,” he said.

Lauren Knust agrees. The teacher, who lives in the region, played her first TubaChristmas in 1995. Since then, she’s caught two or three of the concerts a year, one time flying to Baltimore for the weekend to play there.

“I love the camaraderie of it. You leave your egos at the door and play, have fun, and get in the holiday spirit,” she said. “It’s so relaxed, and you can’t beat the sound of a bunch of low brass. It rumbles in a church like this.”

Ashley Vernon, 12, was the youngest player in the concert, along with another player her age. The LaCrosse sixth-grader joined her dad, Robin, for the event this year and last.

“I enjoy playing with my dad because it’s one of the things we can do together,” she said.

Robin played a couple of TubaChristmases in college in the early 1980s, and picked it back up again with Ashley.

“Now it’s kind of our tradition,” he said.

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