Dr. Adam Frey, assistant professor of music at the University of North Georgia, is best known for playing the lesser-known euphonium.
The brass soloist has made a career creating and sharing music for the euphonium in unconventional ways. He has a 27-page resume and has done everything from organizing concerts to directing elementary school marching bands. He’s traveled the world with his euphonium, and now, he’s sitting down with the Vanguard to talk about his journey.
What is a euphonium?
The euphonium is a tenor brass instrument with valves. People are familiar with trombone, and that is the tenor brass instrument without valves. Some people call the euphonium the baby tuba. I try to avoid that at the college level. But middle school kids love to call it the baby tuba.
What other instruments do you play?
I have a performance degree on tuba. I studied trombone at the University of Georgia. I was judged proficient on piano, but I would not like to play in public for anyone, and I sing but only in the shower and to my two little daughters.
Do you do a lot of work with younger children?
Oh yes. I do a lot of educational trips with middle schools and high schools, both here in the U.S., and last semester I had two one-week residencies in Singapore. I was working and conducting high school and middle school and even elementary school bands.
I also had a trip to South Africa at the end of November. It was a compelling trip for me to be working with a lot of students getting out of the townships, their version of the very poor areas. I was working with a student, age 21, and he won the young artist beginner tuba category at our solo competition. He’s only been playing for six months, and he’s on track to qualify for a job in the army band. It’s a very good paying job and will transport his life in the township to a professional career. It’s amazing what music can do in some places.
What made you decide to pursue music?
For me, I started college as a pre-med major and music to do a dual major. I decided that I liked music. And it was because I had a fantastic relationship with the professor, David Randolph at the University of Georgia, and I wanted other people to experience that.
Do you think you’ve made those connections with your students?
I’d sincerely hope so. I feel like I’ve definitely helped change some lives. For me, one of the really great things about music is we do this one-to-one instruction regularly. I do like to think of myself as the low brass teacher but also as a mentor. One student called me her life coach.
You’re endorsed by Yamaha?
Yes, I’m a performing artist. The funny thing is I just got their brand new euphonium last Monday. There’s only two in the U.S. currently. I have one of them and the other one was at the big PR release of it in California.
What would you say your greatest accomplishment has been?
My personal one, that’s an easy one, I hiked to the top of Kilimanjaro. That was a substantial physical accomplishment. You cross five different climate zones. It takes eight days. It’s physically and mentally challenging. It’s a proud moment and a reflective, introspective moment. I did a lot of thinking about my wife and family.
Musically, doing two CD recordings with the New Zealand symphony orchestra. They were the first ever recording of the euphonium in an orchestra. Because the euphonium isn’t in the orchestra, it’s a little bit of an unusual pairing. I made a lot of the arrangements, and I had some composers make special pieces for the project.
When I look back it, it’s pretty cool.