Matthew Tatz has been perfecting his playing skills since he first picked up a tuba in 6th grade, about 12 years ago.
The 23-year-old tuba performance graduate student is travelling to Baltimore, Maryland, in March to compete in the Music Teachers National Association competition, after winning in both the state and regional divisions.
Tatz said the judges will decide the winner after hearing each of the five other performers from around the country play a piece, the same piece they played at each other level of the competition. He said this allows the players to perfect their playing as they progress through the competition.
“I know all the right notes and all the right rhythms,” Tatz said. “Now, it’s just refining.”
Although each of the winners receive a monetary prize, he cares more about the recognition gained from competing there, he said
“Your name being out there is more important for performers,” Tatz said.
Chris Dickey, clinical assistant professor of tuba, said he encouraged Tatz to enter the competition, mostly because he thought he had nothing to lose.
“I had no idea what to expect because I had never participated myself,” Dickey said.
He said when he heard Tatz play at the first level of the competition, he thought Tatz stood out among the rest of the performers. Even if he didn’t know Tatz and heard him playing objectively, Dickey said he would have thought he did great.
“He was so well prepared and showed a command of the music,” Dickey said. “I wasn’t surprised when he won.”
Tatz put in a tremendous amount of time and effort into preparing, he said. Dickey said he advised him not to go into the competition expecting to win but to leave knowing he performed the best he could have.
“I want him to do really well and represent himself well,” Dickey said.
Tatz admires and enjoys listening to performers such as tuba players Oystein Baadsvik and Roger Bobo, whom he said he thinks are incredible. He likes pieces with a groove, not quite jazzy, but upbeat; he also loves a difficult piece.
“I love challenges,” Tatz said. “Anything that makes me work really hard and increases my ability.”
Tatz was a music education major as an undergraduate at Georgia Southern University, and last year a director for a middle school band. In his junior year, he began to realize his passion.
“I still enjoyed teaching, but I also wanted to keep performing,” he said.
Tatz moved to Pullman in July to begin as a graduate student at WSU. Currently, Tatz plays in the WSU wind ensemble alongside woodwinds, percussion and brass instruments. He is the only graduate student tuba player at WSU and is in charge of teaching undergraduate players.
When Tatz is done with school, he wants to work in a recording studio and produce for films, TV and movies, he said.
“It’s my goal to be a professional performer,” Tatz said. “I need to be the best musician I can be.”