By Caroline Hoskins
“Tuba is the most important instrument in the orchestra.” joked Jeremiah Studivant (C’24), a freshman from Birmingham, Alabama. Majoring in biochemistry, he plans to attend medical school upon graduating. Outside of the chem lab, Studivant is a music minor and the only tuba player in Sewanee’s Symphony Orchestra.
Studivant started playing the tuba during his last year of middle school, after plenty of encouragement from a middle school band director.
”Before then I had no knowledge of any instrument, of how to play an instrument. Anything,” Studivant said. “And my band director was like: ‘I think you should join the band.’ She told me this in seventh grade and I said: ‘I’m gonna think about it and in eighth grade, she was like: ‘You’ve thought about it long enough. You should join the band’ And I gave it a shot.”
Studivant cites his high school band director, Mr. Freedman, as being especially inspiring.
“He taught me a lot about my instrument,” Studivant said. “He taught me a lot about life, a lot about my future. I think he’s the most influential band director I ever had.”
Despite being the only tuba player in the Sewanee orchestra, Studivant feels no added pressure due to past experiences of being the only tuba player in high school orchestra. Studivant said, “Junior year and Senior year [of high school] I was the only one, so I’m really used to being the only tuba player.”
Not only is Studivant comfortable in the spotlight, he said he loves the competitive parts of playing music. “I prefer competing,” he said. “Are you better at playing this instrument than this person? I like to ask that question. I just like the environment of competing with instruments.”
Throughout his high school career, Studivant participated in orchestra, marching band, jazz band, in both concert performances and competitions. He still has scars from carrying the weight of his tuba in marching band for countless events, he said.
He also described festivals where HBCU (Historically Black College and University) bands from the Birmingham area, where he grew up, would perform downtown. Studivant said that Sewanee’s campus could benefit from a wider array of performances like the ones he loved as a musician in Birmingham.
Studivant remarked how he has missed Pep band and Marching band since coming to Sewanee, and expressed his goal to establish one on campus to introduce more kinds of performance to Sewanee students. Studivant stated: “PWI vs. HBCU. I think that HBCU bands are on a whole other level. Sewanee doesn’t have a marching band, but I’m trying to bring a marching band to Sewanee. By my senior year I’m going to try, hopefully, to have a full funded marching band here.”
After graduating, Studivant plans to go to medical school. On the topic of biochemistry, Studivant stated: “I plan on majoring in biochemistry because I like the chemical reactants and I’m so interested in orthopedics, anything that’s skeletal or muscular related. And with my biochemistry major, I want to study the reactions of different reactants related to that. And maybe I can cure something.”
But don’t let Studivant’s impressive ambitions in the medical field fool you: he’s not ready to let go of tuba any time soon. Studivant points to professional musicians that inspire and push him, like Øystein Baadsvik, a Norweigian tuba soloist. He even had the opportunity to talk to Baadsvik when he performed in Birmingham. “I spoke to him as well, through the Internet, and I told him that I’m going to get better than him at tuba one day, and he just laughed at me through the Internet.”