It ain't easy being low brass.
The tuba's size puts a lot of demand on the lungs, and as the sole tubist in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Orchestra Philharmonic, Hannah Eitzen said it can also lead to loneliness.
"There's usually more than one of every instrument, and I'm just ... the tuba," the 13-year-old said, laughing. "It's like 50 violins, 50 cellos and one tuba.
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Hannah Eitzen, 13, is the only tubist in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Orchestra Philharmonic. She has also been the first-chair tubist at countywide and regional music clinics.
"When we do our concerts [at school], we have six tubas ... so one is, like, 'Hmm, it got quieter.' "
Nevertheless, Hannah said, the tuba's inherent challenges were part of its appeal when she took it up two years ago.
At the start of her sixth-grade year at Loftis Middle School, Hannah tried out every instrument offered in the school band. After playing the recorder in fifth grade, she said, she wanted to pursue an instrument with a little more presence.
"I wanted something with a little bit more 'wow,' " she said. "I wanted something more challenging."
The tuba is more commonly played by boys and is typically an instrument taken up when the player's lungs are more physically mature, said Philharmonic conductor Sandy Morris. As a result, many players opt to start with smaller brass instruments such as the trombone or trumpet.
During the Philharmonic's blind audition process, however, Hannah's facility with the instrument was clear, and Morris said the eighth-grader has proven herself as more than capable.
"I don't think I've heard a single mistake from her all year," Morris said. "It's a special skill set to be patient with it and get good talent and technique.
"She relishes the challenges. Nothing we've done this year has been too challenging to her."
Hannah said she feels the same draw to the instrument now as she did when she started, and her level of comfort is much higher.
That makes it easy to stick to a practice schedule, she said.
"I lose myself in the music," Hannah said. "It'll be a long time before I realize that, 'Oh, I've got to get stuff done ... like homework.' "
Her hard work has paid dividends. Hannah became eligible to take part in county, regional and statewide musical clinics last year. As a seventh-grader, she was the first chair tubist in the Hamilton County All-County Band Clinic and the Lower Area Junior Band Clinic.
Hannah's mother, Juanita Eitzen said that although she never tried to sway her daughter's pursuit of music, she was pleased that she took up the tuba since Hannah's grandfather also played the instrument.
Hannah is a self-described perfectionist. That characteristic, combined with her determination, makes for a potent combination when it comes to tackling such a difficult instrument, Morris said.
Fortunately, even though Hannah can become obsessive about conquering the details of new pieces, playing often helps calm her down, Eitzen said.
"It's a stress reliever for her," she said. "If she's had a bad day at school, ... give her 15 or 30 minutes in her room with the bass or tuba, ... she comes back out and she's good to go."