Saved by Brass Barry Crenshaw, Central Oregon Tuba Musician

For his first 15 years, Barry Crenshaw’s life was anything but stable. With the loss of his mother at just one year old, the toddler and his brother lived with his grandparents in Salem until his father remarried and the family moved to Bend. Here at Pilot Butte Elementary School, Barry was first exposed to the instrument that would become his life-line. The music teacher asked his older brother, Randy, who played the trumpet, if he had any siblings that might be interest in tuba. The ten-year-old Barry’s first thought was that “only clowns played tuba.” That he should play something more dignified. But, giving it a try, he loved it. “The tuba has the biggest mouthpiece in the orchestra and I have big lips. It was a fit.”

Just as life was stabilizing, Barry’s parents divorced and he and his brother moved to the Bay area with his dad. Then, at 13, Barry’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident. The brothers went back to grandparents in Salem where they played in the Salem High School Band. When older brother Randy went to Willamette University on a music scholarship, he mentioned to the Band Director that this little brother was a pretty good tuba player. And yes, the band needed a tuba player. So, three days a week, Barry headed to Willamette University to play in the band. And seven years later he graduated from Willamette with what he says may have been the first and only major in tuba performance.

Like many music majors, after college Barry struggled with making a living with his now wife and baby on the way. After many dissatisfying jobs, he asked himself what he’d be doing if not for wife and child? Music of course. He knew about the military music program and set up an audition with the Navy band in Seattle. As guessed, the Navy needed a tuba player. Since not every piece of music requires tuba, Barry was off to the Armed Forces school of music to learn the electric bass guitar, and tune up his trumpet and trombone skills. 23 countries and 22 years later, he retired from the Navy band.

It was six years before Barry returned to Bend and was reintroduced to music through the Cascade Horizon Band. Then while playing with Cascade Winds, he met and told Michael Gesme to keep him in mind if ever he needed a tuba player. In 2016 it happened. Barry joined the symphony performance of Carmen and once again, that big brass instrument brought him home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *