Liz Miles, Contributing Photographer
Carol Jantsch, a professor at the Yale School of Music, is the youngest member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and first woman to hold a principal tuba chair among major orchestras in the United States.
In addition to being the principal tuba of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jantsch is an active tuba soloist. She plays concertos with orchestras, performs recitals, teaches tuba performance at the Yale School of Music and leads a tuba cover band group called Tubular, which she founded. Jantsch also plays ultimate frisbee, runs long distance and writes her own musical arrangements. She won her position in the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2006, as a senior at the University of Michigan.
Jantsch grew up in a musical family: Her parents, a singer and a physician, met in the Cleveland Orchestra chorus. She began playing piano at age 6, and started on euphonium — a part of the tuba family which Jantsch described as a “weird-kid instrument.” She later switched to tuba, the biggest brass instrument, which weighs between 15 and 20 pounds. Jantsch usually plays a smaller tuba for her solo performances and a larger one for orchestral performances, depending on pitch register.
“I definitely didn’t want to sing or play violin, because my parents are singers and my dad played violin,” Jantsch said. “I’m the kind of person who will do things to be able to say that they did them. I get really into it, and go for it. I have done distance running, marathon running, bungee jumping on tour, and I doubt I will do those things again.”
Since there is only one tuba in an orchestra, winning a spot can be very challenging, even as Jantsch saw openings for major orchestras in San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the National Symphony during her time in college. Eventually, Jantsch was accepted into the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra. While auditioning for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jantsch competed against 193 other applicants.
Jantsch noted that transitioning from being an undergraduate to working at the orchestra was a “significant adjustment.” As part of the orchestra, Jantsch was among 100 musicians at different stages in their lives.
“I feel like such a better musician just by being surrounded by my colleagues for the past 14 years, Jantsch said. “I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities provided for me, and I could not be happier about that.”
Yet, Jantsch described being a musician as a “24/7” job. Through constant studying and practicing, musicians often take their work home with them and continue working after work hours or on weekends.
As a professor at School of Music, Jantsch teaches students who admire her leadership, intelligence and encouraging attitude. One of Jantsch’s students, Vivian Kung MUS ’22, said she respects Jantsch’s approach to teaching.
“I think Carol balances independence and support really well — she lets us make a lot of our own musical decisions but also helps refine technique and ideas,” Kung said. “She is very detail oriented and has a great ear for fine points. She’s also very proactive and keeps us busy by encouraging us to take lots of auditions and solo competitions.”
Michael Fleming MUS ’21, another of Jantsch’s students, said one of Jantsch’s most important pieces of advice has been to always have a plan. He said he learned from Jantsch that nothing should be left up to chance in an audition.
Fleming added that Jantsch’s teaching style centers on allowing students to listen to themselves with great attention to detail. Fleming said learning with Jantsch is a collaborative, discussion-driven process which shows students how they can independently create their own musical products.
Jantsch is also passionate about options outside classical music, including arranging and charity work. For example, in 2018, Jantsch founded Tubas for Good, a nonprofit that provides instruments for students in the Philadelphia School District.
“Being able to see her work in action has helped me conceptualize a broader range of possibilities for the tuba,” Kung said.
Jantsch has served as a School of Music faculty member since 2012.
Ilana Zaks | firstname.lastname@example.org